Our adventure on the West Coast Trail started with a flurry of missed flights, rental cars and high-speed back-roads driving but we finally arrived and started on our journey. We weighed our packs just before starting (so we had water along too)...mine weighed in at a very heavy 41 lbs and Trev's was a back-breaking 57 lbs...uugh, but we managed. Because of our late start that day we arrived at the Thrasher Cove campsite late and tired after a difficult 6km. Anything would have tasted good, but the dehydrated meat sauce with spaghetti I made really hit the spot. (check out my dehydration tips at the bottom of the post)
Our second day was really fun as we climbed over house-sized boulders on the beach. We made it around Owen Point just as the tide was coming in. That day lunch was one of my favourite backpacking meals...quesidillas. Aged cheddar cheese can be brought along on the trail without being refrigerated and it doesn't go bad. I also found a dehydrated black bean soup mix at Planet Organic, then I added some spices and we used it as a dip for the quesidillas. Add in a few little packs of hot sauce from Taco Bell and lunch was amazing.
That night we camped at Camper Bay. Dinner was a trail version of tuna noodle casserole. We started with mini shell Kraft Dinner (it cooks faster than the maccaroni) and boiled it with some peas I had dehydrated, then added in the cheese sauce package, some skim milk powder, a bit of powdered parmesan cheese and some packs of tuna, then I sprinkled some crushed whole wheat crackers on top. It was another satisfying meal.
The third day was a long day...18km over rough terrain. It really wore me out and I thought I was going to die on the beach! We finally reached Carmanah Creek and set up camp. After a totally exhausting day we made coconut rice with dehydrated butter chicken. It turned out great, we both loved it and agreed we would gladly eat it again in the future.
On day four we got a bit of a late start. We were only about 1 km away from Chez Monique (a little restaurant along the trail) so we arrived around 11ish...just in time for breakfast or an early lunch. It was a toss-up, but we both ordered veggie omelets while Brian and Loretta went for the cheeseburgers.
While we were waiting for our breakfast we had a good chat with Monique. She's 72 and up until a few years ago she lived at her cabin along the beach year round. Now she spends winters on the lower mainland, where she is working towards a bachelor's of science with a specialization in horticulture (she's on the Dean's list, by the way). She has a large family with lots of grandchildren and she loves visiting with the hikers that stop at her restaurant. The burgers at Monique's are famous and the stuff of hungry hiker's dreams. As we encountered other hikers on the trail we were often asked if Monique's was open. The answer was yes, and it was worth every penny ($15 for a 2-egg omelet, $20 for a 3-egg omelet, $20 for a cheeseburger).
The omelets were sooo good. They were light and fluffy and stuffed with a generous amount of fresh veggies and cheddar cheese (grated carrot in omelets? try it, it's awesome). It was hard to believe that these perfect omelets and yummy hashbrowns were fried up on little coleman camp stoves. Brian and Loretta thoroughly enjoyed their burgers, then we all loaded up with some bags of candy and a few beers for the trail. I've got to say, gummy candies are the best treat possible during a long day of hiking. Oh, I also devoured a few buttertarts before we headed out...
A few hours later we arrived at Nitinat Narrows, the mouth of a lake that cuts across the trail, requiring a ferry ride across. Trevor had sped along the trail ahead of the rest of us and while he was waiting for us the ferry driver was feeding his "pet" eagles. He threw whole fresh salmon out for them and they would swoop down and scoop them up. Trev got some great pictures. The ferry is run by local native fisherman and they also sell fresh crab, salmon and cool beverages to hikers. Trev and I shared the crab ($20) and the bbq'd salmon dinner ($25)...it was super fresh and so good. It was so nice to have two of our meals cooked for us that day, and it definitely helped us push on that night to make it to our campsite at Tsusiat Falls. We ended up setting up our tent by headlamp, but we made it.
We spent a day relaxing at Tsusiat Falls...it was so nice not to put my hiking boots on for a whole day! Because we were just lazing around the beach all day we decided to turn our lunch into paninis...I put some tuna into whole wheat pita pockets with some sliced cheddar cheese and fried them up on the stove with a pot pressing them down from the top. They turned out nice and crispy, a great lunch. That night we had our second spaghetti meal with pistachio pudding for dessert. Yup, pudding...it's so easy, just put a package of instant pudding and 2/3 cup skim milk powder into a medium sized ziplock bag, then add 2 cups water and squish it all around to mix it up, then bring it down to the river (or falls) and pin the edge of the bag down with a rock and let it set up. Add in some crumbled oreo cookies (like we did) for an amazing dessert on the trail.
On day 6 we continued on hiking...the trail was a lot easier after the falls. We were all glad that we had started on the hardest end of the trail (starting in Port Renfrew) so that we didn't have to dread that struggle the whole time. It was also a little amusing when we crossed hikers going the other way and they would tell us we were in for a "big mud hole just ahead"...ummm, yah...maybe they didn't know they were on the easy side...Anyhow, we slept on the cliffs overlooking the sea lion colony at kilometer 9. It was a breezy night up there, so our noodles were cold as soon as they were off the heat, but we gladly ate them anyways. We only had one more night of sleeping on the ground.
On our last day we hiked out to the Pachena Bay trailhead. It was supposed to be 9km, but I swear it was a lot longer...after the 3km marker the last two markers were missing and it just seemed to go on forever, but we finally made it. We paid a local woman to drive us into Bamfield so we could get some lunch and catch our bus back to Victoria. Bamfield is a tiny little town whose main industry is fishing and tourism. We had lunch at the little family-run diner. Their specialty was fresh halibut and chips (with Nana's beer batter recipe). I had a halibut burger and it was so good, Nana definitely has that recipe perfected!
We had completed the West Coast Trail in six nights and seven days. We all took a few tumbles but there were no major injuries. We saw some amazing scenery along the Pacific coastline and enjoyed some sunny weather. We ate some good food and survived with only one pot. We had a fantastic time, and I know I'll be back to do the trail again.
Homemade Dehydrated Backpacker Meals: How-To
I made two different dehydrated meals for our adventure: tomato-meat sauce for spaghetti and butter chicken. The "how-to" is the same for both (and any other saucy-type dish, I think):
- Make the dish the same way you would at home, season it to taste
- Puree the mixture in the food processor or with an immersion blender - I know, it doesn't sound appealing, but pureeing the sauce allows it to dry evenly and completely
- Spread the mixture onto drying trays in a dehydrator and let it dry out overnight (about 8 hours)
- Put the dried sauce back into the food processor and pulse on and off until it's powder-like
- Spread the powdered sauce back onto the dryer trays in the dehydrator and let it run for a few more hours
- Add 1 tbsp cornstarch to 2/3 cup powdered sauce mix (that was a generous serving for 2)
- On the trail add about 1 cup boiling water (or amount necessary to achieve desired consistency) to the powdered sauce mix and let it sit for a few minutes before using
- Serve it up with noodles or instant rice...it's a delicious taste of home on the trail!