Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hiking the WCT: Day 8, 14 June 2009

[Welcome to Day 8, my final day of Hiking the West Coast Trail.  Please see my previous posts (Day 0, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7) for the start of this little adventure. Remember, all photos can be clicked on to see a full-size version in all its glory, as well as see any fine details I may refer to.]

Perfectly packed (so as to be balanced on its own) backpack.  I've got skills now!

This was it.  Day 8.  We were headed back to civilization.  Boo.  Hiss.  I'm trying to calculate when I would have actually been ready to go home because I was most definitely not ready to leave on Day 8.  Obviously, there's that point that you reach when you've stayed too long and it's different for everyone.  It's probably safe to say by Day 30,  I'd have been ready, if for no other reasons than to take a very long hot shower and go to a quadruple-feature at the movies.  Oh, wait! And to see my family.  That's right, I have a wonderful husband and three terrific children, all of whom I would see tomorrow!

You see, I tend to be rather focused on whatever thing I'm currently into.  For all of October, I listen to my Halloween play list, decorate like crazy, read horror novels and even change my phone screen and Kindle skin to something suitably horror-ific, like a spooky tree or vampire fangs. The point is, I tend to enthusiastically embrace whatever my current adventure is, be it Halloween, Oscar season, or our 2007 family trip to New Zealand & Australia (when I watched every New Zealand & Australian film I own on DVD in the weeks leading up to our departure.  That included all 3 Lord of the Rings films, The Piano, The World's Fastest Indian, The Man From Snowy River, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the DesertMuriel's Wedding, and all three [then] of Baz Luhrman's films, Moulin Rouge!, Romeo & Juliet, and my personal favorite, Strictly Ballroom.)  I'm sorry; I digress...again.

So I gave myself up to the amazing experience of hiking the West Coast Trail. To live, to be free for a little while, to run wild.  I'd be back home in Austin, back to my family again soon and they'd get me back as good as new, probably better, but for now I deserved to be here utterly and completely, without guilt or apologies. (Of course that didn't stop the tears when I called at the ferry station later that day to say we'd made it back and heard my two year old daughter say "Mommy come home.")  I'm a free spirit up to a point...and that point was drawing poignantly near.

Jen testing out another fishing net hammock before departing Michigan Creek Campsite.

We had a hard 7:30 departure that morning as we said adios to Michigan Creek because we had to make it to the trail head at Pachena Bay - 0 km mark!! - by 12:30 pm to get John & Carter back in time to make their plane.  That was a full 12 km in half a day and only slightly less than our maximum distance the entire day before of 13.5 km.  We hiked inland on the trail proper the entire distance except to stop at KM 10 to visit Pachena Lighthouse.

Though less impressive than the picturesque Carmanah Lighthouse, Pachena did have its charms.  Arriving from the trail you don't have the opportunity to admire the distant silhouette, but there's a quaint, white-picket-fence gate you enter through and this whimsical sign post showing the direction and distance to countries all over the world. (And the back sides are all labeled with different locations as well.)

No need to ask for directions.

Now look at the photograph below. I'd like for you to imagine what I'm doing to get this angle.  The ground sloped down away from the lighthouse and I kept trying to get both Mother and the entire beacon in the same shot.  I finally laid down in the grass spread-eagle, with my cheek planted to the moist turf to make it happen.  I Am Victorious!  (Never mind the sniggering and good-natured cat calls from behind me by the gang.)


Despite the constant forest hiking and the lack of high profile obstacles [that would be the surge channels and ladders], we still saw amazing things that last day.  We seemed to be in a section of the trail that must be exposed to the strongest winter winds because there were more giant felled trees in that 12 km distance than in all the rest of our forest hiking -- we'd be tromping along when directly in front of us this enormous, overgrown mass of tangled limbs and looming earth would materialize. It was the root ball of a felled tree.  I counted 15 of these gnarled beasts and those are just the ones in whose shadows we passed.

