Hiking in the Mist

Canada's Juan de Fuca Marine Trail
By Brian Payton
  |  Gorp.com

I reach over my sleeping bag and unzip the tent. The mist is a thin veil on the morning sun, sheer enough to reveal the soft curves of sand and the rolling foam of the sea. Half-awake, I shuffle to the end of Mystic Beach where a waterfall spills 30 feet off the edge of Vancouver Island and into the palm of my hand.

The trailhead of the 28-mile Juan de Fuca Marine Trail is about 60 miles northwest of Victoria. My friend and I arrived at the around midnight last night and hiked the first mile and a half to our first campsite in a flashlight beam. Now, as I make my way back from the waterfall in full daylight, I see that we are one of only three camps on this beach. Everyone else is still asleep. After porridge and quick jolt of caffeine we leave the crowd behind and head westward.

From the high tide line the trail leads into the rainforest; not the tropical kind with poisonous frogs and screeching monkeys but our own temperate, northern variety. Vancouver Island lies smack dab in the middle of this forest—part of the world's longest stretch of temperate rainforest which hugs the edge of the Pacific for 1,900 miles from San Francisco Bay to the Gulf of Alaska. Over the next three days, we hope to witness the best of the area—a rainforest minus the rain.

There is cause for nostalgia on this trip. My friend, Curtis-Ray, is getting hitched in November and this will be our last outing before he hikes down the aisle. Although I am sure we will hit the road again next summer, I somehow supposed that it would be different. As we pad across the soft forest floor, we alternate between talk of old times and plans for his November wedding, and enjoying a quiet companionship and the peace of the wilderness.


Brian Payton is a freelance writer based in Vancouver, B.C. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, The Globe and Mail, Islands, and Canadian Geographic.

Brian is the author of three books of nonfiction and is a contributor to the acclaimed travel series Literary Trips, Following in the Footsteps of Fame. Brian's first play, Weed, premiered in 1999. His debut novel, Hail Mary Corner, will be published in October, 2001.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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