Sunshine Coast Trail (Part 2) – BC, Canada

It’s 10pm at night when Felix and I meet after all our to-dos for the day and are going through our trip logistics and planning. We decided I’d be in charge of logistics and he’d be in charge of food. He points to a box. “So this is pretty much our food for the trip.” I glance over and see bags of dried food, a pile of protein bars, crackers… but something essential was missing.

“Where’s the snacks?” I ask anxiously.
He looks back at me, bambi eyes innocence. “We need snacks?”
I feel panic rising within my chest. “Yes we need snacks. I get hungry every 2-3 hours, how can you expect me to go on a 10 day hike with no snacks, what’s life without snacks…”

To cut my dear friend some slack, he did make it up by buying my favourite trail mix and looking all over town for vegan hot chocolate. But the snacks conversation was a foreshadowing moment on what I would find to be the toughest challenge for me on this hike – dealing with my monster of a stomach.

Ready to join us on our journey? Let’s go!

Day 0 – Vancouver to Sarah’s Pt

It’s 6.45am when Felix rolls up and we roll out towards Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. I always enjoy catching the first ferry, it guarantees you’ll be on one without paying extra for a reservation and you avoid the crowds. We hop on and a 40 minute ride takes us to Langdale where we are now officially on island time and vibe. It’s my first time on the Sunshine Coast, and I can already feel all tension and stresses melting away as we soak in the panoramic views of ocean and coast. Tofino is one of my favourite places in general, but I think I’ve found another place to add to the top of my list.

We drive up towards Earls Cove and 1.5hrs later we find ourselves in an even smaller ferry terminal with the cars from the first ferry having whittled away. Being an early Monday morning could explain the lack of crowds – the summer months of July & August bring far more tourists and local families seeking their staycations.

Motorbikes get on/off ferries first, and combined with the weather made me think of my dad and his merry band of motorcycling brothers enjoying a ride up the coast!

There was this very… artistic… car in the lot at Earls Cove. Why tho…?

After another 50 minute ferry ride, we arrive in Saltery Bay (named after a fish saltery camp that used to be there) and enjoy a short drive up to Powell River. The first order of action was to eat lunch, and we came across Costa Del Sol and their delicious Latin American fare. After enjoying our meal in the sunshine underneath the wisterias, we make our way to the Shingle Mill Pub where we parked our car for the next 10 days for $5 CAD / day. The plan was to enjoy lunch at Shingle Mill on day 3 since the trail runs through this way, so we only brought 3 days worth of food and left the rest to be carried on later.

Paying for our parking at Shinglemill Pub which is also a marina – here you can also buy gas for your boat

Powell Lake Marina next to Shingle Mill Pub

I read online that since public transportation is limited it’s super easy to hitch a ride around the Sunshine Coast. So we strapped our boots and backpacks on, and made our way to the first challenge of the day; catching a ride to Lund. The challenge proved to be minimal, because in less than 5 minutes a Toyota pickup truck slowed to a stop and we caught a ride from a friendly local named Dave who was enjoying an ice cream cone and heading home with more precious ice cream cargo for his grandkids. Dave was explaining how Powell River is one of the safest cities in BC; considering you need two ferries to get out or catch a plane on limited schedules, it’s difficult to do shady things and not get busted.

Dave was incredibly kind enough to let us see his home and land, the moment we drove up his gravel driveway my heart had found another favourite place to be. He had built his home himself starting with a small wooden cabin, slowly expanding and upgrading as his family grew. His house sits on a few beautiful acres and the lush garden with happy dog presented utopia. I may have a different opinion with the harsh and wet winter weather later in the year, but through my summer holiday tinted glasses things are looking rosy.

We get to Lund and while waiting for our water taxi head over to Nancy’s Bakery to try their legendary cinnamon buns. Soon after we’re on our boat and I find myself bouncing up and down from joy and waves as I choose to sit on the roof for a more fun ride.

