In the wilderness lies the preservation of the world.
Henry David Thoreau
Only Visitors – Skinner Creek to Shushartie Bay – Our Last Day on the North Coast Trail
Last night I hung out with an eagle on the beach and watched a cute otter, which lay on its back on the water, relaxed, just off the coast, and knocked mussels with a stone on his belly, which he then enjoyed eating. Until the glittering golden street that the setting sun left on the water was gone.
The next morning, we start out on time like never before. We have a final stage ahead of us today. It promises to be demanding.
And so it goes – steady up, over roots and through soft mud. Through an untouched bog ecosystem full of sundew and peat moss. Then at some point steadily down. We are really fit by now, and although the backpacks are a bit heavier again because of the full water bottles, we make it in less time than we had planned. Occasionally, we meet other hikers, inquire briefly about the trail ahead and exchange some words about how incredibly beautiful it is out here, how peaceful and remote, that you still really have your peace here in the nearly untouched nature.
Admittedly – as beautiful as the path and the forest is around us – along the way we rave about all the things we will be able to do again soon – a warm shower is at the top of the list, listening to music and being surrounded by other people again. But most of all it’s all about food – cheeseburger, yoghurt or a fresh salad. But with all the anticipation of the comforts of civilization, there is also a lot of wistfulness. We enjoy the spicy air of the forest and the wild silence, which is so full of life. We don’t want to leave this captivating tranquility of the wilderness so quickly. Because civilization also means: Always be reachable, keep to schedules and function with the crowds in noisy, dirty and crowded cities. Too soon we will miss the expanse out here.
In the end, the path leads us once again through a grove of mighty giant cedar trees which still elicits amazement from all of us. And then we finally made it! 60km trail are behind us, which we have managed in 7 days alone and on foot. Without electricity or mobile phone reception, carrying our food on our backs, well-monitored and divided equally, water and the firewood from nature. Along long beaches and through dense forests. Amongst wolves and black bears. We arrive with pride and joy.
At the bay we talk to two park workers who are on the trail for the second time this season for a period of more than two weeks, working to keep it clear. As we have seen several times, nature takes it back incredibly quickly – plank paths rot in the humidity, boards sink in the mud and wild new green grows where previously paths had been. We are surprised by the performance of these two, who even have to take heavy equipment like scythes and walk the individual trail sections up to three times for their work. And we were just proud and happy to have done the whole thing once, arriving healthy and cheerful. One thing does connect us, though, despite the different athletic performances – we all love to be out here, and the priceless moments that nature gives us is worth every effort.
In the evening I sit down at the bay and look toward t the sea. I reminisce about the scorching days and enjoy the last moments alone in nature, which has challenged me so much over the past few days, gifted me so much and given so much energy – that has made me truly live. There, just a few meters in front of me, a huge humpback whale dives through the bay and loudly spouts a fountain.
Fulfilled, I climb up the slope and quietly join the others in the tent. My eyes are just falling closed, and I hear strange sounds. I raise my head and listen – in fact: there is only one sound that simultaneously expresses so much longing, energy, and freedom all at once. Just a sound in which makes a shiver run down your back, and at the same time makes you want to jump through the forest with joy: a pack of wolves whose awe-inspiring howls echo through the bay. That is the call of the wilderness. What a farewell.