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My husband, Jon, and I recently hiked the West Coast Trail, a 75-kilometer [46.6 miles] trail that spans a section of the western edge of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. It’s a rigorous hike we’ve wanted to do for years, with trails through the forest, on the beach, through the mud, across boardwalks, and up and down dozens of wooden ladders.
We packed carefully for our one-week journey, but somehow our packs each weighed more than fifty pounds when we began. I didn’t think much of it, recalling other backpacking trips I’d been on with large groups, when I’d carried what felt like the same amount in extra clothes and water for other members of the group.
After a long bus ride and an orientation in which the park rangers shared the latest conditions of the trail, we began our hike. I was enjoying the beauty of the forest and the majesty of the beach, but when we reached our first campsite 12 kilometers [7.5 miles] along, I realized I was utterly exhausted. My legs ached and my feet hurt, and my back was in agony. We slowly set up our tent, and then I pulled out my sleeping pad and lay down on it, hoping the pain would go away.
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