L: Our water charriot arrives
R: After dropping us off at Sarah’s Pt, we wave goodbye and are left on our own

Apparently when Captain George Vancouver sailed into these very waters all those hundreds of years ago, he didn’t have as good of a time as I was having. So miserable was he in the relentless stormy seas and horrible weather that he named the area Desolation Sound. But the summer months tell a different tale, and we spot all the summer vacation getaways ranging from cute and humble cabins to luxury homes. We even heard a story of a rich New Yorker who bought a heritage home, took it apart, brought it here and put it back together. In the words of millennial guru Ariana Grande:

“Whoever said money can’t solve your problems 
Must not have had enough money to solve ’em”

One of the many nice vacation homes we saw as we passed by in our little charter taxi boat

It cost us $200 CAD for what ended up being less than a 15 minute private boat joyride, but the views and experience made it worth every dollar. It was late afternoon and the tide was low, exposing lower rocks covered in barnacles. We carefully got off the boat without our packs first, and then had our packs handed to us once we were on solid footing. As our boat sped off and the sound of the engine faded away, we were left at Sarah’s Pt to set up camp for the night.

L: Our boat maneuvers into position
R: The start of the SCT sign! The entire trail was well marked and a lot of effort was put into all the nice wooden the signage

Our chosen tent site, the first one you see after the boat drops you off

After setting up our tent, we explored a little and found 3 other tent sites that were nice spots too. Then we already begun hearing and seeing the variety of wildlife in the area; there was a seal looking for dinner and Felix taught me to recognize the sound (which would prove to be essential in preventing my heart attack later this evening), a hardworking woodpecker, hawks surfing the air currents, and starfish and sea urchins in the tidal pools revealed in low tide.

So there is an outhouse at Sarah’s Pt, but it’s missing the ‘house’ component and is more of an outdoor throne sitting atop a wooden platform. You get to do your business elevated in the open fresh air with first class views but still be hidden behind the trees from passing boats. In the daytime, this was highly entertaining. But when night fell and darkness came, my body conveniently decided it was a good time to go do #2. Sitting nervously in the dark, with only a small patch of trees in front visibly lit by my headlamp beam, I struggle to speed up my business transaction so I can run back to the safety of my nylon tent walls. Suddenly, I heard a loud growl / exhalation of sorts which made my heart stop and everything clench in ultimate tension. I realized it was the same seal we saw earlier that evening swimming around and catching his breath at the surface, and upon this realization I too remember to breathe again.

With that concludes day 0, and I retreated to our tent to squeeze myself into my sleeping bag and sigh in relief that I wasn’t mauled and eaten by a cougar or bear before we had even started our trip.

The real journey begins tomorrow! In the meantime, this night would be one of the very few times I slept well on the trail

Day 1 – Sarah’s Pt to Mazanita Hut, 16km, 7hrs

Day 1 felt tough and we weren’t expecting that. When you look at the overall elevation map of the trail, the towering points of Tin Hat Mountain and Mount Troubridge makes all the other parts look like easy peasy little rolling hills. But looking at an elevation map when you’re comfy and slogging up the trail with 30% of your bodyweight on your back made us realize that we are in for quite the journey.

L: Leaving Sarah’s Pt and beginning to head inwards away from the coast
R: The start of what will be many fallen logs we need to navigate across

Right from when you leave Sarah’s Pt the slow and steady uphill begins, and we make our way to Manzanita. One of the highlights of the day was seeing a pod of seals relaxing. Fun fact: While googling what the collective noun is for seals, I discovered you can also say a harem of seals! I had no idea all the ladies share one lucky seal dude. And when other males grow up to be big enough to threaten the dominant male, they get kicked out of the pod and can go off to join a bachelor herd or be a lone seal. There’s a nat geo tidbit for you.

L: A pod of seals relaxing on a sandbank
R: Zoomed in grainy iphone action shot

We reach Wednesday Lake after 4.5hrs of hiking and decide it’s time for lunch. My stomach is really growling by now and I get to inhale my first trail lunch: a probar meal, triscuit crackers and vegan jerky.

Lunch… for the next 10 days…

After our quick lunch stop, we carry on and quickly come across a creek with signage indicating to refill our water as there’s no water source for the next 7km of the trail. We fill all our water bottles, and with an extra 4kg of water to carry uphill to Manzanita hut it felt like a very long 4km.

It took us 2.5hrs to hike the last 4km up to Manzanita hut, and I was so relieved to see it when it finally came into view. PR PAWS and volunteers are always working hard upgrading all the trail facilities, and at Manzanita hut they were upgrading the windows in the loft but in the interim this meant there was no window at all. Since we were the first at the hut and it was already getting late, I pitched our tent in the loft so that we can sleep without worrying about insects.

