Well, it won’t be our last big trip forever – but it will be our last big trip together for a while. I am very sad to say that April moved away from Vancouver Island today, to pursue new and exciting things in and around Toronto. But April does not do things in a small way. She and I had talked for about two years about running the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. So, a few weeks ago, she said “Let’s do it before I go.”
We set aside a window of three days, October 2nd, 3rd and 4th, since the weather is iffy this time of year, with the idea of picking the exact date a couple of days before. It dumped rain the entire week before, and we started thinking about a Plan B, something closer to Port Alberni. (The Juan de Fuca Trail is a 4hr drive from here – we’d have to drive down the night before and camp, then run and drive back the next day). But by two days later, things started looking better for Thursday the 4th. So Wednesday afternoon, we loaded up the car and drove down.
The whole trail is 47 km long, and it is rough going, so slow running – especially for us in October, knowing that the trail would be very wet. (April had done it a few years earlier). So we decided to enter around Kilometre 30, Sombrio Beach, and run back to the Zero mark at China Beach. We had logistical things to take care of that morning (stashing bikes in the bushes etc., more about that later!), so by the time we got started from the Sombrio parking lot, it was 9:15am – the sun still fairly low over the trees behind us, and the air still very chilly. We have so many beautiful photos of the whole run that from here on I will not write much, will let the photos tell the story:
This is an amazing outcrop! An unconformity is a surface representing a time gap between two different types of rocks: basically, a former land surface. The greenish rock at the very bottom of the photo belongs to the Leech Rive Complex: rock that was deposited as sandstone and mudstone offshore of the continent about 135 million years ago (around the peak of the dinosaur age – imagine, when these rocks were deposited, there were dinosaurs swimming in the sea above them!) About 80 million years ago, tectonic processes here near the plate margin pushed these rocks down and northwestward, towards the continent. This movement folded and metamorphosed the sedimentry rocks so they turned into schists, really pretty rocks with gleaming bands of mica all through them.
These rocks gradually eroded down. By 25 million years ago, they had eroded to the level we see here, the top of that green bedrock. Check it out, you can see the layer of boulders that were sitting on top of that old land surface, below where I am sitting and where I am pointing. Meanwhile, the rocks that had been pushed up on land started eroding, and washing down as sand on top of this surface – see, from where my feet are and the shaded outcrops beside me, it is all layered sandstone (Sooke Formation) sitting on top of that bedrock schist.
So this unconformity represents a time gap of 100 million years – a gap in the geological record between 135 million years ago, when the older sediments were deposited, and 25 million years ago when the Sooke Formation sandstones were deposited on top. Reading rocks is like reading books – you just need to know how to do it. Pretty cool, eh? (OK, back to running…)
The trail was mostly in really great shape (other than muddy in some sections) – a few recent tree-falls across it, but for the most part really well done, with lots of good bridges, ropes along cliff-edges or to cross streams with, and short sections of boardwalk. This stairway was cut into an incredibly long log – it goes up way farther than you can see in this photo.
As we approached Chin Beach, about 9 km into our run, we came across an information sign warning us that some parts of the beach were impassable at high tide. It gave maximum tide heights for all parts of the trail. We weren’t worried about the other sections, because we knew we’d be there when the tide was lower – but we were at Chin Beach pretty much right on high tide, at 12:15pm, and the high tide that day was 9.2′. The signs warned that both the east and west ends of the beach may not be passable at tides of over 9.0′. (Not to mention the surf was up). We decided to just go and take a look – if we couldn’t pass either section, we’d go to Plan B (which we had not yet come up with).
Well that was fun! We sat on the rocks above the breaking surf, watching the sets (I’m a sea kayaker, so I’ve done this before for the purpose of launching in surf). There were two points to get around at the west end of the beach, with a little bit of dry rock at the base of a cliff between them where we waited out the next set. April got washed by a wave up to her knees, but we made it through. Turns out the one at the east end of the beach was fine to get around. Yay, we were still on Plan A! (Although realizing that, between muddy and slippery trail conditions and lots of photo stops, our average speed so far was about 3 km/hr. But that was the hardest section of the trail – we counted on picking up the pace over the remaining 20+ km, so we could get out before dark).
It was really cool being on the coast at this time, early October. It is on the Pacific Flyway, one of the world’s great bird migration routes. We didn’t see much in the way of mammal wildlife, but we saw some very interesting birds, including brown pelicans, Heerman’s gulls (grey with a bright orange beak), and Savannah sparrows feeding all along the beaches. Those little sparrows fly for thousands of kilometres across the open Pacific, in a straight line from the Aleutian Islands (between Alaska and Russia) to stop here to fuel up on their way south.
We arrived at the China Beach parking lot at 5:45. By the time we visited the loo, pulled the bikes out of the bushes, and re-organized gear for cycling, it was just after 6pm when we got on the bikes. We rode like hell (April is an Ironman, it was easy for her – I have barely been on my bike all summer, so I was hurting!) to make the 30k back to where the car was at Sombrio, arriving pretty much right on dark. What an amazing amazing day! Thanks April!