M & K told us that in the winter of 2006, there were 17 storms in November alone as opposed to the more typical 3-4.  There was concern that the park would open late because Parks Canada didn't know how extensive the damage was until they got out on the Trail that April.  Normally, in this northern-most forest section, nearing Pachena Bay, roughly 100-200 trees fall during the winter months.  But that year, there were at least 3000!  We just kept passing tree after tree after tree that had fallen across the trail and been later cleaved directly where it bisected our path.

Kelly beside the massive root ball of a felled tree

And just about the time I'd think we'd seen every type of trail boardwalk there was, we'd be surprised by something else unique.  This area was almost like horizontal ladders that zig zagged through the forest, including these stair-step planks laid shingle-style over a tree trunk that spanned one section.

Next there was no boardwalk, hardly even a trail, and although I'm quite certain Mark and Kelly knew precisely where they were headed, to us it seemed like you looked for a massive sawed off tree and skirted it until you could see the next one ahead.  And the next one.  There was a bit of a forced march feel that day and though it shames me to admit it, I found myself thinking (for the only time save the last hour of Day 3, just before reaching Walbran Creek) are we there yet?  I was definitely losing some of my thrill of the trail, not because we'd been hiking it for 8 days or because I was having any less spectacular of a time, but because it was impossible not to think about the fact that it was almost over.  This time tomorrow, we'd be at the airport, headed back to civilization.  Time would speed back up.  The restorative sounds of rushing surf and whispering trees would recede, replaced by the more caustic urban ones - gritty engines, jarring cell phone rings, too many voices.  And I would be back to squeezing just one more thing in.  One more errand, one more project, one more commitment.


 Thankfully, somewhere near this point in the downward spiral of my traitorous thoughts, another colossal tree blocked our path, this one piled high enough on top of smaller felled trees, to allow us to climb both over and under simultaneously.  Time for a photo op!  [And Bam! Just like a toddler, I'm distracted by the big, flashy thing in front of my eyes and forget how depressed I was starting to get. Whew!]

 It is not an oxymoron to climb both over and 
under a tree simultaneously. (At least not on the WCT.)

 If you are starting to wonder why I've fewer pictures of Melly this day and more of myself, no, it's not because I'm feeling under-represented in the photo department nor am I maxed-out in the mom department; I'm actually protecting her.  I'm not kidding here. This is about a 7.5 on the self-sacrificing-for-your-mother scale.  If you do the math (8+1), we haven't had a real shower in 9 days, our soap has run out (because someone kept extravagantly insisting we had to use it for our underwear.), and I guess it was warmer that day because every picture I seem to have of my mother she is sans toque.  And you may recall that Melly herself said she tried to keep either her toque or her Tilley on her [scary] hair at all times.  So, she is thanking me right now for showing my hideous hair, not hers!!  Or, mostly, at any rate...

The last physical KM marker!  (There's not a 1 or a 0)

Proud Mamma

Like so many of the unique idiosyncrasies of hiking the WCT, we had to leave the forest for the beach, in order to head back into the forest at an invisible trail head entrance where we would then reach the official trail head at KM 0.  We had reached the throat of Pachena Bay, a very roughly teardrop-shaped bay with a wide, flat, shallow expanse of shore where we were essentially finished, though not quite, for those of us with a middle name of Stickler...

All eleven of us (thanks to reuniting with our good pal Simon who waited
for us to say goodbye and take our group photo.)

Another 1/2 kilometer back inland and there we were: The Finish Line! [And here I've been saying it wasn't a race...] It was 11:54 am on June 14, 2009 and we had successfully completed hiking the 75 kilometers of the West Coast Trail!  Hoo-rah!  Yes, we are known in many circles by many names, but feel free to just call us Rock Stars.

