Tatchu Peninsula Hike, Part One: Cruising (mostly)

The Secret Coast Expedition route was divided into four stages: the first three were coastal backpacking trips of around a week or so each, and the final stage was sea kayaking. Stage One was the Tatchu Peninsula hike, planned for six days/five nights. Here’s how the first part of that hiking trip went – mostly pretty cruisy! I’ll leave it to a Tatchu Part Two post to describe what happened when things got a little crazier…

We float-planed in to Rugged Point, a very small, water-access only, provincial park at the southern entrance to Kyuquot Sound, on June 9, 2019.

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Our first morning on the expedition – we raised the RCGS flag! The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and the Spanish Embassy in Canada, are the two presenting sponsors of the Secret Coast Expedition. We poked around and explored for the morning, and saw our first bear of the trip, a little guy foraging along the shoreline. (We did some foraging, too – more about that in a separate post).

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Then we crossed the tip of the point via a short trail through the rainforest, and found ourselves on the coast. Not a person to be seen… the only prints on the beach of wolves and bears and ravens and eagles.

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Navigation was, for the most part, very easy – just follow the shoreline. This section of the Tatchu hiking route was mainly broad sand beaches and rocky headlands.

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Out first days out were a lot about getting familiar with our gear. As I have written elsewhere, it’s essential that you have rugged and reliable gear for a committed wilderness trip like this. We had not hiked in our new Fjallraven Kajka packs fully loaded, so it was a bit of a learning curve to get them adjusted properly – but these packs are amazing for the many ways you can customize the fit to every part of your body and to the load you are carrying. They were very heavy, and we noted that every time we took them on or off – but they felt fine on our back. Another piece of equipment we were still breaking in were our new Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX hiking boots – which we loved right away partly because of their comfortable fit and flexibility, but came to appreciate as life-savers once we hit the really rugged stuff on later days: cliffs to round just south of here and on Nootka, and miles of slippery boulders on Hesquiaht.

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One of the things that slowed us down was the geology! Especially on the Tatchu Peninsula section – these are sedimentary rocks deposited in the deep ocean, but showing evidence of current flow. We saw so much – fossils, magmatic rocks with gas bubbles in them (now filled in with minerals), faults and folds… and pretty much every time, I had to drop my pack and get down on my hands and knees to check it out.

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Our second night was spent on a pretty beach beside Porritt Creek. Dave and I both tried our luck fishing at the creek-mouth, while we waited for the tide to go down so we could cross it – but no luck.

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Morning coffee… the nights were still cool the first weeks of our trip, but once the sun came out, the days were just gorgeous!

I had planned our daily distances on the short side right from the start, and this was very intentional. First of all, this time up our sleeve would be essential in case anything went not to plan, e.g. due to weather or injury. Hopefully that would not be needed, and we could use that extra time for other expedition goals: photography and exploring, getting to actually know the place rather than just hoofing it through. Here I am checking out the shoreline and tidepools.

The photography actually was really time-consuming  – especially the tripod shots of the two of us hiking. (Drop our packs, set up the gear, put the packs back on, set the 10 second timer and try to walk through the frame in the planned positions, run back to the camera and check, repeat it until we have it right, drop the packs, stow the gear again, put the packs back on, and continue on our way). One shot could delay us half an hour or more… and I was taking a lot of shots!

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Stream crossings slowed us down, too – it’s not fun to hike in wet boots (and you are much more likely to get blisters… and then have them get infected, which could end a long trip like this). So many of the crossings meant dropping the packs and changing into sandals, and then drying and de-sanding the feet before putting socks and boots on over on the other side.

The long days of June worked both to our advantage and to our disadvantage. Lots of daylight hours to hike, if we needed them.  But with sunset at 9:30 and darkness more like 11:00pm (and then light very early in the morning), we ended up using those hours and staying up very late… and becoming pretty sleep-deprived! Here’s the late-night view from our third night campsite at Tatchu Creek.

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So far, everything had gone to plan. The weather was gorgeous, and it all seemed a bit too… easy… for a wilderness expedition. But tomorrow, that was all about to change. Stay tuned for Part Two of our Tatchu Peninsula Hike.

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