Thursday, 2 October 2014

Illal Meadows - Jim Kelly Peak

Earlier this week I did a hike in Illal Meadows with my Dad and a friend.  Illal Meadows is located to the west of Princeton and Tulameen and just to the south of the Coquihalla Highway.  It would be a pretty easy area to access from the Coquihalla, but since I'm from Princeton we had to approach it from the other direction.  This involved going on some less than ideal roads without more than a vague understanding of where we were going.  We went off the directions in 103 Hikes (which I purchased specifically for this hike) and a bit of work on Google Earth (which could have screwed us up if they had built new roads since the satellite images were taken).

We managed to successfully find the area without getting lost which was a big relief.  To access Illal Meadows, you have to take a little spur road off of the Tulameen Forest Service Road.  This spur road is described as being accessible with high clearance 2WD before turning into a 4WD road.  The 2WD section was pretty rough on our vehicle, so we didn't even try driving the next part.  This would be one of the worst places I could think of to have a serious breakdown (my little twig arms would not be able to push a vehicle out of a place like this).

On the spur road, heading to the trailhead
After a short ten minute walk on the spur road, we reached the washout where the trail took off from.  It wasn't long before views of Spiral Peak began to open up in the distance.  The rounded mountain was covered in a vibrant red from some of the alpine plants changing color.  It was a great teaser of things to come.

Spiral Mountain

The trail soon took off into the woods.  The first bit of the trail was very overgrown, quite reminiscent of the trail up Silverdaisy Mountain.  This made me wonder if this trail was going to be more like a bushwhack, but it soon passed through the thick bush and entered a more spread out forest.  Here the trail surprised me, as it was in as good of condition as trails in most provincial parks I've hiked in.  There was minimal deadfall and windfall, and not very much overgrowth.  Since I'm pretty sure this area is Crown land, I'm not sure who maintains this, but whoever it is, they do an excellent job.

The trail began a fairly steep ascent which didn't last for too long, but it was long enough that I realized I had lost all of my conditioning and stamina from my trip to Vancouver Island.  It is kind of unfortunate that you can devote weeks, or even months, to getting in peak physical condition, and all it takes to undo that is lots of Doritos, a few cases of Coke, and binge watching Breaking Bad for a couple of weeks straight.

The trail crossed a rockslide and soon the meadows began to open up.  The fall colors were amazing, as the area was coated with a mix of oranges, reds, and yellows.  For the most part, the main view was still Spiral Peak, but there were teasing glimpses of Jim Kelly and Coquihalla Peaks.

Jim Kelly Peak in the distance

Jim Kelly Peak was the mountain we were planning on climbing, and the initial glimpses we got of it were nothing short of intimidating to me.  My Dad had climbed the mountain before in his younger days, but he is much tougher than I am (and has much better balance), so I had doubts that I would be up to the challenge.  After climbing Needle Peak, which was not nearly as scary looking, I had vertigo for the next 2 days.  I didn't know if I could do that again.  On the other hand, I acknowledged the distinct possibility that I was slowly becoming an adrenaline junky, since something about the fear was oddly appealing.

It is worth noting that the Illal Meadows area is part of the Pemberton Volcanic Belt.  The belt would have been active 21 to 22 million years ago, so all of the volcanoes are long extinct.  It is still fascinating to think of an area so close to my home as having been a hot bed of volcanic activity at some point.  There are bizarre rock formations all over the meadows which I'm assuming are largely byproducts of volcanic activity.  I believe even Jim Kelly and Coquihalla Peaks may have been active volcanoes at some point, though both are so eroded that you can't really tell.

We experienced some setbacks in the meadows in the form of tasty wild blueberries, but we eventually managed to overcome this challenge and press on (this was helped by the off putting fact that many of the blueberries were mushy from being frozen).  We got to a small lake at the base of the scramble up Jim Kelly and took a break.  I went into my pack to get a bottle of water and found that I had not properly sealed the lid on one of my bottles.  I had lost a few ounces of water.  It wasn't much, but it was enough to make a sizable puddle in my fancy new backpack.

There was a short scramble leading to a little saddle between Jim Kelly and Coquihalla.  We took what I believe to be the worst possible route up this, going straight up, when there was apparently a much easier trail that switchbacked up on the other side.  This was the point of the hike in which I relinquished my role as navigator.

