The Inlet (Days 8-9)
The Inlet, Stage 3
On day 8, I made my way north, following the east shore of the Alberni Inlet all the way to its armpit and the town of Port Alberni. The giant fjord brings the waters of the Pacific Ocean to meet this little town, which is otherwise surrounded by mountains and lakes.
The Alberni Inlet trail consists of 3 stages, which I walked in reverse order – the 3rd stage being the section farthest south of town. Walking in the overcast morning, I followed the moss-covered old railway grade, part of the half-constructed extension of the Galloping Goose from Youbou all the way to Port Alberni that was never completed. It was flat and mercifully soft on the feet, except for the occasional ravine that required a scramble down and then up again, underneath the rotten old trestle structures.
My original plan for the day was to make it to China Creek Campground, which sits right in between stages 2 and 1. But, around noon, I ate my last bit of oatmeal ravenously, and realized I was going to have to make it to town that night to resupply. It came as a it of a surprise, because nerves had diminished my appetite and the last few days I was not eating as much as I knew I should have for the amount of energy I was burning. I thought I had more than enough for 5 days, but my stash didn’t even end up lasting 4!
The Inlet, Stage 2
The next stage of the trail brought an interesting twist, in the fording of the Franklin River. Luckily, it was just up to my belly button, and flowing quite slowly. Though, in the future, hikers might be able to walk across the river, as currently discussions about installing a bridge across it are active and ongoing. This would make this part of the trail more attractive for use in seasons other than summer, when the Franklin is low enough (and warm enough!) to ford.
In my haste to make it to town that evening, I started jogging whenever the trail was flat or downhill. (When you’re hungry, food is the only motivator). To my surprise, I slid around a corner to see two figures sitting on logs. The first people I had seen that day! And, just as I was feeling relief to see other humans, one of the figures called out, “Welcome to the Alberni Valley, Carly!”
What? They knew my name? How could this be??
The figures turned out to be Steve and Joan, a retired couple who volunteer frequently to build and maintain the VIT.
It was so lovely to walk with them, and to get to know the volunteers that make this trail what it is. I remembered all the brand new bridges I crossed a few days ago. It was really the highlight of my day to end stage 2 with the people who helped make those improvements happen. It was also cool to hear more tidbits about the land we walked through that I had not known before. Steve pointed out an old culvert installed for the railway from 1913, and a side trail to a nice viewpoint of the inlet.
The Inlet, Stage 1
Once we reached the stage 2 parking lot, they took my pack and gave me some snacks, with a plan to meet me at the end of stage 1 – that day’s finish line. Free of the weight, and renewed by the snacks, I powered through to town. it was a lot more elevation gain and loss than the other two stages, but the trail was much closer to the ocean. You could hear the waves on the rocks, the sounds of the log dump, and fishermen yelling at each other across the water.
I think this was my favourite section of the Inlet Trail. It started with some bridges over the jewel-like China Creek, and ended with a steep climb and a beautiful view of the fjord, facing out to sea.
Slackpacking the Log Train Trail
I’m so thankful for Steve and Joan for giving me a place to stay in Port Alberni. On the morning of day 9, I slackpacked from the stage 1 parking lot through the forest trails east of town to get to the Log Train Trail, yet another old railway grade, that led to the McLean’s Mill Historic Site at the base of the Beauforts, where I would be ascending on my next leg.
Food and Friends
After not having much of an appetite the first week on trail, I realized I needed to get serious about fueling myself for the next leg of the journey, which was sure to be more physically demanding with lots of elevation change. I was about to climb 1200m+ up into the Beaufort Range and walk along its crest.
I went for lunch at a Boston Pizza, the closest sit in restaurant to where I was staying, and ordered a burger AND dessert. As I sat there, watching the barrel racing at the Calgary stampede on tv, my eyes welled up with tears. I knew that exhaustion and malnutrition was at least partially contributing to my moodiness.
My next stop was the grocery haul – I resolved to not worry about weight or cost, because I would rather not be caught up in the mountains without sustenance – especially if something unexpected happened. I packed an extra days’ worth just in case.
In the evening, I went to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in years (hi Mia!). It was so nice to see her and her family, and do a good catch-up.
Despite the fact that I consider myself to be a giant introvert, I was really enjoying the socializing. Was the solitude of my journey so far making me crave human interaction more than I usually would? Either way, I’m so grateful for the experiences I’ve had in Port Alberni on this trip.
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