A Soft Start (Days 1-2)
And so it begins. I tie up the frayed laces of my running shoes and step out my front door. That’s all there is to it – I’m on trail!
With the official southern terminus of the Vancouver Island Trail just a few kilometres east of where I live, starting my journey is just as easy as that. The first section winds along the seaside next to my neighborhood before cutting through the inner harbour of downtown Victoria and heading west to the city of Langford. So, what better way to ease into the groove than to day hike/slack pack from the comfort of my own home? I’m calling this my ‘soft start’.
In my normal life, I walk or bike to get pretty much everywhere. Victoria is a very pedestrian and cyclist-friendly city, and I’m grateful for that. But to be honest, walking around and passing by signposts with the VIT insignia on them has been driving me crazy the past few months. I can see, in my mind’s eye, the ribbon of trail that connects this otherwise ordinary sidewalk by my house to all the interesting destinations and experiences that await me as I make my way north. How hard it is not to let it whisk me away right at that moment – even if I really should be stopping at the grocery store or my college campus!
But, today is the day I can finally step onto that billowing ribbon and see where it will take me. After months of pouring over maps, my feet are on the ground, and I am off! (But with the privilege of a comfy bed a night, a least for tonight).
At the time of writing, it is July 1st. Happy Canada Day! I celebrated with some lemonade from a kid’s lemonade stand set up right on the Galloping Goose, the smooth old railway grade that makes up much of the trail snaking through the city. Hours of flat concrete make for sore feet, and I look forward to the mercy of the soft forest floor that will greet me farther on.
It’s interesting to walk through these places that are so familiar to me. Places that I’ve walked through so many times – but now they seem to show themselves in a new light. No longer as the blurry background of my everyday life, but as a handful of scenes that are a part of a whole thru-hike of scenery that stretches from here to Cape Scott. They take on a little more significance, as my attention wanders outward. Moving away from the mind chatter of day life, I am excited in anticipation of a new experience. I make space now to listen to what these traditional lands of the Coast Salish peoples have to say.
Even now, new discoveries pop out at me on well-trodden paths. Yellow butterflies. A string of commemorative plaques lining a wall downtown that I didn’t notice before. Cool street art under a bridge I’ve passed under many times previously. And of course, new pit stop locations to store in my memory (it’s much harder to find a spot to pee in the city when you need one – compared to near unlimited options in the woods).
At the end of the day, I return home, to shower and put the finishing touches on my overnight pack for the next day. Tomorrow will be the real deal; I’ll be out of the city and into my first night of tenting. Can’t wait!
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