La Cloche Day 1: Keep Calm and Hike On
I woke up at sunrise, hoping to catch another stunning cloud show over Sealey Lake.
Unfortunately, the only thing greeting me a good morning was a completely cloudy sky.
I was compensated with some hot coffee and a final heart-to-heart chat with my cousin Lilli.
We had spent the first four days on the La Cloche Silhouette Trail together, along with our friend Lucy and their dogs Smokey and Noodles.
After one night on Little Sheguiandah Lake (hiking site 53, H53), we had camped out at H50 on Sealey Lake for the next three.
Now, it was time to leave behind my hiking companions and trek the rest of the 80-kilometre trail alone, while they headed back out to the access point.
The drizzle began to hit while we packed up underneath the tarp. And then, the moment finally arrived.
Hiking the La Cloche Silhouette Trail alone was somewhat surreal to me. I had been around the loop twice before in groups, and had injured myself both times.
The hike is magnificent, but rugged, and known to take out hikers’ knees, backs, among other body parts.
After injuring myself the second time, I thought I would never be able to set foot on the trail again.
But after my first solo trips the year before, I learned how to stay out in the backcountry longer, while packing lighter than I ever had.
I experienced what it was like to go at my own pace and not feel pressured by keeping up with anyone else.
And at the end of it, I said to myself: I think I can do the Loop … but only if I do it alone.
And so, here I was, giving Lilli and Lucy a big hug, as we said our last good-byes before I headed off into the pouring rain.
Day 1 Route (Sealey to Little Superior = 6.4 km)
I had decided to start each day of my solo trek with an “intention” – an idea or mantra that I would focus on throughout the day.
It was a way for me to take this seemingly enormous journey in stride, and to make sure to savour every moment that I was privileged enough to have out here.
My intention for today was Calm. Calm would cover a lot of things I knew I’d be facing today, given the rainfall and tricky terrain.
Day 1 Intention: Calm
Stay calm when patience wanes at the smallest of tasks. Stay calm to refocus during the slow-going slog of the day. And stay calm when fear overcomes you on the unforgiving terrain of your journey.
I immediately felt a familiar sense of comfort hit me as I took my first few steps into the woods alone.
All my worries of whether I’d feel okay solo hiking this oftentimes isolated trail vanished. At least for the moment.
Back to the Crack
I did at least feel mentally prepared for what to expect from today’s route, having hiked to The Crack numerous times before.
The Crack is a popular day hike that involves scrambling up sharp boulders to a stunning panoramic view of Killarney’s ridges, forests, and lakes.
As I made my way to the viewpoint, the rain lashed down. I was completely soaked through, but I kept thinking about how my hike on the Juan de Fuca Trail was way worse!
A couple hours later, I reached the top of The Crack. The usually stunning view was clouded in drizzle and I ducked underneath a tree in hopes of some relief – but to no avail.
As I took out my SPOT device to send an “I’m okay” message home, I suddenly heard voices.
I peered past the bushes I was hidden behind and squinted into the rain. Three guys had made it to the top and were somehow taking a selfie in the downpour. Then, they disappeared.
I had hoped to take a break here, but I was starting to get chilly and knew it was time to move.
Continuing on, I passed by a few hikers, all dripping from the rain. Many of them were packless and returning from a day hike to the Crack.
“Are you doing the loop on your own?” they all asked the question I’d hear many times over throughout my hike.
When I replied yes, I was met with exclamations of: “Good for you!” or “Wow!”
I remembered the first time I saw a solo female hiker on this trail. It seemed pretty unreal — well, perhaps more so because she was in running shoes and carrying a tiny pack that looked like it could maybe fit a sweater inside.
I certainly could not have imagined then that I too would hike the La Cloche alone. Yet, here I was and, now, it felt like exactly what I should be doing.
Slip and Slide
But it wasn’t time for celebrations yet. I continued on the trail, navigating ascents and descents, slippery rock and mysteriously foggy forests.
At times I wondered if a bear would pop out of the fog and say hello, since on my own, I barely made a sound.
But really, my main concern was just making sure that I didn’t fall on my face.
The path wasn’t immediately clear on many parts of this section, and flat, exposed parts of the trail were covered with slick rock.
What would have been easy in dry weather could make for an effortless wipeout in the rain.
Eventually, I felt so tired and loopy that it was hard for me to walk straight.
I kept repeating my intention of the day — “calm” — over and over again in my head, and sometimes out loud, to focus on the present step.
Finally, I came to the tricky descent I had been anticipating — or rather, fearing — all day.
From a previous hike, I had recalled this steep, verging-on-perilous descent to Little Superior, where I’d be staying tonight.
The descent wasn’t extremely high, but looked almost vertical from where I was standing.
Not only was it still pouring rain on the smooth rocks, but loose pine needles were littered on the narrow ridges and footholds that I would need to step on to make it down.
I let out a big exhale.
“Calm,” I said out loud.
I shimmied down on my butt. Slowly and carefully, I navigated the descent and breathed a huge sigh of relief when I made it to the bottom.
And now, for the home stretch!
After the Storm
I trekked up another ascent, up over the ridge, and–I stopped dead in my tracks.
Straight ahead was bright blue sky materializing into view through the parting clouds.
“Oh my God,” I uttered out loud.
“Oh my God,” I said again, then laughed at myself.
But really and truly, at that moment, it felt as though that brilliant blue sky was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my entire life.
I knew I was close to my hiking site, H49, on Little Superior Lake, but this was a moment to fully savour.
I had made it through getting up the Crack and down the dreaded descent safely in the pouring rain.
That called for one thing and one thing only: a Snickers bar.
I put down my pack and stood in the glorious warmth, as I munched on my victory chocolate bar.
I felt completely blessed to have the sun on my side at the end of the day’s trek. The timing could not have been more perfect.
At my campsite, I laid out all of my damp gear on the rocks to dry. The sun blazed on, and I decided that after today’s hike, I deserved to indulge in some serious tanning.
As I gazed out at the sparkling lake, I remembered being on this site with Antonio, Chief and J four years ago, making a delicious stew on the fire.
It was a bit mind-blowing to realize that I was now doing this on my own.
I couldn’t imagine what other adventures awaited me as I made my journey around the La Cloche Silhouette Trail over the next 12 days!
>> Read the next post in the La Cloche Silhouette Trail solo adventure series: Reflect On It and It Will Come
>> Map screenshot from Jeff’s Killarney Map