Rock Star One & Rock Star Two

After much rejoicing, photo-opping, and pack-removing, we wandered into the trail head hut where Mother and I each purchased a commemorative 100 Years Pacific Rim National Park/West Coast Trail pin.  Once again we met up with Simon who had passed us in the forest at his much faster solo pace.  In addition to joining in our triumphant photo session, he had a bit of news to share.  Simon had heard from two German guys (Seriously, this is how it is on the WCT!) that one of the nefarious speed hikers from Day 6 -- and I imagine it was the more arrogant, dark-haired one who had barely acknowledged us, he'd exuded so much disdain -- had hurt his knee. I hope it was some emasculatingly [Yes, I realize that technically, this is not precisely a word.  But it should be.] trivial incident where he simply planted his inappropriately runner-clad foot and twisted his unprotected ankle, crashing down on his unsuspecting knee.  [I know, that was petty; I sincerely apologize.  Consider it a grievous (but only momentary) lapse in my otherwise altruistic judgment.  I'm better now.  Honestly, I wish all hikers well, wherever they may roam!  Except snotty I'm-not-really-a-hiker-and-I-think-I'm-better-than-you hikers.]  Thankfully, however, most people you meet on the WCT are friendly and the desire to share information is strong so there was usually a brief greeting and the occasional exchange of news such as upcoming trail conditions or animal sightings.

And you (or at least we!) seemed to bond incredibly quickly. Case in point: I came across the following quote in my journal: "Met up with Simon for the rest of the nights at camp." It was written on Day 6, which meant we only had two more nights plus Day 8.  And yet Simon seemed almost as much a part of the gang as the rest of our group.  In my experience, there were really no strangers on the West Coast Trail.  Of course, if you ask my husband he'd say that I'm the kind of person that likes knowing people. I like that I know most of the folks at my gym by name.  I like being part of a community.  And I liked feeling like I wasn't a stranger on the West Coast Trail.  I felt like I belonged there. [contented sigh]

Simon was looking to catch a ride but unfortunately we had no room in our van and had to make our final goodbyes.  Exhausted but exhilarated by our collective accomplishment, we traveled the 78 km down Bamfield Main, the uber-bumpy non-paved logging road that leads from the trail head to Nanaimo A number of folks slept on the drive but Mother and I chatted off and on with Kelly and Lauren while Mark drove.  We started food-dreaming aloud, and K & L mentioned Nanaimo Bars, named for the Vancouver Island city to which we were headed.  Intrigued by the "chocolate, coconut, custard" description, I made a note in my journal to research them later.

When we got to Nanaimo, we made a quick stop at pay showers for John & Carter to clean up before dropping them at Budget Rent-a-Car so that they could make a hasty getaway to the Comox, BC airport to catch their early flight.  Then we headed to Safeway, where Bill's lovely wife and mother met us. We made our hugging farewells to Bill and as they headed off, the rest of us made a beeline for the restrooms inside Safeway and then to the deli line to get mammoth sandwiches.  Despite vigorous, repeated hand-washing, the cracks of our palms were still dirt-stained; lasting evidence of our Herculean efforts, I like to think.

 Clockwise from bottom left: Melly, Wenke, Mike, and Jen (only my left since I'm taking the picture!)

Once at the Nanaimo ferry terminal, we had quite a bit of time to kill before the next Tsawwassen ferry departed so we lined up our packs against the windows, arraying ourselves in a circle on the floor, in the space between two rows of seats, sharing snacks and playing a card game called 31.  (It felt very much like being around the campfire again, familiar and cozy.) Mother and I both called home from a payphone since we hadn't been in contact since leaving Vancouver.  Naturally, I cried on the phone and upon returning to The Circle, everyone sympathized as I told them why I was upset.  Clearly related to me, Kelly got choked up too as I haltingly relayed Vivi's 2 1/2 year old "Mommy Come Home" speech.  Mark affectionately called her LCM - Little Crying Machine, which made me laugh because a) hello, I'm clearly another LCM! and b) it reminded me of one of Rand's very old, very silly nicknames for me!  The terminal started filling up as it got closer to boarding time, but, surprisingly, we still managed to maintain a very roomy area.  I really don't think it had anything to do with our diminished hygiene over the past 9 days.  We still didn't smell.  My hand to God.

