Waste not, want more

No variations on a theme.

Juan de Fuca Hates me (and other tales of pity)

It is with somewhat heavy heart (excessive dramatization) that I write about my long-anticipated (by me) Juan de Fuca trail hike with my husband, the oft-hypothetial but this time real, Kevin.

The Juan de Fuca trail (JDF) is a 47-kilometre hiking trail that runs parallel, and sometimes on, the coastline on the south west corner of Vancouver Island. It offers old growth forests, beaches, bears – you get the idea. I’m going to summarize my heroic rise and fall on the trail day by day – lucky you.

Day 1

This barely counts as a day since it only involves a 2k hike. We drove to China Beach after work on Wednesday evening. We brought nothing of value since break-ins are frequent. It’s at times like this that I especially appreciate our ’97 civic, Forest, which lacks fancy stereo equipment or valuable parts that I would worry over. Anyway, Kev paid park fees while I set to taping my feet. That’s right, my horrid feet feature prominently in this tale of joy, crankiness, and intrigue.

Bad omen? I think so.

Knowing that I have sensitive skin and blister easily, and heeding warnings from many that the best way to enjoy a hike is to prevent blisters, I carefully duct-taped the more sensitive areas on my feet. I thought I did a bang up job. We hiked the two kilometres in to Mystic Beach enjoying some warm-up forest time. The duct tape burned, but it’s sticky, crazy tape, so I figured that was normal and kept on trucking. We arrived at Mystic Beach happy and excited. I slept in duct tape, thinking I would do more harm than good taking it off. You can begin to see how errors compound.

See: Happy and excited

The next morning - very mystical

Day 2
We woke up relatively early, ate, packed up and started off for Bear Beach (creative, no?) after adding some additional duct tape to my ankles. The hike was beautiful (mossy and sluggy) as well as uneventful. The tape was still giving me burning pain but no apparent blisters so I thought things were going well. Despite all this, after the seven kilometres to Bear Beach at 11:30 I announced we would be packing it in for the day and not going the additional 11k to the next campsite. There was much lounging and swinging to be enjoyed.

Weeeeeee!

Duct tape removed, feet breathing

Despite all this happy good timing, my feet were starting to give me some trepidation. Blisters had formed at the edges of the duct tape, from pinching or rubbing I suppose, as well as between various strips. The heels were doing relatively well but the ankle areas had gotten fairly blistery. I decided to start again tomorrow on a different plan. In the meantime good times were had, few people were seen and the weather co-operated wonderfully.

Day 3

Kevin was responsible for packing up camp and preparing breakfast while I spent half an hour on “health care”. Thus the princess tour begins. Kev packed most all of the weight (insert sigh of the ego) while I applied polysporin, then bandages, then cushions, then medical tape. We started off quite firm in our resolve for this up and down portion of the trail to Chin Beach. Kev spotted seals, we discussed potential bear encounters and world domination. All was normal.

Inclines and green things

Approaching Chin Beach

By the time we arrived at Chin Beach a new pain had overtaken any existing blisters. My feet were absolutely ALIVE with anger. A total of 19k had put them into an absolute tizzy. I sat while Kev selected a campsite but after a break was able to set up the tent and prove myself otherwise useful. Chin was incredibly beautiful, reminding me of a cold Thailand. We watched the tide come in, the sun set, and a pod (group, clan, pack?) of porpoises do porpoisy things.

On a dark and footy note (detect a pattern, perhaps?) my feet were not looking good. The cushions I had attached would not come off so I couldn’t re-treat blisters with polysporin. I had also run out of bandages that would fit tidily over blisters without forcing me to stick them to other blisters. I should have soaked my feet in the ocean, which would have allowed me to get the cushions off and provide my feet with some salty comfort for our last night on the beach. Instead, I gave up and left those cushions on for the rest of the trip. On the up side, other areas where I’d used the medical tape preventatively held up nicely.

