Production on the North Coast Trail

The following are excerpts from my journal during production on the North Coast Trail- a documentary following two men, Richard and Chad, along one of the toughest trails in North America.

SATURDAY JULY 18- PORT HARDY

Just arrived in Port Hardy on the Northern end of Vancouver Island, BC. Several large buildings are empty. Times have been tough since the mine shut down. Their trying to make a go of tourism now. We start shooting an episode of Beyond Adventure on the North Coast Trail Tomorrow. It’s supposed to be one of wildest trials in North America. I’m a bit nervous to see how rough the trail will really be. Some kids are playing with a somewhat tame otter down at the docks. It seems to love the attention.

SUNDAY JULY 19- NISSAN BIGHT

Left the hostel in Port Hardy at 7 AM. Headed for the West end of the trail. 60 km Drive, about the length of the trail, 1.5 hours to drive it. Friendly shuttle driver. Light rain gave way to clouds at the trail head. Relatively flat trail (little elevation gain), filled with countless board walks, mud pits, and bridges. Lots of skunk cabbage, ferns, & fir trees. LUSH. Passed ruins of a settler’s village. Relics of the past strewn about and some tomb stones.

15 km & 6 hrs from the trail head, we arrive at Nissen Bight, a beautiful long beach cove with fine white sand. Whales! There are gray whiles a few hundred yards from shore. they seem to enter the cove one or two at a time, surface to breath, flipping on their backs with their fins out of the water – playing?

Tomorrow I will be cautious on the trail. The board walks can be slick as ice and already twisted an ankle a little. Each day the trail is to get progressively difficult. Today was the easy day.

MONDAY JULY 20- LAURA CREEK

The hike from Nissen Bight to Laura Creek was about 8 km. For the most part, the trail left the beach and wound up and down, back and forth through the rugged coastal forest. The section of the trail was listed as “moderate’ difficulty, meaning it was filled with logs, roots, deep mud bogs, and small ravines. A number of steep sections had ropes to help you pull yourself up or let yourself down. The extra 20lbs of camera gear made the journey awkward at best. It really taxed my muscles. 12 km on the beach tomorrow with little water. Richard’s water pump broke today so we only have Brian’s SteriPen and a few iodine tablets. Bad to have it break so near the start.

TUESDAY JULY 21- SHUTTLEWORTH BIGHT

Long hike along the beaches today. A lot of bear scatt & tracks, but no sightings. Saw a pair of bald eagles and came across a large old whale harpoon. 12km hike was long (my pedometer actually read over 15 km). I have a nasty shin splint. I trained a lot, but evidently could have used more. We’re all felling the pain in one way or another. Used a cable trolley to cross a river today. The beach here at Shuttleworth Bight is a beautiful crescent. Salmon have been jumping in the surf. There are whales off shore too.

Our tents are pitched as high as possible on the beach, but the second highest tide of the year is tonight. We’ll see at 1:00 AM if we need to make a retreat. Beautiful sunset.

WEDNESDAY JULY 22- CAPE SUITLE

The camp flooded last night. Stayed up until 1:30 AM and then put our tent back in place and went to bed. The Northern lights gave us a bit of a show. Beautiful night actually, fire, boat lights, stars, surf, Aurora Borealis.

Saw another whale in the bay. Brian spotted a black bear with two cubs down the beach digging for clams. We got some clips, put didn’t have a telephoto lens. Long hike today- 8km on beach and up trails. The trail reminds me of the “trails” my brother and I would make as a kid. Very crude. Only removing some brush and a few logs. No leveling the path. Rough, vertical, roots mud- an ankle and knee twisting paradise.

Made it to Cape Suitle. Long quiet beach. The salmon are constantly jumping. Water is poor. Fell into a sink hole (looked like a pit latrine) while purifying water at the forest mud hole. Ran into a French guy with a pointy gray beard doing the trail bare foot.

THURSDAY JULY 23- SKINNER CREEK

We decided to take our time this morning. I got up a bit early and wondered down the beach. Giant sand flees, about an inch long-more with antenna, were duking it out over holes in the sand. From talking with other hikers, gathered that the first 2k East of Suitle are the most difficult on the trail. Rich & Chad (the talent) were able to make the difficult section on the easier beach trail through difficult spots where you had to scramble on the tips of slippery rocks through boulders and water channels in between breakers every few seconds. One slip or moments hesitation, or a sneaker wave, and you’d be in the drink. With all the camera gear, Brian and I decided not to risk it and went the “inland trail”, a series of steep ravines where you pull yourself up and let yourself down near vertical walls of mud and tangled roots using anchored ropes. After that, it was a bit of beach walking and a lot of forest trekking.

The logs are rarely cut out of the way but are instead flatted a bit on the top with a chainsaw. Most are waist high. Climbing up these and jump down off them are causing a lot of stress on my joints and muscles. A series sprang out here would be especially problematic.

FRIDAY JULY 24- SHUSHARTIE BAY

The final leg. We’re told there’s no fresh water for the 8.7 km journey or at Shushartie Bay where we are to be picked up tomorrow morning by a boat. We’re each caring a lot of water. Ive got 5 liters. the extra weight is un-enjoyable. A lot of bogs and ups and downs as we approach the coast.

The Shushartie Bay campsite is perched on the side of mountain in the middle of an old growth forest. It’s a steep, rooty 100 feet drop, with rope aids, to get down to a small boulder beach. The outhouse is on a ridge, about 100 feet up from camp, a somewhat treacherous journey. Nice view of the estuary at the end of the bay when looking from the rocky outcrop on the shore. A seal keeps popping up. Came across some carnivorous plants in the bogs- a small red type of fly trap.

SATURDAY JULY 25- WATER TAXI

We’re up early to meet the boat. Sitting down on the rocky shore. There are three black bears combing the beaches on the opposite shore. One of them is quite large. My camera batteries are dead. I’m looking forward to a bath. On the way back, we passed a pod of Dall porpeses hunting salmon. All in all, we saw nine black bears

Misery Canyon

Photo by Joe FooteI’m working on editing the Misery Canyon episode of Beyond Adventure right now. It’s quite the task narrowing down all those interviews into an antertaining show, but once you get a system down, it’s not bad. My brain just feels creatively fried at the end of the day.

Looking back on the production and through the footage, there was so much beautiful scenery and it was a great group of guys to work with. I don’t miss those worms and dead animals in the pools of water though.

Thanks for the photos Joe.