I can't believe I didn't take a single picture on the ferry that day.  I have a couple of Mother and I on deck of the inbound ferry but we look far too fresh to be convincing here at the end of our trip.  Besides, what I really want is one of the last 8 of us (Mark, Kelly, Sue, Mike, Wenke, Lauren, Melly, Jen), content in our grubbiness, amiably lounging in our little section of the ferry, already starting to reminisce.  [And you wonder why I take five-bazillion photos?... in the hopes of avoiding just such an omission as this.]  We ended up back in story-telling mode and Sue entertained us with an absolutely hilarious story to which I cannot, for the life of me, remember the details, but I noted in my journal as the "bringing towels/owning brothel" story.  It was something about carrying clean towels as she walked through town and some man asked her about them and her sassy, on-the-spot response was that she owned a brothel and... Damn it!  I'm clearly missing the punch line but it was too good not to mention, even half-remembered, here.  [Note to self:  In future, journal even more meticulously and obsessively!]  And If Sue writes me back to refresh my memory, I'll update, I promise!

At one point, Mother and I went on walk-about, taking a gander in the ship's cafeteria.  There was a long line as we waited to purchase cold drinks, standing beside various refrigerated cases.  And what did I happen to spot on one of the glass doors? A neat, little typed label: "Nanaimo Bars"!  Back at our seats, after telling the gang what we found, everyone was mystified that I didn't buy one, but I explained that I didn't want to be disappointed by a less-than-perfect version that might disenchant the delectable dessert for me before I ever actually made it, so I would just wait and find the recipe online and try it at home. [Which I did.  And they are awesome.  Here's the recipe, if you want to try them.  But I warn you: they are addictive.  Truly the work of the devil.  At least he's an excellent chef.]

 Last shot of my hiker alter ego

Once back on the mainland and in our big white van, we dropped off one after another, saying goodbye to our new friends. Sue was traveling on to Cambodia and Vietnam before heading back to England and Wenke was hoping to go back to Chez Monique to interview Monique before flying back to Germany.  And I believe Lauren was returning to her rafting guide duties in Calgary.  We didn't have to say goodbye to Mike just yet as he was staying at our same motel and we agreed to meet up for a late dinner after the three of us cleaned up.  When Mark & Kelly dropped us off, we reclaimed our excess baggage that had stayed in the van (Our Vancouver Starbucks mugs, culled clothes, my hiking book and...extra soap!!) and made our sincerest, most heartfelt goodbyes with promises to keep in touch.

The shower I took that evening was quite possibly the best in my life: long, nearly scalding, and I washed my hair three - gasp! - times, just because I could!  Dinner with Mike at Fogg 'N Suds across the street was lovely - Mother and I enjoyed bacon, cheese, and scallion pierogies and employing our own version of Mark's no-ice-cream-on-the-trail sentiment, we both indulged in slushy Pina Coladas.  Mmmmm…  After a relaxed meal, followed by big bear hugs from Mike, we parted ways and headed to bed for a fabulous night's sleep before our morning flight home.

Technically, it was now Day 9 since it was Monday, June 15th and Mother and I were back at D/FW airport after flying jointly back to Dallas.  We hardly spoke the entire flight as we furiously wrote, remembering detail after detail, filling in the last pages of our journals (along with both sides of an unused barf bag and 2 cocktail napkins crammed full of tiny scribbling for me), pausing only to look up at each other when needing to confirm various tidbits. We'd shed our Indiana-Jones-style adventuress garb and had donned our everyday wear but don't be deceived by our commonplace appearances, those were just our Mother/Daughter/Wife disguises.  We were still the wild-and-crazy-hell-on-wheels-the-fun-never-stops-take-us-to-the-egde-of-the-volcano-and-throw-us-over-and-we'll-bring-you-back-a-rough-hewn-basaltic-blade-with-which-we-made-our-escape women that you've come to know and love.  [I'll admit to an eensy bit of hyperbole there.  And, okay, yes, I did recently re-watch Cast Away. So?]

