Settlers Road to Cape Scott’s Lightouse… for the 8th time

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My love of hiking and mountaineering is to the level of obsessive. I blame my wife for my love of the sport, she got me started when we were first dating. Our second backpacking trip ever was a trip to Cape Scott. It was March 2008, it rained and snowed so vigorously that we had water penetrating our waterproof gear and running down the inside of our jacket arms and out by our hands. When we arrived at Nels Bight, I refused to stay in the Ranger Cabin; we came to camp! Instead we camped at Guise Bay for two nights. Let me rephrase that, for two nights of storms!

Cape Scott Provincial Park
Sophie, dwarfed by the fallen sequoia, behind her.

The Settlers Road to Cape Scott is one of my favorite hikes. It’s more than just a trail walk through  the forest and across beaches, it’s a walk through history. All along the trail hikers are reminded that the area was settled several times in the early part of the 20th century; a time when British Columbia was still struggling in economic decline, after the collapse of the gold rushes. There are many artifacts of the early settlers on the trail, like the tractor in the trees but it doesn’t end there, don’t forget about the military history!

Over the past decade I have seen the park change, areas grow up and others get trodden down. Regardless the region remains one of the best hikes on Vancouver Island. It is a reminder that the women and men of yesteryear were cut of a different cloth. Driven to carve, literally, a place out of the wilderness for themselves.

Last year I did the North Coast Trail, I swore that would be my last trip to the cape; who was I kidding. The planning for this trip began in April, I mention this to one of the Island Mountain Ramblers club members and they retorted, “but I need you to lead a trip there!” How could I refuse…. obviously I’m sick.

I wont make this post a guide of hiking the trail, there are a number of those out there already, including a detailed account on my own blog. Instead, I’m going to recount the route we took, and the tales of the trip.

Day 1 Travel to Port Hardy

Coming from Nanaimo, the park is a lengthy 6 hour or greater drive. To make the trip more enjoyable I forced the participants to stay at the North Coast Trail Hostel. To be honest it was about as hard as forcing a 5 year old to go to Disneyland.
I arrived in time for dinner at Sporty’s pub where, where we enjoyed a hot meal and slightly above average beer. After the pub we had a few rounds of late night shuffleboard and table tennis at the hostel.

Day 2 Trailhead to Nels Bight 

We woke early and had breakfast at Hardy’s Dinner, a great greasy spoon. It was open early, providing breakfast service to a variety of firefighters that were in the area battling the fire that was raging beside Port Hardy.

Cape Scott Provincial Park
Arguably the toughest section of the trip, still easy navigation in dry whether

By the time we arrived in the parking lot the day was already hot and dry. We were on the trail hiking a fun pace. We took our time to take lots of photographs and see the important sites. Further, I forced them to listen to my boring stories about my first trip…. kinda like I did at the top of this article with you!

We ate lunch at Fisherman River and even with all our stops were at Nel’s bight between 6 and 7 hours. We camped close to the water source, no one wants to carry water for a kilometer! I set up the rain guard (tarp) in order to keep rain away for the weekend; it worked!

Cape Scott Provincial Park, Nels Bight
Nightfall on Nels Bight

Day 3 Nel’s Bight to Lighthouse & Return

This is traditionally my favourite day of the hike, we hike without packs! We coordinated our departure to beat the tides, so we walked the outer route along the beach toward Guise Bay. Turning this section of the hike into a loop helps keep interest and spirits high!

Cape Scott Provincial Park
Rambling along the seawead and wet rocks!
Cape Scott Provincial Park

When we reached the lighthouse a thick low cloud rolled in with a fast wind! Additionally I was turned into a liar, the keepers had sold out of pop and chips; we carried our change for no reason! All that extra weight, ug!   We spend time eating lunch and getting treated water from the lighthouse and before too long we were on our way back to Nels.

Cape Scott Provincial Park, Lighthouse
Note the cloudy sky!

After dinner several of us took a short jaunt to the end of Nels Bight and back. The long walk was great on the legs after the days hike. I managed to capture a few great photographs of this little crab on the way back.

Cape Scott Provincial Park, Nels Bight
“The sun went down while it was yet day”

Day 4 Nels Bight to San Joseph Bay 

The last real day of hiking is also the longest. We parted ways with two of the group, they stayed behind to enjoy the beach for an extra day — powerful ladies! The remaining hikers wasted no time on the trail. I feel as though Mo very nearly ran the section between Fisherman River and Eric Lake.

Blow out!

We had a short lunch break at Fisherman River and a longer set at Eric Lake. Though no one took the time to take a full swim, many of us took our shoes off and soaked our feet in the cool waters. Then we promptly collected water and brought it with us to San Joseph Bay, the water source at the beach had dried up.

We set up camp and made our meals before sitting on the beach we took our time enjoying each others’ company. We sat late into the evening, watching the sun. Eventually, each of us eroded from the group, retiring to our tents.

Day 5 San Joseph to Trailhead

After our 2 k hike from the camp to the car we hopped in the car and started off down the long dusty road. For a change, I stopped ant Ronning’s Garden. This was my first stop at this amazing place. We toured the grounds and took time to smell the flowers.

Cape Scott Provincial Park, San Joseph Bay

Ronning Garden
One of the oldest and few Monkey Puzzle trees that bear viable seeds in North America

Ronning Garden
Mo, taking time to smell the flowers

There were a number of highlights on this trip.  On the trail I met two different groups of hikers that were using my route description for the North Coast Trail and had my GPS Route. It was surreal being in that moment, discovering that they had this data. One group even revealed that they had my report printed and read it each night before they hiked. Further, one person even asked to take our picture together! I’m internet famous… kinda.

Tree of Lost Souls (soles) , Vancouver Island
Al added his boots to the Tree of Lost Souls on the Holberg Road

The other great part of the trip, the company! Aside from a coworker, we were joined by two guests from Germany, mother and daughter. They contacted me through my blog, asking for advice about hiking locations on Vancouver Isalnd. After a several messages back and forth we discovered that it was possible for them to join us on the Ramblers’ trip.

The two stayed at my house with my family and when we returned from camping we even went on a nice day paddle around New Castle Island.  Choosing to meet people that you contact online is always risky business. This time, the risk paid off.

See dozens more photographs from this trip and more….

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