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How One Man Tackled The Juan de Fuca

The Juan de Fuca takes you 660 feet above sea level and adds over 8,000 feet of climbing and descent

By Gary Robbins
 
Adventure running. These two words resonate deep within most endurance runners. It certainly sounds pretty darn fun and seems self-explanatory enough, right? Assuming you are well prepared, carrying the necessary emergency supplies, leaving an itinerary with a friend, and having at least some idea of exactly what type of terrain it is you intend to tackle, then you are all but ready to hit the trails for the adventure of your choosing!
 
I have enjoyed numerous such runs over the last few years and typically they end up being the absolute highlights of the entire summer. The camaraderie of friends, the beauty of each individual trail, and the knowledge that you are on your own if anything should go wrong, all lead to an elevated sense of purpose and enjoyment. 
 
Within western Canada’s adventure running scene, Vancouver Island’s 47km Juan de Fuca Marine Trail stands alone as an underestimated test of mettle. The JDF seems to serve as an almost right of passage to prove one’s capabilities as an ultra runner. To my knowledge the quickest posted time over this 47km route is currently just over six hours, with the average time being closer to eight or nine hours. 
 
The trail is located on the west side of the island, about ninety minutes north-west of Victoria. The southern section of the trail is just beyond the small town of Jordan River, and the northern portion of the route starts outside of Port Renfrew. Before any attempt on this trail you should know the tide schedule, which can be linked to from the additional info below. It should also be noted that this is a point-to-point run, which can add an additional element of planning; however, there is an available bus service to ease the logistics (again linked below). From personal experience I can assure you that hitchhiking is most certainly NOT a viable option here!
 
The JDF is quite deceiving at first as it never takes you higher than 660 feet above sea level, yet it somehow manages to throw over 8,000 total feet of climbing and descent at your hamstrings and quads! To appreciate this, think of a saw blade, with each peak being just over 600 feet of elevation and each valley being sea level. This is the closest mental image I can use to convey what type of route the JDF is. If ya’ ain’t going up, yer most certainly goin’ down. I would guess there to be less than three kilometres of actual flat running terrain in the entire journey, and I would venture to say that km for km, it is actually more challenging than the infamous 75km West Coast Trail. The main difference being that the JDF is completely free to enjoy, whereas the WCT will cost you at least $165!
 
Most people take at least three to four days to hike the Juan De Fuca Trail, and it most certainly merits that time investment if possible. I have been fortunate enough to complete this trail on three separate occasions, and for my efforts I have been rewarded with sightings of black bears, bald eagles, and even humpback whales. Yes I said humpback whales…directly from the trail itself! I was one of seven lucky runners who spent over ten full minutes watching a mother and calf splash and crash about in the water just below us. Our vantage point could not have been better and the show could not have been more magical. This trail has yet to disappoint and it only seems to become more addictive with each successive running of it.
 
The Juan De Fuca Marine Trail truly has something for everyone and with numerous beach access points along the way you can even customize your own distance, if need be. Essentially one group could set out to run the full 47km while a second could run half of the trail while starting at Sombrio Beach. This would effectively allow all abilities to get out and enjoy the wonderful sights and sounds on a weekend getaway. And there is honestly no place better to do that than on Vancouver Island’s West Coast!
 

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