And in the immortal words of The Terminator: I'll be back.

Look for our next adventure in Fall 2012!  We're tackling the mountains of British Columbia this time:  Hiking The Chilcotins.  [And I promise not to remodel my house again, thereby slowing down my writing & posting to a near glacial pace.]

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hiking the WCT: Day 7, 13 June 2009

[Welcome to Day 7 of Hiking the West Coast Trail.  Please see my previous posts (Day 0, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6) for the start of this little adventure. Remember, all photos can be clicked on to see a full-size version in all its glory, as well as see any fine details I may refer to.]

Day 7 would be our longest day of the hike with 13.5 km to travel from Tsusiat Falls to Michigan Creek, our final campsite that night.  Knowing we had a lot of ground to cover, we all instinctively packed up quickly.  But before we'd even had a chance to start taking down our tents, we had a surprise visitor:  a river otter dashing straight through camp, not 8 m from Mother and me.  It came up from the water and bounded over the logs toward the woods.  Miraculously, I managed a couple of photos but with my less-than-high-speed film and the misty dawn, the otter was always just a furry blur.  So much for my miracle.

After breakfast (the usual oatmeal & dried apricot and mangos except for Kelly who was still enjoying her mashed potatoes) and final mugs of coffee and tea, we made our farewells to the cave and it's constant companion:  Rock Face Bear.

We left Tsusiat Falls before 8:30am - ahead of schedule! - heading straight up the ladders we'd practically slept under.  ( I neglected to realize this until after our previous afternoon's bathing and changing, which had been lazily done on the far side of the tent, rather than within, out of sight of any nearby campers.  Until, that is,  I looked up over the top of the tent, spotting the ladders we'd be climbing the next morning, complete with hikers descending.  Luckily, they were far too busy watching their feet to have any chance of spotting a brief flash of my bare backside far below.  Modesty?  What modesty?  After a week in the bush, there is no such thing as modesty.)

Tsusiat Falls Camp Exit

Tsusiat Falls Camp down below; Melly up top!

Once up the ladders, we were back on the Trail proper, flanking the long beach below.  We soon found ourselves crossing above Tsusiat Falls, where you could see the white horizon line of the deceptively still water before it plunges over the edge.  [Insert visual of Romancing the Stone waterfall plummet here, minus the dingy Renault R4.]

Before long we were hiking back up at the edge of the world, soaking up the ocean-to-sky vista.   My hyperactive imagination was revving once again, looking down at this shallow cave in the cliff face, sure to be water-filled by high tide, sealing whatever forgotten pirate treasure had been secreted away within.  If we could have gotten to it, I'd have loved to explore it first hand. [The cave, not the imaginary booty.]

Can you see any battered skulls amongst the rocks?

Looking back - Hole in the Wall
Possibly my favorite view of the day was looking back from one of the farther-reaching cliff points to see Hole in the Wall in the distance.  Earlier in the morning it had been obscured, either by the terrain or the heavy fog, but it gradually cleared enough to take this atmospheric photograph which I think best illustrates its relative location to the island itself and just how far it seems to reach out into the ocean.  If I were using this particular spot as a film location, I would certainly utilize this time of day's moody, sodden greyness to maximize the sense of isolation and potential for disaster.  [Just add a few creeping cannibals disengaging themselves from the shadowy rocks and drawing ever closer to the unsuspecting hikers passing underneath and voila...  the next great indie horror picture is born!]

Is that a cable car I see before me?

