PORT HARDY, B.C. - Shushartie Bay, the east trailhead of Vancouver Island's remote North Coast Trail, greets visitors "with brooding silence and isolation," writes Maria Bremner.
"And with no cellphone access, you are left simply with the here and now."
In her thorough new guide to Cape Scott Provincial Park — "Cape Scott and the North Coast Trail: Hiking Vancouver Island's Wildest Coast" (Harbour Publishing) — Bremner divides the wilderness route into 10 sections that add up to about a week's worth of continuous hiking.
The terrain ranges from easy forest walks to strenuous climbs that require "caution and confidence." The park includes 115 kilometres of coastline, rocky headlands, sandy beaches, estuaries, rivers, bogs and rainforest, not to mention a host of wildlife.
Access to trailheads is by water taxi or shuttle van from Port Hardy.
Along with practical information on trip planning and what to expect along the trail, Bremner devotes a chapter to the human history of the Cape Scott area, which includes such surprises as a brothel, or "blind pig's inn," that serviced fishermen a century ago in Sea Otter Cove.
Bremner also evokes the park's "here and now" essence.
"Beaches greet you with wide-open solitude," she writes of the approach to Cape Sutil, the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island.
"There is no better way to feel alive."