The West Coast Trail

The West Coast Trail is one of those infamous treks that most BC residents hear about in childhood. The ladders, the bogs, the tree roots; all lasting 75km. Known as the ‘graveyard of the pacific’, this stretch of land saw countless ship wrecks. Indeed on the hike itself evidence of this history is present in rusting anchors, boilers and other pieces of aged debris. Reminders of the Japanese tsunami are also dotted along the trail, consisting primarily of lone shoes and laundry baskets.

The hike is known for its difficulty, and many hikers must be airlifted from the trail. The absence of cellular signal spotonly exacerbates the existing safety concerns.  Thus, on deciding to complete this hike, it was clear a unique communications solution would be required. At Walco, we have sold the Spot Gen3 to many hikers in just such scenarios. Thus, it seemed a perfect answer. Spot was immediately on board with the idea, accommodating my adventure through providing product and assistance.

Getting there:

The trail lies between Bamfield to the north, and Port Renfrew to the south. We accessed both locations from Nanaimo. A shuttle runs between the two points, as well as to various cities. Our group decided to leave vehicles at either end. Thus, the evening before our departure, we drove to Port Renfrew to drop the car. As my ferry was quite late, and the drive is nearly 3 hours, we did not arrive until midnight. In the dark, we had a difficult time navigating Port Renfrew, which has no cellular signal. However, we did manage to find the WCT office. Across the street is a large lot with a house on it. Pay parking is available for 5$ a day. Again, due to the darkness, it took us nearly an hour to discover that payment could be made after dark in a drop box attached to the trailer at the back of the lot.

The next morning, we arose at 5 am for the 3 hour drive to Bamfield from Nanaimo. We chose the route through Port Alberni. Past this point, the road descends into unpaved gravel for 84km. This is a very good logging road, and is mostly devoid of the giant potholes we all remember from childhood. However, it is extremely dusty. If another car is in front of you, it will be nearly impossible to see.

The WCT office is very well marked on this road, and turns into a large (free) parking lot.

Saturday, 11 am -7 pm to travel 22km:

Orientation is mandatory for all hikers, taking place at 10 am and 2 pm. This primarily consists of collection of permits, reviewing a board for cougar and bear sightings and listening to a brief lecture on the nature of the trail and how to use the cable cars (namely, upper body strength).

We began our journey at the north end, near Bamfield BC. Due to orientation, we did not get underway until nearly noon.

Known as the ‘easy end’ it is quite a flat and pleasant affair for the first 10 km leading to the lighthouse. This is a good warm up, and we ended up taking our lunch at this point. There is a nice lawn to rest on, and a hose that can be used for drinking water (upon treatment).


The terrain became slightly more challenging after the lighthouse. The beautiful vistas continued and we saw many animals from the high vantage points.

That evening, we decided to set up camp at the 22km mark. The campsites are located on the beach, although some can be had among the trees. The WCT is known for fog, and the beach does have a particular dampness to the air. Campsites are very well marked with numerous buoys etched with the names of previous hikers.

Sunday, 9 am- 8pm to travel 26km:

The second day we hiked primarily on the beach. This choice was a mixed blessing. The tide was just going out when we began. Thus in many places the sand was quite firm and walking was very comfortable. Many sections were also composed of large boulders, and our task was to navigate stepping from stone to stone. Other sections consisted of solid rock shelves, often covered in seaweed and other slippery lifeforms. Finally, there were sections that were loose beach sand. These were extremely exhausting to walk with a heavy pack in the direct sunshine.

The wildlife on the beach makes everything worthwhile. We were constantly surrounded by sea lions, whales cresting, eagles, countless crabs, sea anemones and other tide pool dwellers.  We also had a chance to meet some of the Guardians, who patrol the aboriginal lands. They were extremely helpful in advising us regarding tide levels and our ability to reach certain destinations.