Descending in elevation again,  it was time for another river crossing.  Remember Day 3? [I know.  It was a long time ago.  Try to remember.] Well, we were finally encountering another cable car at Klanawa River.  Time for me to show my quality. (A la Faramir from Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.)  Once again, Mother and I crammed ourselves as well as our BAPs into the cable car, but this time... This Time I pulled us completely across.  Just me.  [Dramatic music swells; time for an emotional montage showing past obstacles and failures including our pathetic first crossing when we sat idly doing nothing... and then the musical crescendo peaks as we triumphantly reach the distant bank and a huge grin transforms my currently drab, unpainted face as I victoriously pump my fists in the air.]   Naturally,  I don't have a photo of us.  Someone else in the group took one but so far everyone has failed me (yes, gang, I'm talking to you!) so you'll have to settle for a poor substitute (below).  [Or maybe you would prefer the alternate version with a more ominous score where John and Carter sabotage our cable car, we plummet to our untimely deaths, and they raid our packs for extra soap and oatmeal, but search in vain for the extra West Coast Trail Granola they think we were hoarding.]

Cable Car stand-ins:  John & Carter

Lauren pulling everyone else along

With the river at our backs, we were once again hiking the sandstone shelf of the coast, near km 22.  Almost immediately we spotted an adorable, reddish brown mink, darting across our path.  Much like the initial rush of pleasure created by a bite of really good chocolate, wildlife sightings always give me a sudden jolt of excitement, an unexpected treat that just makes me inexplicably and undeniably happy. [I should probably be concerned that the previous analogy reveals an obsessive-sounding relationship with chocolate but who am I kidding?  That's hardly a well-guarded secret.  Besides, you know exactly the sensation I mean.]  In addition we saw quite a few small crabs skittering amongst the uneven holes of the shelf, as well as numerous fossils including this one of a small starfish.

We hiked the beach for another 2 clicks until we reached Trestle Creek where M&K had planned a packs-off break, expecting to show off the big anchor that has been beached on the rocks there for at least 2 decades -- so long that it's even marked on the official West Cost Trail Map distributed by Parks Canada and photos of it are found in most WCT books.  And was no where to be found.  Searching in vain, we finally found part of the heavy chain to which it was attached hidden amongst the rocks, so it would seem it was buried in a rock slide during the winter months as M & K confirmed that it was still in it's usual place last September when they made their final hike of the season.  I don't mind saying I was a little disappointed.  I know it was just an anchor, but still, it was supposed to be there.  But not to worry, I'm a glass-is-half-full kind of girl so at least when they reprint the trail maps, ours will be vintage!

Shipwreck relic

Today's section of the trail was rich with shipwrecked history even by the Graveyard of the Pacific standards.  We skirted the impassable headlands knows as Valencia Bluffs, named for the iron steamer that went down there.  Once past and back on the beach again, we rested while Mark read us a harrowing account of the Valencia's plight, in which all but 9 of it's 160 or so crew and passengers died, including every last women and child, after the ship hit a reef and emergency evacuation measures failed.  Between Mark's powerful words, the grey skies, and turgid-seeming sea, it was a very moving story to hear sitting on that beach, looking out at the very waters where such a tragic accident occurred.  Since I tend toward a more light-hearted tone, I won't go into further detail but if you are so inclined, I encourage you to check out the wikipedia link above which is quite thorough. 

After Valencia Bluffs, we hiked inland for another km or so, mostly on forest-crowded boardwalk, before the Trail led us to Tsocowis Creek, where we crossed bridge #27.  (Later, Simon told us he took a picture of the first bridge of the trail from the south end where we all started: #128.  That's a lot of bridges [but still substantially fewer than the ladders!])  We'd already hiked 9km today, mostly forest and sandstone shelf and it was only one o'clock.  Time for lunch.

  Believe it or not, the official sign is misspelled as it's "Tsocowis Creek" (no a)

Melly up top

Looking down from Tsocowis Creek Bridge

After crossing the Tsocowis  bridge where there's an unobstructed view of the creek cascading down, we feasted on the beach far below.  Our lunch today was tasty 6-bean salad with dried apricots as well as flavored havarti & pepper jack cheeses, cucumbers, red peppers and rice crispy treats for dessert.  The view up to the bridge was lovely and deserved longer lingering but with 5 km still ahead of us before we reached camp, nearly all of it coastal, we needed to get moving. 

