The Soggy Bottom Boys on the West Coast Trail

Saturday July 2, 2005
Arriving in Victoria

“Steven Spielberg, Roger, and Governor Helge”

An uneventful 2-hour flight from Regina saw Marty, Trent, and I arrive at the Vancouver airport at about 2:30pm. Things started unraveling for us soon after arrival, however, while we tried to find our departure gate for our Victoria flight. We had the pleasure of exploring the International Departure area for a few minutes, courtesy of a wrong turn inside the terminal.

For some unexplained reason, the Air Canada ticket agent at the Regina airport had circled the letters “ET” on our boarding passes for our Vancouver-Victoria flight, so we were looking for departure area “E”, and a gate with the letter “T”. We weren’t intelligent enough to figure out that most airports don’t number their boarding gates with two letters! Duh! We found out later that “ET” actually stands for electronic ticket. I was just about to start looking for Steven Spielberg!

We finally met up with John in the correct boarding lounge, had a real quick visit with him, and then the 4 of us flew to Victoria, a short 15-minute flight, low over the Strait of Georgia with awesome views of the Gulf Islands, including Saltspring.

Arriving at about 4:00, we grabbed our backpacks and food bags off the baggage carousel and headed out of the terminal building, where we were enthusiastically greeted on the front sidewalk by taxi driver “Roger” in his new Toyota Cirrus [hybrid].

We took one look at his car and asked him if there was a taxi van nearby. Roger insisted that he could “easily” fit all of our stuff into his car. We looked at Roger and said “no way”. Roger said “sure, no problem”. We looked at each other and said “there’s no way”. We got our cameras out…“photo op”! There were no vans anywhere in sight. We began to wonder if we’d ever make it into town.

He “enthusiastically” shoved all four of our backpacks and whatever else he could grab into his small hatchback, which he then lashed “half-closed” with bungee cords.

We didn’t quite share Roger’s “enthusiasm”, but figured…what the hell, if the backpacks don’t fall out and go bouncing down the highway, we should be okay!

Marty quickly claimed the front passenger seat [what happened to rock/paper/scissors?!], while John, Trent, and I “enthusiastically” [?] squeezed into the back seat, with the duffel bags, full of food, on our laps!

“Roger” enthusiastically crams 3,000 pounds of gear into his car. Marty selfishly bags the front seat!

A half hour drive landed us at the front of the historic International Hostel, just steps from the waterfront. After signing in and paying our $20 each for the night, we climbed a bunch of stairs, lugging our packs and bags up to the top [3rd] floor, where they’d set us up in 4 bunks at one end of the Men’s dorm, a huge room with 36 bunks!

The large change-room was more than adequate, and included 4 shower stalls, which would turn out to be rather important upon our return!  The kitchen on the main floor was absolutely huge, and we threw some of our food items into one of their double-door coolers for storing overnight.

Windows and benches at the front of the dorm offered an awesome view of the surrounding area, including the restaurant across the street [we ended up having dinner there on the return trip…a cool “people-watching” place!] and the busy intersection below [there was some car show in town that weekend, so a few participants were cruising the streets].

It was a perfect location, and for $20, the “price was right”!

The Victoria International Hostel, our home on the first two Saturday nights in July.

We walked about 3 blocks to “Robinson Sports” to pick up fuel canisters for our new stove, but they didn’t have what we needed, so…after asking the helpful salesperson where the nearest sporting goods store was…I was directed to go next door[duh, Jim!], but that store was out as well. They placed a quick phone call for us to “Valhalla Sports”, so we wandered over there, a short 5-minute walk.

At Valhalla we quickly picked up what we needed, and on the way out, asked the staff where the nearest sports bar was. [The Rider’s CFL football game was on TV]. They unanimously picked “the Sticky Wicket”, about two blocks away. So we headed down there, and after arriving, a couple of their staff [including an awesome waitress!] graciously turned their TV sets to the football game for us, and we settled in for some great food and bevies. We skipped dessert, but had a round of Dubonets before hitting the pavement.

After leaving the Sticky Wicket, we headed back toward the Hostel and Marty’s nose soon caught the subtle aroma of ice cream on the wind, or more accurately, just up the street.

[I’m still not sure how he can snore and smell ice cream like he does, but hey, as long as he doesn’t do both at the same time, he should be okay!]

Back at the Hostel after developing ice cream headaches, we turned our attention to packing the food into the backpacks, so we grabbed our packs and food bags out of our lockers and carried everything down to the pool room on the second floor, spreading the food out on the pool table. We soon got evicted off the table by a couple of really bad amateurs, before we distributed evenly(?!) all of the food.

Usually for each hike, we throw a weigh scale in the vehicle and when we get to the trailhead, we weigh each of our packs, trying to be as “fair” as possible for each guy. Without a scale for this trip, it was insanely comical to hear the comments as we took turns hoisting each pack, muttering things like …“I think this one’s lighter”, or “mine feels really heavy compared to yours”! Hilarious!

Back up in the dorm room, we met and visited with a German hiker named Helge Leibfritz, who was resting in one of the bunks next to us and would be on the West Coast Trail Express bus with us in the morning.

Of the maximum 8,000 hikers who can register to hike the trail each year, about a quarter of them are from outside of Canada. They all come to experience what is known as “one of the most grueling hikes in North America”.

Not wanting to turn down the opportunity of checking out the city on a Saturday night, we let Helge get some rest, and headed back out onto the streets. The Jazz Festival was on, and several of the venues were waterfront, just down from the Hostel. We caught some of the action while walking along the street above the venues [we were too cheap to head down and pay the $15 admission!], including some reggae [great sound!], and a unicyclist juggling flaming torches…do we dare call him…the “Uni-bomber”?! 

We continued to walk around for awhile, enjoying the harbour-front, the mild weather, the people-watching, and the sights and sounds of this beautiful city.

We ended up back at the Hostel pretty early, about 10:30. We knew that we would need to “jump” [yeah, sure!] out of bed about 5:30 in the morning so that we could get down to the bus depot in time to catch the bus for the trailhead. We climbed the stairs and quietly tiptoed through the dorm [the entire sleeping quarters upstairs is always in a state of “quiet”, out of respect for any that are sleeping], and jumped into our bunks.

Tomorrow would be the start of a spectacular experience, but first…it would be a l-o-n-g night!

[next day]

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