Off the Grid and Into Backcountry: Four Women, One Wilderness Journey Hiking the Juan de Fuca Trail


Given the current state of the world, many of us are spending more than the ideal amount of time on our devices. We’re constantly toggling between apps, sitting on Zoom calls and letting Netflix consume us for hours on end. The pandemic continues to limit our social interactions, our ability to explore and the outlets for our minds to soar.

It’s now more important to give your mind a break, to step away from technology and into the great outdoors. Inhale, exhale and immerse yourself in nature rather than a screen.

In the summer of 2020, this was the therapy my soul needed, and I wasnt the only one.

The best type of people to surround yourself with are those who uplift you, challenge you and support you. During the age of quarantine, having people who encourage you to step outside of your daily routine can be the difference between sulking at home and getting a fresh wave of inspiration and appreciation of the world.

I am fortunate to have many of these people in my life, and along with a group of three other adventurous females who were also craving an escape from their screens, four of us set off into the wilderness.

Our destination was the Juan de Fuca Trail: a rugged 47-kilometre hiking trail that runs along the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island. Our plan was to traverse the trail over the span of four nights and five days, pushing ourselves through a strenuous trajectory but also leaving time to decompress and reset.

The hike was one of the toughest and most rewarding things Ive ever done in my life.

I love hiking and hit the trails every chance I get, but I had never done an overnight hike before. Hiking with a 40-pound backpack on your back is a little different than the light daypack I normally take on my mountain adventures. Adjusting to my new centre of gravity was an adventure on its own, as I attempted to balance my body weight with my backpack containing a tent, sleeping bag and mat, food for five days, a few changes of clothing, cooking and emergency supplies, and other necessities.

We trudged through the ups and downs of the Juan de Fuca Trail, through pits of mud, over boulders and across creeks, my knees trying not to buckle under the weighted squats as I balanced on precarious patches of earth. There were parts where I just looked at the path in front of me with a dubious expression, wondering how the hell we were supposed to get around this one. It was not a walk in the park, Ill tell you that much.

But the scenery made up for every ounce of the struggle, and the more I hiked (and the more food I ate, both giving me fuel and lightening the load on my back), the more I felt energized to keep going. Eventually, I felt like I was floating through the forest like a fairy, taking in the fresh sea air in the dewy morning woods, staring in awe at the light beams shining through the branches, pushing my body and mind to new physical limits and reaping the rewards instantaneously.

And the best part? We were off the grid the entire time.

No service, no Wi-Fi, no content flooding our minds of what we wish or felt pressured to be doing. We leaned into adventure and enjoyed each other’s company, woke up staring at waves caressing the shores and misty sunrises instead of our screens.

At the end of our hiking stretch each day, we would park our belongings at a camping spot and allow our bodies to collapse against a log, the beach, or the rocks, soaking in the sun, letting our bodies relax and recharge. Wed set up our tents and sit outside with our books or wade into the refreshing Pacific Ocean, giving our feet a little ice bath after a day of weighing on them. We would filter our water from the nearby creek, cook our (surprisingly delicious) dehydrated meals and settle by the fire for the evening.

Were all strong, independent women with hopes and dreams and a love for travel and adventure. Our campfire conversations ranged from completely random to bizarrely thought-provoking (conspiracy theories, anyone?). We stared at the starry night sky adorned with constellations, satellites and the occasional shooting star. And our phones sat on airplane mode in our tents the entire time (okay, except for maybe a quick photo session, because these are the memories that will transport us to this feeling when were back sitting on our couches again).

It’s an important feeling we dont make time for enough, especially in trying times like the ones were in. The next time you find yourself refreshing Instagram, binging Netflix or scrolling through TikTok, consider stepping away from the screen instead. Step outside, for a few moments or a few days, and let your mind recharge its own batteries.

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