Lunch spot below Tsocowis Creek Bridge

The afternoon was long and tiring and I think reality was starting to creep into my thoughts adding to my melancholia.  Despite having a full day of hiking tomorrow, tonight felt like the end, with our last night of camping on the Trail together and I wasn't ready for it to be over.  We spotted another otter in the shallow surf shortly before reaching camp at 4 pm.  We'd made it to Michigan Creek!  And there was much rejoicing!

We all tended to our tents and gear as usual while Mark & Kelly got the fire going and the water boiling.  For some reason, Mother and I struggled with our tent placement, which looking back I want to attribute to our slight feeling of emotional disequilibrium but was probably simply due to the fact that though flat and broad, tonight's expanse of beach was a tad more sloped than on previous nights.  We kept setting it up, lying down to test the angle, shifting the tent and repeating.  Once we were satisfied with our sleeping arrangements, we headed for the kitchen, toting our usual complement of mug, bowl, and spoon in addition to my mystery "crust" in the D7 ziploc that I'd acquired in our food bag restocking at Chez Monique.  It was a bit colder that night and as we settled in by the fire, I noticed we were all wearing our water proof jackets and in a rainbow of colors.  (We talked about getting a photo with our hues arrayed in the traditional ROY-G-BIV line-up but never managed to make it happen.  That was probably my idea.  That doesn't make me OCD, does it?)

Tonight Kelly was lead chef and our dinner was especially yummy-sounding:  Garlic Rafielly, which she described as similar to alfredo.  It was filled with sun-dried tomatoes, peppers, onions and ground beef and was delicious.  After we finished off the last of the pasta, she started on dessert and my mystery ingredient made its debut as the graham cracker crust of easy blueberry "cheesecake", layered with a cream-cheesy layer and blueberry drizzle on top.  This was made in a large shallow plastic container that had been used daily as an all-purpose serving/mixing/washing bowl and was wide enough to easily subdivide into 12 narrow wedges.  Which left 1 spare slice since our group totaled only eleven.  The solution?  The nightly Pub Quiz, of course!  The winner would earn the extra piece!

Notice the foreground where everyone's bowls are impatiently 
arrayed on Sue's lap eagerly awaiting the cheesecake!

Our Glasgow-Manchester friend, Simon, made a well-timed entrance at that point, garnering a spot in a 3-way tie between he, Kelly, and Mark although Kelly ended up winning by solving an extra Mensa puzzle in one of Sue's papers as even the nightly "snorter" didn't break the tie.  Kelly won fair & square but instead opted to share the winning piece, so it was passed around and we all had an extra bite!  The culinary surprises didn't stop with dessert, however, as later that night Kelly started boiling a fresh pot of water for Chai Lattes!  (And I swear, I didn't write anywhere on my initial paperwork how much I love chai!)  She brewed chai tea bags in the hot water and then added powdered milk.  It lumped almost like curdled milk but still tasted fine so we just fished out the milky clumps. (Remember, this is day 7, actually day 8 when you count our first day 0, so our standards have, how shall I put it, been... realigned.) I was delighted and as it turns out, it's Mark's favorite hot beverage too so although everyone had a mug, Mark and I savored 2 or 3 each!

Rare photographic evidence of me with my journal

Our last night by the fire, we all seemed to unconciously stay close together, chatting and teasing, watching the water out past the surf where we kept spotting grey whales surfacing.  I remember how contentedly we all sat, hip to hip, nursing our mugs.  Mark or Kelly passed around a notepad for all of us to put our email/phone/address to send everyone later in order to keep in touch.

It wasn't until Mother begged off at 10 pm that I consciously felt time ebbing away again so for the first time, I stayed up past her to savor my last night on the West Coast Trail a little longer.  Later, once in our tent, snuggled down in my sleeping bag, I laid awake listening to the rhythmic waves as long as I could, not wanting to fall asleep. Not wanting our adventure to end.

Peas in a pod. (L to R: Carter, Kelly, Sue, Melly, Jen)

[To keep reading, here's Day 8]