Personally, I found the beach hiking the most enjoyable. You spend a great deal of time staring at your feet, trying not to fall over the tangled terrain. Thus, when you are on the beach, you can also take in the multitude of rocks, creatures, beach glass and other beautiful objects.

During this stretch there are two restaurants. At Nitinat Narrows, there is a ferry which brings you across the water. On the south side of the narrows there is a small restaurant with crab and fish. They also sell cold beverages. We had heard water was scarce between the 30 and 40 km mark, thus being low on water I stocked up at this point. I would have enjoyed sitting down for crab, but my friends decided to push on. The second restaurant is on the beach and sells burgers. Again, I cannot make a recommendation on this as my friends decided to keep moving.

That evening we camped at the 48 km point.

Monday, 8:30 am to 8 pm to travel 22km:

Unfortunately, due to high tide, we had to take the forest path on the third day. This was by far the most difficult section. Three main factors contributed to this: ladders, steep terrain and irregular terrain.  The ladders, while not overly prolific, tend to be in groups of 3 to 4. This is usually present when going in and out of river beds. Thus, you will take 4 ladders of 30 or so rungs down, only to cross a bridge to 4 ladders of equivalent size.

The upward terrain was also very challenging to navigate due to mud and erosion. Much of the trail was a tangled system of roots that required very careful, and never secure foot placement. This is where the knees and ankles really prove their worth. Many sections I had to use my stick and hold on to higher sections of root to hoist my body and my bag up the steep embankment.

This section also consists of many ‘log bridges’ over streams. At one point, there was a chain of four perpendicular logs supporting each other over a stream. Another point, we had to walk over a 25 ft. drop using only narrow and much repaired log.

The trail would have been far more difficult with the usual degree of dampness common to the WCT. This year has been unusually dry, and the park had not had rain for six weeks. On the trail we were extremely grateful for this environmental abnormality. The mud was ankle deep in sections, rocks were very slippery and often our path was also home to a stream. However, we did not have to use any of the cable cars as the rivers and streams were so low.


Our third night we camped at the 70km mark at Thrasher’s cove. This is one section that has a large series of ladders in and out.

Tuesday, 8 am to 11 am to travel 5 km:

The final day we hiked from Thrasher’s cove to Gordon River. This section, while having fewer ladders, had far steeper sections of trail. Thus, I personally found this section to be the most physically exhausting.

Also, the ferry comes at irregular times. I believe it is roughly 8:45, 10:30, 11:30, 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30. As we knew we had many hours of driving to retrieve the car from Bamfield, we were dead set on catching the 11:30 ferry to Port Renfrew. We managed this with about a 20 minute margin. The boat ride is short and drops you at the WCT Centre, where you leave your permit and pick up your vehicle.

To bring:

In hindsight, there are a few things I brought which made a massive difference in my experience.

First, bring a walking stick, or be sure to acquire one from the first beach. The terrain is extremely irregular, and I cannot express how many times the walking stick was instrumental in maintaining my balance while boulder jumping, navigating bogs, or even just trying to walk down a root laden trail.

Second, bring a tensor bandage. As mentioned, the terrain is never flat. Your knees and ankles will be working overtime trying to maintain some semblance of balance. Thus it is very likely that you or one of your party will suffer some knee or ankle discomfort.

Third, footwear is a challenge. I wore hiking boots, which were a mixed blessing. Walking in the sand with heavy boots was less than enjoyable. However, I was able to walk through the mud, while my friends in runners had to preform incredible feats of acrobatics to attempt to avoid it.

Fourth, bring a Spot device. The trail is extremely uneven and often involves climbing up tree root systems, through mud puddles and using ladders with broken rungs. There were numerous times that I nearly slipped and fell. Having the Gen3 massively alleviated the concern over injury. It would be extremely difficult to procure help in the remote and difficult sections of the trail. There were several stretches where we did not see any other hikers for several hours.