Day 4

I think it’s safe to say that my darkest hour occurred on day 4. We woke a little late for a 13k day along the most difficult portion of the trip but set off fairly quickly after breakfast and another health care session. The trail was beautiful, with excellent ocean views as we neared Sombrio Beach, a popular surfing and camping beach. This is also the most difficult portion of the trail however and my feet had become incredibly angry again after a mere 2k. The last couple of kilometres into Sombrio were pure torture and I could not enjoy the views of Kevin’s favourite (sick bastard) portions.

View from crazy suspension bridge

Nearing a breaking point but this was a fun little bit in hindsight

By Sombrio Beach my feet were begging for anger management. We ate lunch and contemplated whether we should leave the trail. The pain had me on the verge of tears much of the day. Stubborness won out by a small margin. What surprised me is that, maybe because of adrenaline or other distractions, the blisters alone would not have stopped me from completing the trip. The soreness of my soles, on the other hand, almost did.

But we forged ahead after lunch into a muddier but otherwise less challenging section. It was on this portion of the trail, last year, that Kev had a run in with a rather aggressive bear and her cub that sent him back to Sombrio for the night. Armed with the knowledge that she was still around we sang and yelled whatever came to mind for the 4k to our campsite at Kuitche Creek. Themes from Cheers and the Love Boat made an appearance as did Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, and Arcade Fire.

The last kilometre was ugly. Crawling may well have been faster. When we reached the campsite I was so sore it took all my energy not to cry. I felt like a huge turd. Kev found a site, brought me to it then set up the tent as quickly as he could while I sobbed taking off my boots. It was not a proud moment. I crawled into the tent and cried some more, first for the pain, then at my own lameness (a never-ending cycle, that one). I may even have been in shock, I was shaking with cold and felt a little confused. Eventually, I calmed down and was able to set up our bedding and walk to the outhouse. We ate dinner by the water and I began to feel somewhat human, though deeply embarassed. Needless to say, the camera didn’t make it out much.

Day 5

We slept well, though wondering if bears were trying to get at our cached food. It turns out a small rodent made it in instead, chewing through our sleeping bag cover and getting at a bag of nuts and some bagels. This really cracked me up though Kev was less impressed, since a couple of his preferred food items were targeted.

My health care regime on this last morning included a dose of painkillers, in the hopes that it would stave off the foot pain for the remaining 14K to Botanical Beach. By this point, I’d given up on the skin and left most of what was on there as it was, with some minor modifications.

We packed up the tent in the rain (yay, heavy). Lucky for Kevin, who had basically taken on the role of sherpa and was packing nearly everything by this point. Early in the day we spotted a bear on the beach below us (or rather Kev did) – a definite highlight. We were grateful that the only bear we saw was afar though it refused to pose for proper body pictures.

It acted a little confused when I alerted it of our presence.

The rain died off early and we enjoyed both scenic forest and ocean views. The ache began at about the 5k mark and while manageable for about another 5k, the last 4 to Botanical Beach were pretty ugly. I was feeling defeated and the pain was compounding my disappointment. At some point in the previous 12 or so hours I had realized that my hopes of doing the West Coast Trail next year were likely unrealistic. My body hatred and self-pity had settled in, despite a keen awareness that I am very privileged to have what I do. We eventually finished, but with little fanfare. Our camera battery had died (my fault) and so we didn’t get either  a triumphant or cranky photo of our finish. We were still 2.5K from the shuttle bus in Port Renfrew and at the pace I was walking we wouldn’t make it. My first ever attempts to thumb a ride were jilted though Kevin eventually flagged down a guy who was very nice to drive us the few minutes we needed. Our driver’s son engaged me in conversation and lightened my spirits some. We then waited for the bus and chatted with a couple of women about to start the trail. They offered beer.

In my state of emotional decrepitude insult was added to injury on that shuttle bus ride back to China Beach. The winding road and bouncing bus took its toll. Within ten minutes I was asking the two women for a bag. My situation was precarious. The bag that they had had a knot in it. The bag made it open onto  my lap about 10 seconds before I needed to use it. Already in a state of extreme self-pity I threw up on a bus with 12 strangers. I then gripped the bag with all my might and hoped to make it to the parking lot without incident, which I managed.