It’s a good idea to bring a tent with you – the lofts at each hut can hold about 10-12 people, and in the more popular summer months you may need to pitch your tent nearby outside if you arrive late and the huts are full.

L: Manzanita hut – I’m sure the windows in the loft would have been installed by now, this was taken in May 2019
R: Checking out the loft where we’ll sleep for the night

Felix breaks his left flip flop on day 1. MacGyvers it back together with duct tape, a piece of nylon rope, and creativity.

By the end of the first day, my entire body is sore as hell. 7pm rolls around we have our dinner for this evening, soupy peanut rice noodles. As I finish my portion all I can think about is having breakfast the next morning, but I’ll have to just mentally toughen up and wait for sweet morning to come… so I can eat again.

The view from Manzanita Bluffs as evening comes; the clouds are beginning to roll in which is a preview of the weather to come tomorrow…

Day 2 – Manzanita Hut to Rieveley Pond Hut, 17.4km, 6hrs

We wake up to the sound of rain and know today is going to be soggy. Chef Felix prepares breakfast, and I pack up our stuff – this will become our happy morning ritual for the next 9 days. After some power-up coffee / tea and oatmeal with blueberries, we head out.

The hike today is easier than yesterday, and once you start hiking in the rain for a couple of hours as long as you don’t stop you don’t get cold!

Was a wet day on the trail, day 2.

L: Passing through an area overgrown with ferns and other greenery
R: Posing with one of the bigger trees, it’s crazy to think hundreds of years ago the entire area was packed with old growth trees even bigger and barely any sunlight reached the ground

We arrive at Rieveley Pond by 2.30pm and get to enjoy the hut to ourselves for a few hours.

Rieveleys Pond Hut

Inside Rieveley hut this evening, 3 groups in total. The SCT is dog friendly so you can bring your furry pal

L: A small wooden sign showing camping spot #1 at Rieveleys Pond
R: It’s not really the type of lake you want to go running into, but the frogs love it

Day 2 on the trail wasn’t too bad, even with the rain it made getting to the hut and being able to clean up and get dry feel all the more sweeter. We had a couple of hours to pass until 7pm dinner time, and so I curled up in my sleeping bag for a nap and some journaling to take my mind off the hunger pangs. With a limited supply of snacks to keep our pack weights manageable, I had been rationing my snack breaks to a couple of nuts and some crackers. Our previous hikes were only 4 days long at most, and so I could usually enjoy a full ziplock bag of trail mix with unbridled appetite. But this time round, I had to be careful. It was only the end of day 2, and there were 8 more days to go with 2 big days of uphill climbing – those were the days I definitely needed more snacking fuel.

The soothing thought was the next day we would be passing by Shingle Mill, and I get to stuff my face with a veggie burger and fries for lunch. With that, I drifted off to sleep.

Day 3 – Rieveley Pond Hut to Tony’s Pt Camp, 22km, 8hrs

The first section of the trail from Rieveley Pond to Appleton Canyon felt like Rivendell from Lord of the Rings. A relaxing downhill, hiking along many creeks and waterfalls. If you’re short on time, this section of the trail is accessible by car and has a campsite. The guidebook has more information.

One of the most enjoyable things about hiking on the SCT was just being away from the crowds. Most days, we would barely see anyone else on the trail, and only meet people once we arrived at the huts. This made for incredibly peaceful hiking and being able to really soak in our surroundings.

One of the several waterfalls we passed in this section of trail to Appleton Canyon

Appleton Canyon must be popular in the hotter summer months with a campsite and swimming hole!

After passing through Appleton Canyon, the rest of the trail to Shingle Mill felt long and painful. The Sliammon Lakes trail section was narrow, and I moved slowly over all the roots and rocks. Despite the trail being right next to the lake, being hungry and tired pretty much sucked the joy out of me and I was more focused on getting my ass to Shingle Mill so I can eat. While I struggled with fatigue and hunger, Felix’s hiking boots were screwing him over. His feet couldn’t breathe and became sweaty, which then caused all sorts of friction and the beginning of big nasty blisters on both heels of his feet. Lucky for us the sun came out and we could dry out our clothes that were still wet from this morning and our feet during snack breaks.