From the saddle, the scramble to the peak of Jim Kelly could be seen.  What I saw didn't make me feel any less nervous.  The nice thing was that a fall wouldn't mean plunging down the valley, but there were a lot of really steep looking sections, and it looked like the whole thing was on really loose shale.

In the other direction, Coquihalla Mountain could be seen, and it looked a million times more intimidating than Jim Kelly.  My perpetual death wish will likely try to send me up this mountain at some point, but I don't think I'll try it for a while.

Across the valley, the Coquihalla Summit Recreation Area could be seen, including Needle Peak.  I hadn't realized just how close this area was until now.  It was interesting to see an area I had hiked from a different angle.  It made me wonder if it would be possible to link up the two areas.  I concluded that it would be doable with a GPS and a lot of gumption.  Maybe that will be a project for next year.

Coquihalla Mountain
Looking towards Needle Peak, one of my conquests from earlier this year
Illal Meadows, with Illal Peak (the squarish mountain) in the distance
The beginning of the scramble

The first bit of the scramble up was pretty easy, definitely not worse than anything I've done before.  Given my lack of instincts for this sort of thing, I let my friend take over as navigator, and he did a much, much better job than I would have at finding the best way up things.

One of the challenges on this climb was that often the footing was not very solid, as the loose shale would slide down sometimes at the lightest touch.  Having helmets might have been a wise idea for this.

Even the solid bits of rock were pretty loose.  I learned pretty quickly to check every single hand hold very carefully, since many of them would crumble as soon as I put pressure on them.  Being cautious made this a really slow ascent, but I wouldn't trade a faster summit for the chance of falling.  I could live with the idea of falling on the way down, because I would know that I climbed the mountain, but falling on the way up?  That would be just plain cruel!

As we got higher and higher, we came to a number of false summits, each more frustrating than the last.  There were a good 3 or 4 times where I was convinced I was coming up the last stretch, only to see another climb looming ahead.  This brought back memories of Outram, but I think it was a bit worse here.

Towards the top, the lace on my left boot came undone.  I came very close to tripping over it which probably would have ended my hiking career (and maybe even my binge watching TV career).  I would not have caught this if I wouldn't have been so careful about my footing.  Realizing how close I came to falling definitely made my stomach jump up a bit.

One of many false summits
The final push

We finally reached the summit after a much harder and scarier climb than I had anticipated.  There was a pole on top of the mountain with a little poem on it which was kind of neat, though I do have to wonder how it got up there.  I'm assuming whoever brought it up must have been either part mountain goat or a champion at that Scottish sport where they toss large poles.

In the distance, parts of Princeton could be seen.  Illal Peak, Spiral Peak, and Coquihalla Peak could all be seen as well.  In the distance some of the Cascade peaks in Manning Park like Frosty, Outram, and Silvertip could be seen.  I think I may have vaguely made out the Cathedral Rim as well.

Why I will never ascend the other side of Jim Kelly

The Coquihalla Recreation Area, including Yak Peak (peak with the big granite face), in the distance

After spending some time admiring the view on top of the mountain, it sunk in that I still had to go down the scramble.  I made my descent using a really weird looking technique that has never failed me.  Contrary to what I'm pretty sure you are supposed to do, I went down facing out, with my butt planted close to the ground, moving a bit like a crab.  When I do this I know it looks ridiculous, but it makes it a lot easier for me to recover if I'm falling.  I'm sure real mountaineers would scoff at this, but hey, if it works, it works.

The rest of the hike down went pretty smoothly.  We got back at our vehicle in good time, having taken around 8 hours to hike up and back.

I'm really glad to have gotten a chance to explore this area.  I know I'll be back to climb some of the other peaks in the area.  Accessing the meadows is a bit inconvenient, but on the other hand, the tough access means it isn't bogged down with a lot of hikers.  Even with its inclusion in 103 Hikes, I feel like this is still a fairly undiscovered gem.  Selfishly, I hope it stays that way.  The meadows are still in pristine condition, and it will be a shame when they get trampled down.  It would also really suck to have to ascend Jim Kelly behind a long line of people, each sending a multitude of rocks tumbling towards you.  I guess that probably means I shouldn't blog about the area, or at the very least, I shouldn't give it a good review.  So with that in mind, don't go to Illal Meadows.  The place is awful, smells like mothballs, probably is full of radiation, and may very well be populated by sentient rock people who eat humans.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Juan de Fuca Marine Trail/West Coast Trail/North Coast Trail Comparison

Having now hiked what I consider to be Vancouver Island's version of the Triple Crown, I thought I might write a bit of a comparison between the three hikes.  I should point out that most of the stuff in this post is going to just be my opinion.  It might be helpful to people trying to pick a hike on the island, and then again, it might just be boring rambling.

