The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

mouse burglar

On a rare, still and sultry night on a west coast beach, we left the tent flap open just a smidgon to make the thick, body-odoured air more tolerable. Late in the night, gentle scratchings and crunchings awakened us. A tiny moving thing scampered across my sleeping bag. Wayne yelled, "The little s.o.b. ran across my face!"

I believe I know about mice. To thwart a mouse you must place all desirable mouse food in a sack and hang it high. If you stay in the same place two nights in a row be wary. Your average mouse will have located your stuff the first night. Be cool; be clever; be crafty. Fool him by storing your pack and your food in a new spot the second night. I speak from experience. At Carmanah a mouse chewed through the canvas of my pack to reach some overlooked trail mix. Trail mix is very desirable mouse food.

athletic mouse

On the athletic ability of mice

One evening, at Cribs Creek, after the food was hung, I discovered a partial bag of trail mix still in my pack. Feeling smug, I took the little baggy of nuts and lashed it to a loose rope end near the main food bag. At least six inches separated the two bags as they swung in space. The small bag was so light and unstable, it swayed in the wind. I was confident no reasonable mouse would attempt such a challenge. Wrong! The next morning the hanging baggy had a neatly disected hole. Only the raisins remained. We may need further study, but I suspect raisins are not desirable mouse food.

Rain, Rain Go Away

Is there anything that can change the quality of your hike more than the weather? Read and prepare.

Hiking for a few days in sloshing persistent rain, can embitter a trekker against the very environment he came to enjoy. The native solution was to run naked under a poncho-like cape and wide-brim hat woven from cedar bark. For a few hundred years this unique fashion statement worked fine but then someone invented gortex. Alas, after a few hours submerged in a west coast downpour, even the mighty gortex succumbs. Chilly trickles enter around the hood and some mysterious, relentless force sucks droplets up the arms. In the end wet, is wet, is wet. The solution is as it was those hundreds of years ago: find ways to stay warm like a scuba diver in a wet suit. Shorten your hiking time to allow more time for the rain to stop and less time to hate it. Throw on extra clothes when you stop, but don't stop long enough to cool down. Get your shelter up quickly when you arrive and change immediately. Stoke up the fire.

Hypothermia is a frightening thing.

Five of us arrived at Camper Creek after hiking all day in wind and heavy rain. We chose a place under the trees behind big protective logs. Our bodies cooled during the few minutes it took to put up our tents and scramble about looking for material to build a fire. As the others held a tarp over me, I tried to dry my freezing hands enough to ignite our fire starter. Everything dripped. I began to shiver those involuntary shivers I hadn't experienced since my childhood days swimming at some forgotten lake. Our fire was soon burning and our clothes changed, but I've never forgotten those frightening, vulnerable moments.

A Lady and the Rose

For many years we sailed from Port Alberni to Bamfield on the Lady Rose. Today it's the Frances Barkley but the stories will be the same. Make the trip part of your hike.

lady rose

The Bamfield dock was crowded with ragged, worn-out hikers waiting for the Lady Rose. Among the throngs was a proud group of finishers from Port Alberni. They were all women; some moms and daughters, some just friends but all pleased and excited to be going home. We boarded the ship and steamed up the inlet. As we neared Port Alberni an small, open boat came out to meet us and turned to run along side. The man and small child on board began waving wildly. One of the homeward-bound ladies rushed to the railing, calling and waving with great gusto before she charged through the passageway to the lower deck. When the Lady Rose slowed almost to a stop we all leaned over the side to watch the boat come along side. Below at water level, the small girl was handed across the gap of water to a pair of waiting hands. A few minutes later the happy mother reappeared on deck squeezing and kissing her chattering daughter. We all waved at the father's departing boat. We were overcome with emotion. Such a warm and loving ship, this Lady Rose.

The young girl and her two "wild men" friends on the Lady Rose were on their way to Keha beach for a "gathering" of alternate lifestyle folks. The Harry Krishna group was expected to be giving workshops and holding "circles". They had their untethered dog, "Maka Makito" with them. The name is Spanish for "snot-nosed kid". We saw the same group among the logging protesters in Tofino about a month later. They had a simple penned sign taped to a railing post: "Hemp jewlery and necklaces for sale." Their wares were hanging loosely along the railing. In an earlier conversation she had proudly explained that sales "of $125 a week", were enough to keep them off the welfare dole.