Tip: Your hiking boots can make or break your trip. Felix shredded his heels with his boots because he had never used these boots on a multi-day trip before and didn’t know they would perform poorly in hot summer/ rainy wet conditions. Another woman we met on the trail had to drop out after day 3 because her boots didn’t fit properly and both her big toes swelled to the size of purple golfballs. Not the type of trip souvenir anyone wants. Make sure your boots fit and are broken in before embarking on a multi-day adventure.

The weight of your pack can also determine just how enjoyable your trip will be. A heavyass pack will literally weigh you and your soul down, causing more stress on your body. The steep downhill sections are especially tough with a heavy pack; hiking poles will help take some stress off your knees. It’s typically suggested that your total pack weight be no more than 20% of your body weight but this can vary between everyone on what their comfort levels are. My pack weight for this trip was 17kg, a little over 30% of my body weight but unfortunately I’m also the size of a twig so 30% of my bodyweight was necessary for my gear and food.

On a bluff overlooking civilization, drying out our feet and gear. While catching our breath, I stare at the houses below and wonder what sort of snacks they have in their pantries

After 6.5hrs of hiking I’m so relieved to finally see the marina and Shingle Mill Pub in sight. I chow down a veggie burger and fries (so happy they have a veggie burger option!), and quickly pack up the onion rings we couldn’t finish knowing that I would enjoy the greasy, salty, soggy deliciousness later that evening.

We go back to the car to gather the remainder of our food supplies for the next 7 days. Felix’s pack now weighs a freaking ton since he’s carrying all our food and has to deal with his simmering blisters, but he bears it all with a stoicism that he must’ve learnt from Deutschland.

Leaving Shingle Mill and crossing the bridge – the SCT continues on the other end, hiking along the shoreline of Powell Lake

L: The SCT takes us through an area that still actively sorts logs cut from the island, a nice guy helps us find where the trail continues past the logging road
R: A sign for Tony’s Point

5km and 1.5hrs later, we reach Tony’s Pt where we set up camp for the night. We decided to camp at Tony’s Pt instead of Haywire Bay which is just a little further up because Tony’s Pt is free to use and only has a few camp sites so there’s not as many people. Haywire Bay is a very popular and large campsite, it can be noisy and crowded with large groups of people and RVs. It was only us and another group of 2 that spent the night here, and we got to enjoy the quiet evening.

Note that Tony’s Pt doesn’t have an outhouse, so if you prefer more amenities Haywire Bay is a better option. Also the bugs and no see ums but we could really feel ems were relentless in this spot, my ankles were eaten alive which provided an itchy lesson to do the sexy tuck pant leg into sock technique.

Tony’s Pt Campsite

L: There are many garter snakes on the trail, no worries if you spot one, they’re not poisonous
R: Tony was a founding member of the BOMB Squad and this site was created to commemorate his memory

Day 4 – Tony’s Pt to Confederation Lake Hut, 18.7km, 7.5hrs

The first 7.5km of the hike is mostly flat and easy, as we come across Inland Lake that is surrounded by a 13km wheelchair accessible trail. It’s a nice spot for lunch.

Going around Inland Lake

The next part of the hike from Inland Lake to Confederation Lake was the toughest part of the SCT overall for me. While the days hiking up to Tin Hat and Mt. Troubridge were tough too with all the elevation gain, I think the distance of the hike on day 4 and the fatigue from the previous days were really taking a toll. But there’s no other option other than forward and upward, so I engage my robo-hiker mode and mechanically shuffle my feet trying to block out my annoying inner voice whining.

The last 6km of the trail to Confederation Hut was tough uphill

After 7.5hrs of hiking for the day we reach Confederation Lake Hut, and it’s one of the nicest on the trail! We also got to enjoy it all to ourselves with the addition of a new friend from Estonia who joined our hiking party after her poor friend had dropped out from swollen toes.

Confederation Lake

Felix enjoying his book at Confederation Lake Hut

We enjoy our dinner in the comfort of the hut all warm and cozy. This hut was built in 2016 and replaced an older one, the footprint of that one still exists besides the newer one. So much kudos to PRPAWS and volunteers for building these amazing huts and trails!