I should also mention that the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail (JDFT) and the North Coast Trail (NCT) are still fairly fresh in my head as I just finished them a few weeks ago, whereas the West Coast Trail (WCT) is a bit foggier as I did it a few years ago.

For the purposes of this post, I will be including the Cape Scott Trail as part of the NCT, simply because almost everyone who hikes the NCT will need to hike it and it constitutes a full day of hiking.

My intention in this post is not to pick a favourite or least favourite hike of the three, since I don't know that I could honestly do that.  They are all different experiences, and they are all worth doing.  I would be prepared to do any of the three again.


The JDFT is the shortest of the three trails at 47 km.  It is the trail that requires the least amount of time to complete.  I think it is fair to say it takes 3 to 5 days to complete.  I did it in 3 days without having to be all that time conscious.

The WCT is the longest of the trails at 75 km.  I would say that 5 to 7 days is a reasonable time frame to complete the trail.  I did it in 5 days which was pretty tough.

The NCT is technically the shortest at 43.1 km, but factoring in the Cape Scott Trail it becomes around 58.1 km.  I would actually say it is the trail that takes the most time to complete.  I would say 6 to 8 days is a decent time frame to complete the hike.  I did it in 6 days with a day off in the middle.

I think anyone who has hiked the WCT can add 1 day onto their hiking time if they were looking at hiking the NCT.


This should probably be the most straight forward section since it is generally agreed that the NCT is the hardest of the three and the JDFT is the easiest.  However, I'm not sure that I entirely agree with that.  The gap in difficulty between the trails, while present, isn't as big as I thought it would be.

The JDFT is the easiest, largely due to the short length.  The trail is mostly easy to follow, there are no ladders present on it, no cable cars, the boardwalks are in excellent condition, and the trail is fairly well cleared with the least tree roots to climb over.  There are still challenges in a few extremely muddy sections, some slippery stairs, a couple of muddy ropes (which are in worse condition than the NCT ropes) and a very physically demanding stretch from Bear Beach to Sombrio Beach.  In my opinion, Bear to Sombrio is more physically difficult than any section on the WCT or NCT.  That's not to say the other trails don't have more dangerous or technically difficult sections, but the Bear to Sombrio stretch is the stretch of trail that wore me out the most.

The WCT has the same muddy sections and tree roots as the other two trails.  The section from Pachena Bay to Camper Bay is not really that difficult, fairly comparable to most of the JDFT.  The trail does have a lot of ladders to go up and down, but I think their difficulty is a little overstated.  There are also 5 cable cars on the trail, though some of them are pretty easy to skip.  I think that the section from Camper Bay to Thrasher Cove is what gives the WCT its reputation as being an incredibly difficult trail.  In my opinion, this stretch of trail is the most overall difficult section out of the three trails.  It isn't as physically draining as Bear to Sombrio on the JDFT, but it has what feels like a minefield of fallen trees to go over and under.  When things are wet and slippery, this section is not just tough, but also really dangerous.

The WCT is also the trail where you have to be the most aware of tide levels.  This can make things more difficult, as missing a low tide can mean either a long wait or a dangerous wade.

I think the NCT as a whole is harder than the WCT, but I don't think it has a section as difficult as Camper to Thrasher.  The mud in Cape Scott Park is very well documented, and can make it impossible to travel faster than 1 km/h.  I think, like the ladders on the WCT, the difficulty of the ropes on the NCT are a bit overstated.  The ropes are in excellent condition, and I don't believe gloves are necessary to use them.  The boardwalks on the NCT are probably in the best shape if I was comparing boardwalks across the three trails.  I also think the cable cars on the NCT are a bit easier than the WCT, but then again, there are only 2 of them.


The JDFT has lots of camping at all of the beaches.  I can imagine that in the summer it could be difficult to find a campsite, or at least a solitary campsite.  There are a few places you could stealth camp on the trail, but it would mostly be limited to the designated campsites.  The outhouses at the campsites are stocked with toilet paper and hand sanitizer which is an added bonus.

The WCT has the most potential for stealth camping.  Even when I hiked it at a fairly busy time of year, I spent a couple of nights on beaches that I more or less had to myself.  The composting outhouses at the campsites are a nice touch.