We arrived to an unlocked car and a note that said Forest had been broken into. Thankfully nothing was missing or broken. Since we’d been gone 4 nights, an incident was almost guaranteed. I was pleased that we didn’t have to drive home with a broken window or something worse. We made it home after one more upchuck, my ego relatively bruised, and a bitter-sweet sense of our hike. I was finally able to take off all bandaging in the shower and see that one set of blisters had reached infection-like status.

I do not regret having gone and am certainly glad I did, but remain disturbed that I couldn’t help out more and even more so, that trips past two days may be beyond my reach. Accepting my body has never been a strength of mine. It’s slowly taking on new meaning. Now I’ve been given a limit. I’m not sure about the next painful step: acceptance.

After a day of healing and some cleaning

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August 25, 2010 - Posted by | Bad TV References, Brackets, Hiking, Irritated, Wild Animals | ,

11 Comments »

  1. I’m sorry for your injuries, but you made up for it through the power of narrative. Your story had excellent structure and, while it was obvious that you survived, I felt the tension building. I cried in Portugal because of a toe injury. I would have thrown up too, but we had just had some really great pastries that I wasn’t going to sacrifice them.

    Comment by CheyenneVyvyan | August 25, 2010 | Reply

    • Thank you for being perpetually good for a laugh. And supportive too!

      Comment by Rose | August 25, 2010 | Reply

  2. What a great post. The pain, suffering, and anguish of it all!! I have yet to attempt the J de F trail, mostly because we’re not available to do it during the summer months. Four days in the cold and rain? I don’t think so…

    I really hope your feet recover. Those sound (and look) like some brutal injuries. Ouch!

    Comment by Dana | August 26, 2010 | Reply

  3. PS: Who left the note on your car after it had been broken into? RCMP? The car thieves themselves? Do tell!

    Comment by Dana | August 26, 2010 | Reply

    • BC Parks with a phone number for the Sooke RCMP. It was kinda cute and apologetic.

      As for the trail, if the spring’s not too wet, a May hike could always work but yet cold and wet = boo.

      Comment by Rose | August 27, 2010 | Reply

  4. OMG! This is a retell of my story hiking the Pacific Crest trail from Rainy Pass Washington to Manning park- seriously I understand! Klaus was my doctor… the amount of time we spent caring for the blisters was crazy…. though I may have been in a little less pain than you. Will have to dig up some pics! Again I am reminded of why I miss you!!

    Comment by Marcia | August 26, 2010 | Reply

    • That’s so crazy! I since talked to someone who also gets the massive foot pain and knows a couple of others who do too, which gives me a little comfort. I’m thinking orthotics…Meanwhile I’m still mourning the loss of a West Coast Trail I never had.

      Comment by Rose | August 27, 2010 | Reply

  5. […] up with a blog about the impact of my treacherous feet on physical activity goals, particularly hiking. Between the hiking trauma and finding myself newly added to a health plan I decided that it was […]

    Pingback by Vindication for Foot Sufferers Everywhere – or maybe just me « Waste not, want more | November 28, 2010 | Reply

  6. This if fabulous as I feel your pain, but I have to ask, why duct tape?

    Lisa

    Comment by Lisa Wields Words | November 17, 2011 | Reply

    • In my electronic and face to face research, duct tape was the #1 cited blister prevention tool, strangely enough. Obviously these people do not have tender tootsie skin. Thankfully, I’ve found some relief (for the blister part) through sock liners.

      Comment by Rose | November 17, 2011 | Reply

      • Rose, what is your last name. I making my master list of posts that I might include if I ever really get this project going, and I need names. (If you don’t want to post it here, e-mail me at lisawieldswords@gmail.com

        Comment by Lisa Wields Words | November 28, 2011


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