Furthermore, I know the device provided massive peace of mind for my family. We finished the trail in 3 days instead of 5, and as I sent a message every evening, my family used the GPS coordinates to locate our campsite. When I spoke to them from Nanaimo, they had been following our progress and had an idea of our speed and were we should be at what point. Thus, even if I had been injured an unable to send a SOS, my family had an awareness of my regular behavior, and would have noticed a dramatic change.


The WCT is beautiful and challenging, and well worth the effort. However, it is not to be taken lightly. I feel my experience would have been vastly different had we taken 7 days, which is the average. However, even at our quick pace, we had the opportunity to see incredible vistas, countless animals and sea creatures and beautiful stretches of beach. Perhaps even more importantly, now we can boast the feat of having completed the West Coast Trail.

How Boosters Work

At Walco, our customers are constantly battling to obtain sufficient signal in remote locations. As discussed in our previous post, Telus is working to increase towers in remote locations to boost signal. However, many areas still suffer from this problem. This is part of why cellular boosters are a common requirement in Canada. However, there is a limited understanding of what these devices can do. People purchasing a booster may be disappointed with the results due to this lack of understanding.

Here are a few key things to know about boosters:

1)      Work with what’s available

Boosters are aptly named. They boost signal. If there is no signal, the booster will not work. Thus, it is key to identify a location in your vicinity that has some level of signal consistently. If this cannot be located, a booster will not offer a solution to your problem.

The level of signal available dictates how wide a coverage area will be created by the booster. If 5 bars can be located, the range of the booster will be much greater than if there are only 2 bars. It also dictates how powerful a booster may be required.

A booster has a set amount of amplification power, rated in decibels. In theory, an increase of 3 dB amounts to double power. However, many factors affect signal and amplification. Nevertheless, it is important to know the level of signal you are working with prior to purchasing a booster.

2)      Antennas, Antennas, Antennas

Antennas are required to transmit signal. Therefore, it is not surprising that antennas are required for boosters. Actually, two antennas are required, one inside and one outside.

For outside antennas, there are two main options. First, is an omnidirectional antenna, which receives and transmits in all directions. This is best suited when receiving some signal from multiple towers.  Second, is a ‘yagi’ or directional antenna. This antenna does not cover as much area; however, it receives and transmits for a much greater distance in the chosen direction. This is best suited when receiving signal from one tower.

Inside antennas broadcast the signal inside the building.

Another feature of antennas to keep in mind is minimum separation. For 50 dB in building boosters, a separation of at least 40 feet must be maintained. This is to prevent feedback. The booster itself does not need to be separated from the antennas, just the antennas themselves.

3)      Other Factors

The amount of signal you obtain from a booster is dependent on many factors including frequency, strength of signal outside, and building construction. Factors relating to building construction include the number of walls, and the construction materials used. This is an important consideration when determining where to place a booster or antenna.

4) Summary

Increasing signal can be a complicated affair. At Walco, we have a great deal of experience assisting people with determining the best product for their needs. Drop by or give us a call if you have any questions about Wilson or Smoothtalker boosters and how they can help.

CB Radio: The Basics

Citizen’s Band (CB) radio has long been a source of information, enjoyment and connection. The band has expanded and changed over time, originating with 23 channels and growing to 40 in the late 1970’s.[1] Of late, CB has become less and less favored as people move toward alternative technologies including cell phones and other radios.

Public Resource

A CB may be less fashionable than an iPhone; however, it remains a valuable tool for the public. CB or General Radio Service (GRS) is “exempt from licensing. Radio Standards Specification 136 (RSS-136) prescribes the technical requirements applicable to radio apparatus operating in the GRS.” Thus, CB is far more accessible than other frequencies, which are closely regulated by Industry Canada and require licensing. As such, CB is a public communications resource, especially during emergencies. For those who often drive in areas out of cellular coverage, or who may require information regarding changing road conditions- CB’s offer a back up system.[2] Further, in situations of emergency, ‘channel 9’ remains a place where people can communicate dire situations and obtain assistance.[3]

Basic and Valuable Skills

CB radio requires basic radio communications skills that are valuable as general knowledge. Just as it is beneficial to know CPR, or how to fix a flat tire, it is also beneficial to understand the basics of radio communication. Examples include the phonetic alphabet and procedure codes. Most people have vague knowledge of these facets of radio from the movies (10-4 sound familiar?). However, it can  be valuable and interesting to have this information on hand.