Camping on the NCT is limited almost entirely to the designated camping areas.  The tent pads at the campsites are extremely well constructed and are handy for keeping sand off of your tent.  The outhouses are stocked with toilet paper.


Given that they essentially run into each other, the JDFT and WCT have very comparable scenery.  The JDFT has quite a few interesting rock formations and cliffs present at its beaches, but they aren't as dramatic and rugged as the ones on the WCT.  There are some amazing and colourful tidal pools at Botanical Beach, and Sombrio Beach is as picturesque of a cobble beach as you could find.  The forest you hike through has some areas that feel like old-growth, but a lot of it feels like secondary forest, recovering from logging.  As a result, you see more deciduous trees than on the WCT or NCT.

The wildlife on the JDFT is more habituated than on the other trails.  This is a little scary, and there have been incidents of bear and cougar attacks in the area.

Of the three trails, it feels like the JDFT stays within view of the ocean the most, which is a big bonus.  You are constantly accompanied by the sound of pounding surf.  On the other hand, you are often close enough to the highway to hear traffic.  In addition to many views of the ocean, the trail also grants many views of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.

The WCT has the most dramatic rock formations of the trails.  As it is the longest trail, it also has the most variety in scenery.  Most of the forest you hike though is old growth, but there are still a couple of areas that you can tell are in recovery.  Wildlife viewing is a bit restricted, as the heavy usage of the trail tends to scare some of the animals off.

One feature that is a bit unique to the WCT is the shipwreck debris you find on it.  It is nicknamed the "Graveyard of the Pacific" for a reason after all.  While it is a bit morbid, it is still interesting to see the old ship parts and donkey engines scattered all over the place.

The NCT doesn't have the same rocky terrain as the other two trails, but it makes up for it with some of the most picturesque and pristine sand beaches imaginable.  Nissen Bight particularly is a real treat.  The trail also boasts untouched old-growth forests.  These ancient forests have a mystical quality to them, and definitely add to the unique experience of the NCT.

Given how isolated the NCT is, the wildlife here is abundant, and is truly wild.  There are bears, cougars, and wolves in the area.  To be able to observe these animals in their natural habitat is amazing.  I wasn't granted the good fortune of seeing any on my trip, but I know it is the trail with the most potential for wildlife encounters.


The JDFT is the least expensive trail to hike out of the three.  It is also the easiest to plan.  There are many entrance and exit points on the trail, and since the whole thing is along the same highway, a 2 car set up would be really easy to do.  Even without a second vehicle (or a first vehicle in my case) the West Coast Trail Express allows for pretty easy access to the various trailheads.  I should mention that the China Beach parking lot is infamous for vandalism, and I would not ever leave my vehicle there.  Outside of the standard camping fees, there is nothing else in the park that you have to pay for.  Water is abundant on the trail.  I rarely carried more than 500 mL with me on the trail.

The WCT can be a logistical nightmare, just because you need a trail permit (which is expensive) and they restrict how many hikers can start each day.  Accessing the northern terminus requires driving on some very rough logging roads.  These roads also slow the shuttle bus down (sometimes by as much as 2 hours).  Water is mostly not a problem on the trail, but there are a couple of stretches where it is hard to come by.

There are two places on the trail where you can purchase food and beverages, though it is pretty expensive.  The trail also has only one place where you can get off of it (and it isn't the most convenient location), so if you decide to hike the WCT, you pretty much have to hike the whole thing.

Unless you are planning on doing an in-and-out hike of the NCT from the parking lot, you have to get either a boat or a float plane to drop you off at Shushartie Bay.  This can be a bit pricey, especially if you can't pick a time when other people are going (so the costs get split).  The trail is extremely isolated, with no places you could get off of it.  If you start at Shushartie Bay, you have no choice but to hike all the way through.

The NCT is isolated enough that if you got injured, it could take days before you were found.  For this reason, it is not necessarily the best trail to hike alone (though I hiked it solo).

Outside of the camping fees, there are no fees for permits or anything else.  Water can be a challenge on the trail.  There are a couple of places where you have to more or less hike for a full day before you get to another water source.


The JDFT is perfect for day hikes and short trips.  Given the number of access points on it, hiking it does not require committing to doing the whole thing.  Because of this, as well as the easier nature of the trail, I think it is ideal for novice hikers.  I also think it serves as excellent preparation for some of the harder hikes on the island.  It may not be as spectacular as the other two hikes, but it is definitely worth doing.

