Chin Beach to Sombrio Beach, that was the plan. After last September and taking four hours to make the 6 km hike (leaving me utterly exhausted), I thought that planning Chin to Sombrio as my hike for the day would be about right. I even planned for a rest stop after climbing out of Loss Creek (which I believe is the most vertical metres of the entire trip). But things didn't go as planned.
Instead, the entire hike from Chin to Sombrio, beach to beach, took 2 ½ hours. And then I stopped for breakfast . Heart, lungs and legs were working in perfect harmony—I have no explanation as to why. But the climbs and descents were nothing like ten months ago. I pulled in to the campground at Sombrio and made some oatmeal, and as I was eating it, a group of six hikers was just leaving Sombrio for Kuitshe or Payzant campsites. I cleaned up my utensils, abandoned a water bottle (not on purpose) and decided to set out to Kuitshe about an hour after them.
Eagle on Sombrio Beach 11 June 2009
The trail is not solely in the bush—quite often it leaves the bush and traverses the beach. Meaning that if you don't pay attention to the tides, you can get stranded or find the beach impassable for a couple of hours. This sounds like a big deal, but it really isn't. Tide tables are posted at each beach, and you can time your hike around the tides. What is difficult is finding the place where you exit from the beach and head back along the trail. These points are supposed to be marked with large orange or red float balls hung in the trees. But time, sunshine and weather have destroyed some of the balls. Others are small and branches have grown in such a way as to screen them. Finding your way on to the trail is often an adventure in itself.
The rest of the hike, from Sombrio beach all the way though to the end at Botanical Beach, is rated as moderate. The elevations are lower and the transits along the same elevation are longer. The trail itself is about the same, with water working its way downslope finding the trail and turning it to mud. Or, in some cases, the water decides the trail makes a good stream bed and flows along it for five or ten metres before returning into the loam.
Fern unfurling along trail to Kuitshe 11 June 2009
The beaches were covered with sand fleas by the thousands—little springtails that would cluster on bits of seaweed. As I walked by, they would leap wildly, this little fountain of bodies going every which way. Or crabs in the intertidal zone; left with the tide pools, rocks or washed-up clumps of seaweed to hide under, there were thousands of them as well, all between 10 and 30 millimetres across. Those that could, scurried under rocks or seaweed as I passed. Those that had nowhere to go, backed up, flashing white-edged claws at me, warning me not to come any closer. Of course, while their claws were only a millimetre or two long, this wasn't much of a threat, but they did the best they could with what they had.
There were other discoveries along the trail as well; apparently slugs like orange peel. And they like it a lot. The peel I saw hadn't had time to dry and shrivel, yet there were several holes the size of toonies in it and a couple of slugs still working it over. And both ants and millipedes like dead slug (I knew something had to, but had no idea what did).
My plan had been to stop at Kuitshe—well, that had been my plan after storming the hike from Chin to Sombrio. But I got to Kuitshe and found that it was still early, I was still feeling strong, and there really wasn't any reason to stop, so I carried on. I ended up at Payzant campsite, about 13 km further along than I had expected to be—and only 7 km from the end of the trail at Botanical Beach. There had been quite a few people on the trail, enough that I was surprised by how busy it was. This was, after all, mid-week in early June. But like Chin Beach, Payzant filled up as the evening wore on. I arrived about 4:00 pm and the first four of the party of six I'd met at Sombrio came in about 4:30 pm. The last two didn't make it until 6:15 pm—late enough that their mates were starting to get worried.
So after all, it was a 19 km day. A great day physically, and a personal best. I was beat, at the end of it, but just tired, not feeling destroyed. Dinner and sleep would serve to restore my strength and, even more importantly, replenish my sugar stores so that I could do it again tomorrow.
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