The long road

On Day 5, I left Lakeview Campground in Lake Cowichan to hike the long North Shore route from the east end of the lake to the west end. It was a rainy and monotonous ride. The flatness gave my body no variation in its movements, and at the end of the day I stopped frequently just to take a break from the pain. I was hoping that the more varied terrain to come would call for more dynamic movement and flex different muscle groups, to smooth out the repetitive, jarring motions of flat walking. I relied on podcasts to get through the day.

The town of Lake Cowichan in a blanket of fog

When I passed by the small town of Youbou, I saw no less than 5 moose along the road. Didn’t expect to see elk so early in my trip! Apparently some townspeople feed them, while others consider them pests. Although you wouldn’t want to put yourself on the wrong side for fear of a charge or a kick, you can’t deny that they are beautiful animals.

I stopped at Cassie’s Coffeehouse for a sandwich and carrot cake and a break from the rain. Among the pamphlets and magazines was a self-published collection of poetry by Richard Walter Elliott (a local resident, I assume). In a poem about a swarm of butterflies in California State Park, he writes: “But passing cars have opaque windows! / How can drivers see?

It got me thinking about my walk down the road. Instead of envying the riders as they beat my snail’s pace, what did I see they couldn’t?

Mud road. Road snack.

Well, the amount of roadside litter, for starters. And the way the grass and weeds encroached on the shoulder, as if the hard compacted earth was no big deal at all. Log trucks filled with freshly felled trees drive past anti-logging lawn signs. The pretty streams and waterfalls under the bridges.

By traveling slowly through an environment designed to be overtaken quickly, I learned a bit of patience.

Join the dots

The next two days introduced some interesting variations in my navigation, which was a welcome change after days of long, flat roads and bike paths. From the west end of Cowichan Lake to the shores of Alberni Cove, the trail features a wide variety of terrain – from dirt roads and two overgrown tracks, to the scramble of fresh cutblocks and the beautiful single track forest trail. These many segments are cobbled together to allow travelers to skip the long detour that would have to be taken on a main road to reach the same destination.

This bridge was installed by volunteers just weeks before I walked on it!

I had downloaded Avenza’s maps to my phone to see my position in real time, measure distances and mark points of interest. (I also printed maps and brought a compass just in case). Seeing myself as a little arrow on the screen definitely helped me when I got lost.

On day 6, I intended to relax after my long days of walking on hard flat surfaces, which really hurt my feet. Even though I only covered 13 km, the day turned out to be quite interesting. I had to ford the Nitinat River – which flowed up to my navel. Carrying my bag over my head, I stumbled over the rocks in the cold water, luckily making it safely to the other side before dropping my bag. After that there was a steep climb that bordered a cut block. I got it wrong a few times as the cut block boundary signage was very similar to the trail signage. While wandering the block trying to find my way around I fell on my face and my phone fell out of my side pocket. Thank goodness I noticed it a minute later and was able to track it down!

The Nitinat River

After that, the trail followed roads to Tuck Lake, where I spent the night. The next morning there was another big boulder climb in order to get out of the valley and connect to the next set of roads and the Runner’s Trail, which followed an old native land route. In the mist and rain, I scaled the face of the mountain, bare of trees but still a jungle of debris. Hopefully as the VIT gets established and attracts more traffic, we can walk a clearer path in the tricky parts with our collective steps.

See the trail?


I’m not going to lie, the feeling of being so completely alone – further away from other humans than I’ve ever been before – was definitely getting to me. I’m quite an independent person and like spending time alone, so I wasn’t really prepared when the fear of being so isolated hit me. Walking along two overgrown pathways, I would wonder when was the last time these places hosted human feet. Against my will, my mind started racing in circles, imagining “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios. But, being alone, I was the only one to console myself for my own fears, once again.

It wasn’t the worst. Some had ferns and grass growing up to my ears on them.

On day 7, I covered a lot more distance than expected, partly because I didn’t feel like stopping in the rain, and partly because walking was better than sitting to work on my thoughts. and my emotions. The problem with having only one thing to do in the day – which is to walk – is that the simplicity of it leaves room for other things to unfold. , and sometimes they are not very pleasant. And because there are no distractions to hide behind, you end up having to deal with them whether you like it or not.

Winding through the forest, and its absence.


By the end of day 7, I felt more relaxed. Maybe it was because I saw the faces of a few other humans – a couple driving a truck who stopped to ask if I was okay, and a couple walking their dog who struck up a short conversation friendly.

Interestingly, as I was walking on these back roads and forest roads, I had a number of drivers stop and ask me if I’m okay or need a ride. I even asked a guy from West Coast Trail Bus to give me a ride, and a trucker with a load full of logs stopped and asked if I was lost. It’s nice to know that people are willing to help. But it made me realize how rare it is to see someone traveling on foot on these roads. And with that, how little known and little traveled VIT is.

Backroads Bridge to Port Alberni: My Next City!

In the end I ended up camping right next to the trail near a stream. With the sun coming out to dry my soaked clothes and the chance to taste my first bay of salmon, it was a pretty good end to a mentally chaotic day.

Mmmm… salmonberry



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