Juan de Fuca Trail: Day 3 (Bear to Chin)
At 5 am, we woke up to the now-familiar sound of rain pattering on our tent. It sounded pretty heavy, so we decided to go back to sleep and wake up an hour later.
We got up at 6 and finally left our campsite at 9. I don’t know how the heck it takes two people three hours to get off site in the morning, but somehow we were making it happen.
I have to admit, Bear Beach had kind of grown on us with its unique, rugged charm. We trudged on towards the west end of the beach, encountering some fallen logs and odd-looking ocean life that had been washed ashore.
The Mushroom Rock (which to me, looks less like a mushroom and more like a stone head sticking out of the ocean) gazed upon us from the end of the beach.
I had read that today’s section of the trail — named “The 11 Hills” — was the most difficult part of our journey. Apparently, the trail would ascend and descend hundreds of metres over seventeen small headlands between Bear and Chin Beaches.
Despite reading about the 11 Hills on numerous blogs, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Well, we soon found out.
The first two hills were pretty steep and it felt like the ascent would never end. I had kept reading about “switchbacks” during my research on the trail, but I hadn’t quite understood what it meant.
Now, I knew. It basically felt like we were zig-zagging up the side of the mountain, as though we were going up a parking lot ramp — except without a car. And then we’d steadily descend, zig-zagging back down the mountain. It was the Iron Man of all StairMaster workouts.
After the second hill, we got to a break point and I gasped between breaths: “Did we just finish them?” (I was, in my delirious state, talking about the 11 hills).
J laughed. “No, we just did the second one. I think we should get to at least seven before we have lunch,” he added.
I felt myself die a little inside.
The third hill section was fairly long with a nice stretch of flat trail granting us temporary reprieve from the insanity.
The fourth hill also wasn’t as bad as the first two. But when I say it wasn’t as bad, I don’t mean that it wasn’t bad at all. I just mean that the first two hills were hell.
At some point early on, J had commented that at least it wasn’t raining. So, every time I came to another uphill section, I let out a deep breath, cursed a little, and then told myself: “At least it’s not raining.”
And that was pretty much the only thing that got me up the damn hill.
At noon, we stopped at Newmarch Creek to refill on water and have some lunch. We ran into a couple from France who were coming from Chin Beach.
As we finished eating, the family of four that we had run into the day before also stopped by the creek for their lunch.
We had a good time chatting and I thought it was really cool that they took their sons hiking with them, and that they were all managing to tough this out.
We said our goodbyes an hour later and started back on the godforsaken hills. I lost count by hill number 7 or 8, but basically the second half was where the infamous mud came in.
Nothing seemed as steep as those first couple of hills, but there were still plenty of uphills that really, really burned.
Throw in several muddy log crossings, stairs, and more steep upward and downward steps, and you had yourself a Juan de Fuca mud and StairMaster marathon.
Two and a half hours later, we were only at kilometre 18. By this point, both of our knees were hurting. I also felt extremely fatigued.
It was uphills and downhills all the way until the last kilometre when we had to “just” deal mostly with muddy crossings.
Finally, at 5 pm, we spotted the emergency cabin situated at the entrance of Chin Beach. I cannot explain the feelings of love and joy I had for that beach sign right at that very moment.
First, we checked out the inside of the cabin which was equipped with some supplies and a bunk bed.
Then, we took off for Chin Beach. After another 70 steps downward, we got to the bottom and took our victory shots.
Crossing some rocks, we wandered down the beach looking for a campsite. I had read that the ends of Chin Beach would be inaccessible at high tide, and I could see where hikers would be cut off here if they didn’t make it in time.
It was 5:20 pm and the tides were just starting to cross the path near the east entrance of the beach.
Fifteen minutes later, we settled on a campsite. J went to get water at the creek and saw some seals. One of them got close enough that he could see its white, puppy-like face.
Afterwards, I could hear a group of them giving out a few yelps, but only got to see their heads bobbing in the distance.
It had been a super hard day but we had conquered the 11 Hills (believe me, it was all mind over matter).
We had encountered some of the infamous JDF mud, but it was nothing that a pair of waterproof hiking boots and gaiters couldn’t handle.
Really and truly, you must bring gaiters on this trip. These ones from MEC were clutch. Totally worth the buy!
While we washed our dinner plates, it started to rain heavily. We got camp in order and settled into the tent, listening to the rain pattering on the roof.
We were both incredibly sore, and could only look forward to another 12 kilometres the next day.
Day 3 Recap
Day 3 Total = 12 km (8 hours & 20 minutes)
J felt that the JDF Trail wasn’t as challenging as the La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Killarney Provincial Park because there weren’t as many large rock surfaces.
However, the JDF Trail was a continuous series of up-and-down hills on soft terrain. And when there was rain and mud involved, it could definitely kick your butt and keep you on high alert all day, which was hard mentally when the fatigue started wearing you down.
But J and I made a great team, constantly reminding each other to be safe and stay strong, and looking out for each other when we were tired.
At this point, we were just glad that the “most difficult” part was over. Or so we thought.
>> Read the next post in the Juan de Fuca adventure series: Day 4 (Chin to Sombrio)