WCT Day 1
When you hike the WCT, you either hike it north to south or vice versa. I had read the trail was easier on the north end compared to south. You can either take the approach that it’s best to get the tough stuff over first while your body is still fresh... or start on the easier end since your pack will be at its heaviest (your pack gets lighter as you use up your consumable items like food and fuel).
I had reserved my spot on the WCT in March to hike in August and there was only one spot left in the time frame I wanted. It was an open spot on the north end so I had to hike north to south. However, I still think that’s the preferable option. As I hiked along each day, sure my pack got a bit lighter, but mainly my body (strength /coordination /balance) was adapting to my daily routine of hiking long hours with a heavy pack. By the time I reached the tough spots, I was in the groove. My body didn’t break down as the hike went on like I thought it would. I made sure to eat plenty of protein each day and sleep 9+ hours a night. I think both those things were key for my body to recover each night and ensure I would be 100% for the next day.
When I started the trail, the tide was low enough that I could skip the traditional forest entry and take the beach route. Walking along the beach sand is tough, but the other way had some nasty ladders to welcome you on the trail.
I was about 3 km into the trail when I came across a frazzled hiker going north (opposite direction of me). He was also travelling solo. He had a thick European accent and within a couple seconds of small talk, he pointed at my bear bell and said something to the effect of “That! that’s a good idea! I wish I had one! Just down the trail, I came around a bend and came in close contact with a cub. We both scared each other and ran the other way”. I quickly scanned him and his gear and in the few minutes we spoke, it didn’t look like he was carrying bear spray either. One of the biggest dangers of hiking solo is you don’t make any noise and these types of things happen. If you are in a group, you are talking to each other and letting wildlife know that you’re human and passing through the area. When I’m hiking solo, I sing, whistle, talk to myself, have my bear bell jingle and make all the noise possible to prevent these types of situations. He was lucky this time. He should have been prepared for a charging momma bear a couple seconds later.
I saw Pachena Lighthouse and stayed the night at Michigan Creek campsite which is at kilometer 12. I definitely stood out among the hikers as I was the only one who had discovered the wonders of hammock camping and generated much intrigue. I fell asleep around 10 pm and wondered what beautiful sights I would come across the next day.