The WCT is an amazing experience, and deserves its status as one of the most famous hikes in the world.  The downside to its fame is that it is a really overcrowded trail, so people who are put off by crowds probably won't enjoy it.  Busyness of the trail aside, it is a true challenge and offers some spectacular scenery.  I don't think a person has to be an expert hiker to do the trail, though I think some experience is a good idea.

The NCT is a unique experience unlike anything I have ever done.  It is a true wilderness adventure.  It is very grueling and challenging, but it is well worth the difficulty.  I think anyone considering the NCT should definitely have the WCT on their resume, or at least another difficult island hike.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Juan de Fuca Marine Trail Day 3: Payzant Creek to Botanical Beach

I woke up to to find one of the most frightening things I have ever seen: a fresh pile of cougar scat, right next to my tent.  For once, the rustling I heard at night was not just a squirrel!  I knew immediately that I would never be able to comfortably sleep in a tent again.

I took my tent down one last time, taking care not to get the scat on the tent.  I was a touch conflicted since I wanted to get a late start, as my shuttle was leaving Port Renfrew at 5:00 PM and I didn't want to be waiting in town for too long, but I didn't want to linger in the woods, knowing there was potentially a cougar on the prowl.

I left around 10:30 PM and started on the last 7 km of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.  I came to a junction where a trail to "Providence Cove" split off.  I was already well ahead of schedule, so I took this side trail.  The trail itself was very overgrown and bushy, but it was well worth the little trek.  Providence Cove was a really nice location, probably one of the highlights of the trail in my opinion.

Providence Cove
Back on the main trail, I began to make the same realization I had made on the North Coast Trail: I was extremely close to completing the Juan de Fuca Trail without having a single fall!  This seemed very impressive, especially for a guy who calls himself "Clueless Hiker".  Naturally, right around the time I started thinking this, I got my foot caught in a tree root and had a spectacular fall, nearly going off the trail into some very pokey looking bushes.  This fall was definitely hard enough to make up for my lack of falling from the previous couple of weeks.

The rest of my hike was fairly uneventful.  I could soon see Botanical Beach coming into view, and I knew my hike was almost over.  The trail stayed pretty easy, with lots of sections covered with boardwalk.  I nearly had another fall on a boardwalk which would have been really embarrassing.

I came to the last kilometer of the trail, where the Botany Bay Loop split off.  I hiked down to Botanical Beach, and then hiked the long way to the parking lot, passing by Botany Bay.  In my opinion, this area was the single nicest and most scenic area on the entire Juan de Fuca Trail.  The area had some very vivid colours and fascinating rock formations.

Botanical Beach

Botany Bay

After passing Botany Bay, the trail widened out and began a gentle climb to the parking lot.  Looking at my clock, I was even further ahead of schedule than I had anticipated, so I knew I was going to have a very long wait in Port Renfrew.  At least I could look forward to a hot and filling meal.

I finally reached the end of the trail, completing my North Coast Trail/Juan de Fuca Trail double hike.  I was exhausted, but I definitely was glad I took on this challenge.  It was extremely fulfilling and rewarding, and gave me chance to see parts of the province I hadn't seen before.

Posing with the last km

At the trail head
I wasn't technically done yet, as I had a couple of kilometers to walk on the road into Port Renfrew.  Somehow, this ended up being the hardest kilometers of the entire trip.  The hard pavement did more damage to my feet than over one hundred kilometers of rugged coastal hiking.  This is why I could never pull a Forrest Gump and go across the continent.

In Port Renfrew I went to the Coastal Kitchen Cafe, the same restaurant me and my Dad went to when we finished the West Coast Trail.  The food was just as good as I had remembered.  After eating, I went to wait for the shuttle bus.  A local told me the bus was going to be a couple of hours late, so I went for a bit of a walk around Port Renfrew, going to the West Coast Trail registration office and back.  It sucked having to wait, but there was a multitude of blackberries that were just waiting to be picked, so that made the time fly.

The bus eventually showed up and drove me back to Victoria.  The next day I departed for Princeton, having to take three buses, two skytrains, and a ferry.  It was easily the most stressful day of my trip.  I felt like something was destined to go wrong, but everything went smoothly (though I did get a good scare when I saw that the normal trains were not stopping at the Main Street station in Vancouver).

The whole trip was one of the best experiences of my life, and I am definitely glad I did it.  I have a special appreciation for Vancouver Island now, and want to return in the future to hike more of it (perhaps the Nootka Trail, or the Spine Trail when it is finished).

