Click here to start reading Part I.
The next day was exhausting in a whole different way. Emily had almost a dozen blisters on her feet and wasn’t feeling great. She has a bad history of getting blisters and has tried so many different pairs of boots. She hadn’t been having any issues with her current boots, but she also hadn’t done any hikes longer than 2 days in a while. Usually she doesn’t get blisters until around day 4, so it was a little concerning that she had them after just 2 days of hiking.
We had 3km to get to Little Sliammon Lake, also known as Shangri-la. Emily was moving pretty slow, but we got there and I went for another swim. Little Sliammon is more popular than Big Sliammon, but I’m not really sure why. Little Sliammon is more of a pond in my opinion, with lots of vegetation growing in the lake – but it does have a dock that extends past the vegetation, so I guess that’s why it’s popular. In contrast to us being the only people at the big lake, there were about a half dozen groups that had spent the night at the little lake. Some of them were thru hikers just doing the northern part of the trail and the rest of them were day hikers.
Emily didn’t want to have to re-do all her moleskin, so I went for a swim on my own. The water was still super warm so I opted to wash my hair with biodegradable shampoo and was feeling really nice and clean, despite my shirt and backpack smelling terrible.
Things went downhill after that. We had 7km to Powell River and Emily was really dragging her feet. I could tell she was upset, but I didn’t want to push her. There’s a bit of uphill after the lake, but then you hit an old logging road and it’s a very gentle downhill for 1.5km. Emily finally had a breakdown on the downhill and declared that her feet hurt too much and she couldn’t do it. I wasn’t sure if it was just your standard thru-hike trail despair or something more, so I told her to just focus on getting to the pub for now and think about the rest later.
Eventually the road ended and the final 4km were pretty brutal. Not physically for me, but physically for Emily and mentally for both of us. The trail climbs up to Scout Mountain, which is similar to Manzanita Bluff and has amazing views looking out over Powell River – in any other circumstance I think we would have loved it – but we were both seeing our dream of completing the trail slipping away and the mood was very somber.
As we approached Powell River we had a frank discussion about the trail and Emily admitted that she thought it would be a mistake to continue onwards. Her feet were in a lot of pain and she cried a lot of the way down. I think it was a combination of pain from the blisters, but also disappointment and questioning of whether she would be able to do long distance hiking at all in the future.
It felt like it took forever to go up and over Scout Mountain and the descent was particularly hard on Emily’s feet. Eventually we stumbled into the Shingle Mill pub, which marked 10km for the day and km 50 overall. If it was anyone else, I would have helped them figure out a way home and then continued on. Carolyn was coming through Powell River the following day and I could easily have completed the hike with her. But this was my baby sister who no longer lives in BC and had travelled thousands of miles to spend the week with me, so there was no question of continuing for me.
It was a disappointing decision because I was feeling really good. I’d loved the first 50km and I was feeling ready and capable of completing the next 130km. My family seemed pretty concerned about Carolyn and whether she would also get off the trail, but I knew she wouldn’t hesitate about completing the trail and she did go on to finish the entire 180km in just 7 days – 1 day faster than she’d originally planned. What a tank!
Anyways, we had lunch in the pub while figuring out our next steps. We were planning to drive home with Carolyn and wouldn’t be able to go home that day because the shuttle bus only goes once a day, so we needed somewhere to stay for the night. We were trying to sort out hotels when Emily cracked a joke about how we should just fly Harbour Air back to Vancouver. Harbour Air actually flies right out of the pub because it’s located on Powell Lake, and while Emily was joking, I thought it wasn’t a bad idea.
I looked up the flight schedule and saw that there was one leaving in 3 hours, so we decided to go for it and booked 2 seats. With the cost of hotels, ferries, and shuttles, it was only about $100 more to book flights for the 2 of us and that put us both back in Vancouver the same day. Plus we got a scenic flight over the sunshine coast! You only need to check in for the flight 30 minutes early, so we hit up Townsite Brewing for a beer before heading back to Shingle Mill. I took a float plane once before to the hot spring in Tofino, but it was only a 3 seater. This plane had 14 seats, but it was hilarious that you literally just check in at the pub. They set up a little kiosk and take your bags – there’s no assigned seating or tickets.
It’s about 45 minutes back to Vancouver harbour. It was very scenic, but it was definitely bittersweet. You fly right over the trail and I was disappointed about not getting the opportunity to summit Tin Hat, Walt Hill or Mount Troubridge – especially knowing Carolyn was going to do it days later. Seth picked us up downtown and we spent the rest of the week taking it easy. We couldn’t do any hiking, so we did a lot of swimming instead, visiting Sasamat Lake, Belcarra, Buntzen Lake, Alouette Lake, and the Cultus Lake Water Park. We went kayaking to Jug Island and the 8 Corners Tea Room and caught up with Carolyn when she finished, just before Emily returned back to Newfoundland.
That should be where this post ends for this year, but like I said in my first post, I haven’t been able to get this trail out of my head for 2 years and it kept haunting me after I finished. I still had 7 days of dehydrated food for 2 people that I’d spent weeks preparing and I felt incomplete. I didn’t want to put the trail off for another year. Who knows what next year might throw at me and I was ready to do the trail now.
So I decided to go for it. I’d already scheduled 2 weeks off in early September and was planning to go to Jasper for a week and a half with Brandon. He understood that I needed to go back to the Sunshine Coast, so we scaled our trip down to just a week and I returned to the trail on September 2nd, less than 4 weeks after me and Emily had got off the trail, this time solo. So stay tuned for Part IV!
One thought on “SCT Part III: Big Sliammon to Powell River”
Pingback: SCT Part II: Manzanita to Big Sliammon Lake | The Road Goes Ever On