The phonetic alphabet is as follows: [4]

A Alfa

B Bravo

C Charlie

D Delta

E Echo

F Foxtrot

G Golf

H Hotel

I India

J Juliett

K Kilo

L Lima

M Mike

N November

O Oscar

P Papa

Q Quebec

R Romeo

S Sierra

T Tango

U Uniform

V Victor

W Whiskey

X X-ray

Y Yankee

Z Zulu

Procedure Codes are as follows:[5]

10-1 Receiving poorly.

10-2 Receiving well.

10-3 Stop transmitting.

10-4 OK, message received (acknowledgment).

10-5 Relay message.

10-6 Busy, please standby (unless urgent).

10-7 Out of service, leaving air.

10-8 In service, subject to call.

10-9 Repeat message.

10-10 Transmission completed, standing by.

10-11 Talking too quickly.

10-12 Visitors (non-CBers) present.

10-13 Advise weather and road conditions.

10-16 Make pick-up at . . .

10-17 Urgent business.

10-18 Anything for us? (Any assignment?)

10-19 Nothing for you, return to base or station.

10-20 My location is . . .

10-21 Call by telephone or get in touch (but not by radio).

10-22 Report in person to . . .

10-23 Standby.

10-24 Completed last assignment.

10-25 Can you contact . . .

10-26 Disregard last message.

10-27 I am moving to channel . . .

10-28 Identify your station.

10-29 Time is up for contact.

10-30 Does not conform to Industry Canada rules.

10-32 I will give you a radio check.

10-33 EMERGENCY at this station.

10-34 Trouble at this station, help needed.

10-35 Confidential information which cannot be discussed on radio.

10-36 Correct time is . . .

10-37 Wrecker needed at . . .

10-38 Ambulance needed at . . .

10-39 Your message delivered.

10-41 Moving to another channel. Please tune to channel . . .

10-42 Traffic accident at . . .

10-43 Traffic tie-up at . . .

10-44 I have a message for you . . .

10-45 All units within range, please report (or identify).

10-46 Assist motorist.

10-50 Break channel.

10-60 What is the next message number?

10-62 Unable to copy, use telephone.

10-63 Network directed to . . .

10-64 Network clear.

10-65 Awaiting next message (or assignment).

10-67 All units comply.

10-70 Fire at . . .

10-71 Proceed with transmission in sequence.

10-73 Speed trap at . . .

10-75 You are causing interference.

10-77 Negative contact.

10-81 Reserve hotel room at . . .

10-82 Reserve room for . . .

10-84 My telephone number is . . .

10-85 My address is . . .

10-89 Radio repairman needed at . . .

10-90 I have TVI (television interference).

10-91 Talk closer to microphone.

10-92 Your transmission is out of adjustment.

10-93 Check my frequency on this channel.

10-94 Please give me a long count.

10-95 Transmit dead carrier for 5 seconds.

10-99 Mission completed, all units secure.

10-100 Time out for rest room.

10-200 Police needed at . . .

Meeting New People

Finally, CB radios offer the possibility of communicating with people who aren’t on your Facebook. Hobbyists have long appreciated the ability to ‘meet’ people in this way. In our world of apps and efficiency it has quickly become forgotten that communications devices are supposed to increase communications, not hamper them.


CB still has a place in this world. It provides safety, requires basic and useful knowledge and generates connections between people.





[3] Ibid, note 1.

[4] Ibid, note 1.

[5] Ibid, note 1.

