Ever since he first hiked the famous West Coast Trail in the early 1970s, Tim Leadem has found himself drawn to the outer coast of Vancouver Island again and again.
The 66-year-old author of Hiking the West Coast of Vancouver Island (Greystone Books) told the Georgia Straight it’s the scenery and wildlife that set this region apart.
“The whole venue is so magical,” Leadem said by phone from Gabriola Island. “I think we’re really blessed that we have such a wide expanse of coast that’s virtually undeveloped. If you look along the Pacific coast, particularly south of here, it doesn’t take too long before you realize that we, on Vancouver Island, have a relatively unspoiled coast.”
For its third edition, Leadem’s guidebook has added chapters on the North Coast Trail and Tatchu Peninsula to its descriptions of the West Coast Trail, Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Nootka Trail, and other major backpacking routes. The 224-page book is available in paperback and ebook formats.
A former Vancouver resident, Leadem is a retired lawyer who worked for the environmental group Ecojustice. Hiking the West Coast grew out of a guide to the West Coast Trail that he used to put together for the Sierra Club.
Leadem noted that the North Coast Trail, which involves a 60-kilometre hike lasting four to seven days, reminds him of the West Coast Trail back in the ’70s. He called the trail in Cape Scott Provincial Park a “real gem”.
“It’s a little bit rugged,” Leadem said. “It’s hard to get to. You have to scramble up and down some muddy slopes. You have to pull yourself hand over fist up rope ladders and things of that nature. It’s a bit like the West Coast Trail used to be. So if people really want that wilderness experience and to get away from the crowds, they can go to a place like the North Coast Trail and get that experience for themselves.”
Meanwhile, the Tatchu Peninsula, northwest of Nootka Island, is difficult to access and seldom visited by hikers, according to the author.
“By far, I saw the most wolves and bears of any place on Vancouver Island,” Leadem said. “There was a beautiful encounter for two or three days with a wolf pack that inhabits the area around Tatchu Creek.”
Usually reached by water taxi or float plane, the Tatchu Peninsula can be done as a 44-kilometre round trip taking four to six days.
“There’s no kilometre markings or trail markings or anything of that nature, so you really have to be on top of your game for it,” Leadem said. “But it’s a true wilderness experience, because once you’re there, I can almost guarantee you will not see any other hiker for the time that you’re present.”
Leadem pointed out that, unlike the other routes in the book, the one on the Tatchu Peninsula is not protected from development, except for its north end, which lies in Rugged Point Marine Provincial Park.
According to him, guidebooks invite the world to hike the trails they describe, and therein lies a “conundrum”.
“How do you preserve the wilderness without losing it with too many people coming?” Leadem asked. “I think that if you hike with a certain wilderness ethic in mind, you can still have that wilderness ethic and then you can promote that area for preservation purposes.”