Riding off into the sunset

Juan de Fuca Marine Trail Day 2: Chin Beach to Payzant Creek

Day 2 had the same clear blue skies I had enjoyed on the previous day.  There was no moisture on my tent, from fog, dew, condensation, or anything else.  This made for one of the most painless tent tear downs I had experienced in a while.

I had breakfast and headed out.  My final destination for the day was the campsite at Payzant Creek, 19 km away.  The strenuous section of the trail was supposed to continue until Sombrio Beach, so I had another 8 km of hard ups and downs to look forward to.

Chin Beach
After hiking the rest of Chin Beach, the trail headed inland, and I was immediately greeted with the same hard terrain that had nearly killed me on the previous day.  The days of hiking that were behind me had started to really pile up, and fatigue set in incredibly early.  At one point, my pace was slow enough that I was debating either stopping at Parkinson Creek, or hiking through the night.

Luckily, I got my second wind and got back on schedule.  I hit an area with quite a number of wasp nests, though many of them were marked, presumably by much less fortunate hikers.

I reached the Loss Creek Suspension Bridge, the highest and longest of the four suspension bridges on the trail.  The views on it were stunning, and again I considered myself lucky to not have to cross it in the rain.  The wind seemed to pick up a bit as I crossed it and there was a brief moment of fear in which I questioned the structural integrity of the bridge, but I managed to cross it, acrophobia and all.

Loss Creek Suspension Bridge

After more hard climbs and descents, I ran into a pretty easy patch of trail, where again it seemed to be on an old road.  After a bit of hiking on this, the trail got on top of a little ridge which it followed down to another strenuous section.

The trail soon got within view of Sombrio Beach, one of the most popular spots on the trail.  I stayed pretty close to the coast line as the trail worked its way to the beach.  I had a couple of near falls on some slippery rocks, but otherwise it seemed like the hard part of my hike was reaching an end.

Sombrio Beach in the distance

The trail went over the stream feeding a little waterfall.  The stream was low enough that I was able to get off the trail and stand right at the top of the waterfall.  It wasn't much more than a little trickle, but it was still worth the side trip.

On top of the waterfall

I came out to Sombrio Beach and could tell that it was the most popular camping spot in the area.  There were quite a few tents up, but it seemed like a big enough beach that it wouldn't be that hard to find a private camping spot.  I considered it to be the nicest and most scenic beach I had seen on the Juan de Fuca Trail so far.  I took a break on the beach to have lunch (in which I cleaned up my very expired hummus).

Sombrio Beach

As I continued along the beach, I missed the cut off to the inland trail that went to the suspension bridge over the Sombrio River.  The river was low enough that it was an easy ford, but the completionist in me had to find and cross the bridge.  I picked up the trail on the other side of the river, found the bridge, and then crossed it twice.  There was really no point to this, but it was going to irritate me incessantly if I didn't do it.

Sombrio River Suspension Bridge

I was soon back on what the map described as "moderate" trail.  It certainly wasn't as endurance-testing as the chunk from Bear Beach to Sombrio Beach, but there were still lots of muddy sections to contend with.

I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn't hit another sizable beach until the end of the trail at Botanical Beach.  The trail stuck close to the ocean, so it didn't seem to leave my view for long, but aside from the occasional short jaunt on some rock shelves, I was basically in the woods the rest of the way.

Good old mud

Minute Creek Suspension Bridge

I passed the Parkinson Creek parking lot and ended up on an actual road for a short time.  I wondered very briefly if I had missed the trail and was on a private property, but the trail went into the trees pretty quickly.

I hiked through a very dense forest where it managed to block out enough sunlight that it felt like it was already dusk.  I'm not sure if this was the result of coniferous trees beginning to overtake a deciduous recovery forest, but whatever it was, it was an interesting effect.

I arrived at the Payzant Creek campsite.  It was pretty spread out and there were more sites than I had expected.  I found a spot I liked and set up my tent for the last time on my big Vancouver Island excursion.  I ate my two burritos which, despite being a bit squished, were not cold in the middle like the ones I had eaten on day 1.

I fell asleep pretty easily, though there was a bit of rustling around my tent at one point that woke me up.  I had discovered that I tended to exaggerate noises outside in my mind.  On the NCT these sounds were usually a bird or a squirrel, so I assumed that it was nothing.  It wasn't like a cougar had walked right up to my tent or something...