Huawei Smart Hub

 This week, we will take one step further in achieving signal in remote locations. Boosters and the Huawei Smart Hub work together to make the most of what signal is available. The Smart Hub can be set up in the same location as the booster, thereby receiving the strongest signal while allowing for maximum range.

Never heard of a Smart Hub? It is essentially a router for data signal. Simply plug the Smart Hub into a power source, connect to the Telus 4G network, and you have high speed internet for up to 32 devices. The Smart Hub is also telephone line compatible, acting as a portable home phone.


The Smart Hub requires its own Telus plan and SIM card. The SIM card is a onetime purchase concurrent with the Smart Hub. The plan options vary with costs relative to your particular needs. The benefit of these requirements is you can take your number and your data plan with you.

Telus notes the Smart Hub as ideal for those who:[1]

  • Live outside the range of ADSL or cable broadband access and want High Speed Internet;
  • Have a cottage or cabin and want High Speed Internet and home phone service services seasonally;
  • Frequent movers, renters and students who want to keep their home phone number and get online the same day they move in;
  • Want to quickly and easily setup connectivity without installation costs. Simply plug the device into an AC power source to get connected wherever there is TELUS 4G coverage;
  • Need to share data and provide connectivity to multiple users at a single location. You can connect up to 32 users via Wi-Fi with the latest Wi-Fi technology (802.11n).

 A further benefit of the Smart Hub is the support Telus provides for this product. The Telus site offers guidance on installation, resetting and updating your Smart Hub.[2] While this device is very simple to set up, outlined instructions take the guess work out of installation.

At Walco, we know how frustrating it can be struggling for signal. We have many customers who use this product concurrently with a booster to much success. We would be happy to help you establish if this product is right for you, and set you up with the right plan for your needs.




Stay In Touch This Summer: Cellular Boosters

As the weather grows warmer and the days grow longer, people begin to consider preparing cabins and trailers for summer use. Just what is necessary to be “up and running” has changed dramatically since the advent of cellular phones and internet. Many need to maintain coverage for business, or even just for emergencies.
Communication in this way has become an essential part of our lives, and many of us feel lacking without it. However, any BC resident knows that our beautiful province is also exceptionally difficult to cover. Our majestic mountains block towers, and our summer destinations often err on the side of remote.
This is exactly why cellular boosters offer so much to residents and vacationers in this province. Boosters act to increase weak cellular signal, thereby providing coverage in areas a cell phone alone would not work. At Walco, we are proud to carry Wilson Electronics products, offering a variety of boosters designed to tackle unique coverage concerns.
In-vehicle boosters are great for those with trailers or campers. Not only does this provide superior coverage when driving remote roads, but also increases signal once you have found the perfect camping spot. In-vehicle boosters come in three forms. The first option is wireless boosters. These boosters need not be connected to the cell phone or data device. Further, they are powerful enough to support multiple devices within the six foot range. The second option is a cradle, which acts as an antenna, charger and booster all in one. This is great for hands free operation.  The third option is ‘semi-wireless’, which attaches to the back of the device to provide a bump in signal.
In-building boosters are suitable for cabins and summer houses. Varying by space size, boosters offer customizable coverage. Small area boosters cover roughly the size of a small workspace or desk, and are plug and play. This can create a balance for those who want to maintain some feeling of being away from the hustle of emails and messages while on summer vacation, but wish to maintain a small access point in case of emergency. Mid-size area boosters provide coverage of a small room or office. This is useful for those who may work remotely or ensure they have a space to take important calls. Large-size area boosters are designed for houses or cabins. These provide coverage across your summer home, and reduce the need to go to a specific covered area. Large area boosters are designed for in-building installation, which allows for one time set up.

All devices require external antennas as part of installation. Walco has experience installing these devices, and would be happy to provide such services. As actual coverage areas may depend on the nature of the building and degree of signal, we would be happy to discuss your unique situation and find the best booster to suit your needs.