Marine trail a real workout for hikers

The trail offers a challenge, no matter which direction you take, or how you choose to travel

Boardwalk on a moderate section of the Juan De Fuca Marine Trail on Vancouver Island’s west coast.

There are two ways to enjoy Vancouver Island’s rugged coast — take your time and take in the spectacular views along the way, or put one foot in front of the other and use a multi-day hike as a great workout.

I took the latter route during a three-day trip on the Juan De Fuca Marine Trail from Port Renfrew to the China Beach Provincial Park. It’s a 46-kilometer route (sometimes called the light version of the West Coast Trail) that’s open year-round for hiking, day trips and camping in the wild. My goal was to complete the hike in three days at most, trying to balance good, physical exertion with taking in the beauty of the coast.

There were plenty of other people along the trail — some out to do it faster than me and others ready to use up a few more days to take  the route at a more leisurely pace. The trail offers a challenge, no matter which direction you take, or how you choose to travel.

Moderate, easy and difficult sections of the  Juan De Fuca Marine Trail can be accessed at either end and in a couple of places in between. While that means the trail may not be as ‘wild’ as some might like, it gives people with time or physical restraints the chance to enjoy some or all of the route.

If you do plan to do the entire length of the Juan De Fuca Marine Trail, there are a few things to know:

• the tides. Bring a tide table with you or memorize them. There are places where high tide means you might not be able to continue and will have to wait to proceed.

• bring water. Or bring a camp stove or purification filters or tablets to treat creek water should you run out.

• be prepared for wildlife. On my trip, there was plenty of bear scat (luckily, no bears) and cougar tracks.

• be fit. Or at least know your limitations. This trail may be considered a light version of the West Coast Trail but it does offer up some challenges in the form of many, many creek valleys where the trail drops and rises.

For details, visit http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/juan_de_fuca/.