Thursday, October 18, 2012

Trip Report: The Hesquiat Peninsula

This summer I spent a few days hiking the Hesquiat Peninsula.  Never heard of it?  That's the best part. Currently, less than 100 hikers follow this route each year.

Mountain Man and I learned about this trip in a hiking book called Hiking the West Coast of Vancouver Island written by Tim Laedem.  I highly recommend that you buy the book if you are planning to do this trail.

Why this Hike is Worth Your Time

1) Did I mention that it's remote and very few people have done it?  How cool is that?  You actually need to charter either a float plane or a boat (the plane is usually cheaper - surprise!) to get into and out of the hike.  For a few days you can be the King of the Hesquiat!

2) If coastal hiking floats your boat, this hike delivers.  Tide pools, sandy beaches, sea life,  rocky cliffs, ocean views.  Lots of beautiful and interesting things to see.

3) There is no elevation gain.  A weird benefit?  Yeah, kind of, but if your a mountain dweller like me it's a pretty novel to hike for four days on essentially flat land.  Don't worry though, you'll still get a great workout - there is lots of climbing and scrambling over rocks, just not hoofing it up long inclines.

Vital Stats

  • Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, BC.  Closest town is Gold River, BC.  
  • 28 miles/46km
  • No elevation gain
  • I would recommend spending 4 days/3 nights on this hike.

Getting There

In order to get in and out of the hike we chartered a float plane through Nootka Air in Gold River to drop us off at Escalante Point and pick us up at Hesquiat Lake.  The service at Nootka Air was friendly and very flexible.  We booked the smallest plane that could accommodate us which kept the price down (under $300/person).

Other options for transportation include chartering a boat from Tofino - more expensive and takes a lot longer, but possibly worth it if you want to combine the trip with a visit to Tofino.

What to expect

Section I - mega tidal pools Escalante Point to Estevan Point

Section II - boulders boulder and more boulders from Estevan Point to Hesquiat Village

Section III - gorgeous white sand beaches from Hesquiat Village to Le Claire Point

Section IV - mix bag of craggy headlands, pocket beaches, and forest by-passes from Le Claire Point to Boat Basin

What to Bring

Based on my experience on this hike I highly recommend you bring the following items:

sturdy pair of water shoes.  Keens, Teevas, Fourfingers...whatever.  You'll want something that's both sturdy and comfortable when wet.  I didn't realize that this wasn't a hiking boot friendly trip and so only had a pair of cheapy water shoes with me (well, luckily I guess as I almost never bring extra shoes backpacking).  I hiked for two days straight in them and they were trashed in that time.  That said, I suggest you bring hiking boots as well.  It's unlikely you'll be able to keep them dry, but sometimes wet hiking boots are better than sore feet/stubbed toes.  

My cheap water shoes were toast in two days.  The Vibram 5 Fingers fared much better.

Hiking poles.  I will be the first to admit that hiking poles are a bit dorky.  (Of course, those who know me know that I couldn't care less about being dorky.)  But for real guys, they saved my booty on this trip.  Slippery boulders without poles would have meant a lot more bumps and bruises.

Cash.  Hang on, didn't I emphasize how remote this trip is?  It's remote from the point of view that there are no roads and few hikers, but there are actually three homesteads along the route.  At one of these spots cash might come in handy: a family lives at a spot called the Hesquiat Village and they sell a variety of things that might be of interest to you (homemade fudge, a nice space for camping, artwork, or even a boat ride to Hot Springs if the weather is right).  We bought some snacks and artwork (which was shipped to us so we didn't have to schlep it around).

Bear Line.  This should be on your typical what-to-bring-list, but did I mention that we saw 5 bears within the space of 12 hours?  Hang your food!

Other Tips
1) It's pronounced Hesh-quit.

2) Everything on this hike is prettier, more interesting, and easier when the tide is out.  Bring a tide table for the week you'll be hiking and make sure you spend the low tide out along the water and take your breaks when the tide rolls in.

3) People live at three different points along this trail.  First you'll find Brent the lighthouse keeper at Estavan Point; then the family Diane, Dave, Jeff, and Koryanne at Hesquiate Village; and finally Peter at Cougar Annie's Garden in Boat Basin.  All three have access to radios.  There is also an emergency use cabin in the forest near Homais Cove.  It's about 200 feet before the totem pole.  All of these people are a resource should you find yourself in an emergency, and more than likely a friendly face for a short  visit when you find yourself hiking by.

3) Get a guidebook to help with logistics.  The map in the guidebook is useful, a full topo is overkill.

Taking on a unique hike like this one is a special opportunity. You can bet that if a road is ever built to the Hesquiat it will become popular fast.  If you're looking for a unique getaway I suggest you check it out!

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