I’m feeling comfortable and cozy in the hut and soon drift off to sleep. But the bites I received from the no see ums at Tony’s Pt yesterday decide to activate past midnight, and I wake up to my ankles itching like hell, which then causes my consciousnesses to activate and register my growling stomach that is not appreciating this calorie deficit diet, and the dreaded feeling of I need to pee… But forget it, I ain’t going out there and leaving the safety of this hut, so I cinch up my sleeping bag even more and force myself to just go back to sleep.

Day 5 – Confederation Lake to Tin Hat Mountain, 15.2km, 7hrs

Peeking out the window of the hut we see grey clouds coming in over the mountains and hear the patter of rain. The weather for our trip seemed to just alternate between sunny and rainy days. Today was the day for the climb up to Tin Hat, and mentally once this day was done the journey would feel a little less intimidating with one of the major climbs done.

A misty and rainy morning leaving Confederation Lake on day 5

The start of this section is all mostly nice downhill to ease us into the climb we have coming up. We passed through a lot of active logging areas which looked really sad. After spending so much time on the forest trails it was a clear reminder that logging is still an active industry in BC. We’ve sadly cleared most of the old growth, replanted these areas with monocrop trees and no other plant diversity in the ecosystem, and leave “visual buffers” of trees to block the sight of logged areas behind – out of sight out of mind.

The SCT was actually created back in 1992 to protect the few remaining areas of old growth and wilderness. But one of the problems with the SCT corridors wedged between logging areas is the trees standing here are more susceptible to wind and bad weather since there’s no longer a density of trees, and so are more likely to be blown over. The Golden Spruce is an excellent read that goes into the history of logging in BC – it’s not dry and boring, John Vaillant writes with wit and weaves a story of man, nature and our uncanny ability to live in a “moral and cognitive dissonance” frame of mind in order to not go loco. I learned a lot of things from the book that enriched my SCT experience understanding the history of the area, and the choices we need to make moving forward if we want to preserve what little we have left.

Passing through one of the several logging areas on the way to Tin Hat Mtn.

A lone tree standing in this section that has been logged

Fallen trees along the trail

Navigating through all the fallen tree logs – squats / high steps / lunges – the outdoor leg gains workout

On our way to Tin Hat Mountain – the trail has km markers which can be both blessing and curse depending on how far along the trail you are. Here we are at 83km on day 5

Someone who gets to name the trail sections certainly enjoys their alliteration and has a sense of humourwe also passed through “Vomit Vista” from Confederation Lake

Starting our ascent up to Tin Hat Mountain and cabin

There’s about 6km of uphill climbing to Tin Hat Mountain, but the kicker is really in the last 1km. Just when you think you’re nearing the end because finally the ground starts to even out, you look up to see steep switchbacks in the last couple of hundred metres before the cabin. Our packs were also heavier with extra water we carried from a creek about 3km before the end, since there is no water source at Tin Hat. Fun times.

It took us 7hrs to reach Tin Hat cabin, and it was the most “crowded” hut on the trail with around 12 people staying the night in the little cabin. There were the 2 travel bloggers that drove up and got to enjoy a luxurious 30 minute hike up to the hut, a group that paddled in on kayaks, and others starting to trickle in. While the views were indeed amazing, I couldn’t wait to continue onward and regain that sense of quiet in the wilderness again.

L: Tin Hat Cabin and the two travel bloggers
R: Full house in the loft, it was pretty windy that day so we opted to stay inside

It’s another 15 minutes to the summit of Tin Hat Mountain from the cabin and there’s some stellar 360° views from the top

Finding the beautiful pockets of lakes and rivers all at different elevations tucked between mountains and valleys

Felix walks back to the cabin from the summit at twilight hour

That wraps up Part 2 of the SCT Blog Series, if you missed Part 1 it contains all the fun nitty gritty details on how to get to Powell River and the start of the Sunshine Coast Trail, and other useful trip information if you’re planning a trip there.

Part 3 covering Day 6 – 10 from Tin Hat Hut to the end of Saltery Bay of our last 90km of the trail will be coming soon. Stay tuned!

Disclaimer: Everything written here is based on my experience and is my opinion. While I’ve provided all the information to try and be helpful, it doesn’t replace you doing your own research and making smart decisions based on your overall levels of experience and fitness. Stay safe and have fun out there!

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