Off went the alarm at 6 am and I dragged myself out of my sleeping bag. It had been a restless first night – was this the start of a pattern? Scurrying noises had kept me awake and there were plenty of tiny footprints all around our tent. But thankfully no big ones.
A beautiful crystal-clear morning with a low mist hanging over the sun-lit water, and the first task was to make use of the Intertidal Flush. Then it was off to collect the food bags. I must have been paranoid about the rope coming loose as it took ages to undo all the knots and loops I’d made last night! When I eventually retrieved the bags (all fine) I carried them back to camp to find the others stirring.
Breakfast was followed by breaking camp, shaking the dew off the flysheets and repacking the backpacks. By 8.20 am we were loaded and ready to go. It felt fresh and cool walking over the sand before the sun had risen over the trees.
We reached the end of the beach and faced our first challenge of the day: a 10-metre climb up a steep, root-and-fern covered slope. A rope was there to help but it wasn’t entirely necessary. That accomplished, we immediately began climbing over and scrambling under fallen trees. Within half an hour we emerged from the forest onto another sandy beach around the headland from Third Beach. The tide was low and we had a large expanse of firm sand to walk on – just perfect.
Soon the beach became rockier and before long we were up at the high-tide line walking through grass and rock rather than picking our way over the numerous little boulders. Along this stretch we settled into a comfortable stride, pausing after an hour to supplement breakfast with a Clif bar. Looking back, we could see where we’d camped last night, and the rocks we’d explored towards sunset.
Setting off again, we came to the best hiking yet (and possibly some of the best hiking of the trail!) – a solid, level tidal shelf free of seaweed allowing us to walk more easily. Dozens of small shore crabs scuttled around our feet, threatening violent reprisal with a wave of their claws. Brenda picked one up and it reminded us of the crabs in Finding Nemo: “Heyyy, heyyy”.
More tidal shelf, more panoramic views out to sea and more steady progress. At times we had to pick our way through dried seaweed which was pretty smelly. A decomposing octopus undoubtedly contributed and the abundance of bear poo suggested that they liked to eat seaweed or things living in the seaweed. We saw no bears, but before long we spotted a set of bear tracks in the sand. To our relief they were heading back the way we had just come. But after a while we noticed that there were now two sets of tracks, and they were heading the same direction as us. We kept our eyes and ears open but still saw no bears.
The long sandy crescent of Skuna Bay came and went, easy hiking on firm, gently-sloping sand. Eagles soared overheard in the pure blue sky. The next hurdle turned out to be no hurdle at all. We were racing against the tide to get round the headlands before Calvin Falls (which was one of the reasons we were getting up at 6 am) and we weren’t sure where the tide would be at the time we got there. The tide was still a long way out, despite coming in rapidly and we made it round safely, our passage marked by two incredible trees leaning over at crazy angles. But we couldn’t help but notice that there was nowhere to go if the tide had come in. The high-tide line was the cliffs themselves, and although they weren’t very high (maybe 6-10 metres), they were high enough to stop you getting off the rock-strewn beach.
We made it round the headland with plenty of time to spare, and we were back on firm sand. By now I was getting tired (we had been going for over 4 hours) and we had a short break. There was still no sign of Calvin Falls. Were we as far along as we though we were? It was sometimes hard to tell and even after some discussion it was clear that no one was 100% sure where we were! Sure, we had a map but this part of the coast was quite featureless and pinpointing our location wasn’t easy. We set off again along the beach, wondering to each other where the falls were. Inside, I was hoping they weren’t too far away as I was falling behind the others.
Just as we were beginning to doubt our progress, we came to a curve in the beach and suddenly there were Calvin Falls. Yay! We all cheered. The book suggested that the best camping was on the south side of the creek. Although the tide was not high, the creek was deep enough to put us off wading through with a full pack. So we stopped on the north side (next to the frame of a shelter) and had our lunch. It was 2 pm.
After lunch we decided that we were actually more than happy with the camping options on the north side and pitched our tents. Brenda and Merewyn put theirs within a roofless shelter made from driftwood. Someone had draped seaweed over the frame, which made it look like it was decorated with Christmas lights. With flysheets laid out to dry in the sun we set about relaxing. Brenda and Merewyn opted for another dip in the ocean and after some squealing (which I could hear from the falls!) they made it in. But not for long, and soon they headed for the pool beneath Calvin Falls. Maria joined them but the water felt too cold for me and I didn’t fancy another rash. Despite the warm sun, everyone had a hot drink after their dip.
Wow – what to do with the rest of the day? A bit of exploring here and there was in order. I went over to the south side, bravely wading the creek (ha ha) to investigate a hanging rope for food storage. It turned out to be not high enough off the ground, but I did find a small hammock made from fishing net which I made use of for a quick nap. A couple of surfers wandered up from further down the beach and spent a few minutes chatting with Maria, Brenda, and Merewyn. Their interest in hanging around evaporated after I appeared from the forest and they returned to their tents.
Brenda and Merewyn explored the top of the falls, with the help of a small rope as did I a bit later (easy to get up, not so easy to get down on the crumbly rock). The view from the top of the falls wasn’t much better than being on the beach and it really wasn’t worth going up there.
In the meantime Merewyn had found a bigger and better shelter in the trees a few metres further north from our tents. I made my way back and we all investigated. The best thing was it had a large fixed rope, neatly solving our food storage problem. The shelter was amazing, complete with a double hammock. Plenty of people had stayed there, some of them at less hospitable times of the year. Names and dates were carved in or written on every available piece of wood or float. We found a pen (!) and proudly added our names to a plastic float.
The sun was getting lower in the sky and we decided to prepare dinner a little earlier than last night. That done, we refilled our water containers, stowed our food and, as the sun went down, headed into our tents at the end of a glorious day.
2 thoughts on “Nootka Trail Day 2, 26 Aug 2006”
Amazing photos! Calvin Falls, wow! This is the type of weather I dreamed about having on the West Coast Trail? I like hearing the word “level” when you describe coastal walking on the tidal shelf. I found the sloping beach surface on the WCT quite a a slog after a few hours.
Thanks! Calvin Falls is a lovely spot to camp.
Yes, if I remember rightly (and it was nearly 15 years ago now!) the tidal shelf was flat, and the sandy beaches were very gently sloping – there’s photo of the others ahead of me as we’re hiking in Skuna Bay and it’s a really shallow slope. The gravelly beaches weren’t always so level.