The West Coast Trail has many great places to stop and enjoy. Chez Monique unites east with west, right on the beach along the trail. This is a unique stop, offering some of the most missed things on this multi-day hiking adventure.
The 77 km of rugged west coast trail gives little relief from the grueling days of hiking. Backpacking along muddy trails, over and around constant obstacles builds appreciation of the finer things very quickly. The simplest things become pleasures along this hiking adventure. But most people do not really plan in the little pleasures that make it a great trip. Lucky for us hikers, there is a brief rest stop along the way.
Between Carmanah Creek and the Carmanah Light Station, Peter and Monique Nytom operate a restaurant called “Chez Monique” right off the beach at their home. Over the past few years, the couple has built up their garden to supply some of the food in the restaurant. Monique enrolled in a university farming and gardening program a couple of years ago to learn more about developing the west coast garden. They have enjoyed the help of Wwoofers since 2008 to build up and develop the garden further.
Chez Monique is an oasis in the middle of the rugged trail. Offering burgers, pop, beer, candy, and conversation, Monique and Peter give welcome relief to weary hikers at the 45 km mark. Camping on the beach near the restaurant is available, giving a second chance at conversation in the morning. Breakfast at Chez Monique, along with coffee or hot chocolate, tops off the stop, but makes it really hard to leave. Peter is a member of the Ditidaht band and Chez Monique is on one of their more remote reserves. Few of the Ditidaht people live on these remote reserves for more than a few months at a time, but Monique and Peter have been here year round for many years. This is starting to change as they age and need to be nearer to support. Monique is Metís, originally from the east, from French Canada, but has made her home on Vancouver Island, contributing significantly over the years to the Ditidaht and all the First Nations peoples over her adult life. Each year now is a question of whether this amazing restaurant will continue to exist as the couple gets older. They are hoping their children and grandchildren will continue their home and legacy.
Peter regularly gathers supplies from Port Refrew and fishes in his boat, while Monique sets the tone at the restaurant and garden. While Peter tends to quiet, Monique is outspoken and ready to converse about the area and politics at the drop of a toque, but is mostly mindful of taking care of the guests in the restaurant at any time. The Wwoofers have added a new dimension to the place, giving it an international character and creating more opportunities for conversation at a stopover at Chez Monique.
The meals are great, and very welcome if you have only brought dried food or Ramen noodles. A burger and a beer or pop is a reward for navigating about half the trail. Don’t expect to pay city prices here. The prices are a fair bit higher than in town, but of course, they have to get it there by boat. If you want to have a meal, a couple of drinks, coffee and breakfast in the morning, expect to throw out about $50 or more, so make sure you take enough money. Don’t forget the crab or salmon at the Nitinat ferry also. Expect another $30 to $40 there as well.
Heading north from Chez Monique, expect to take a side trip to Carmanah Light Station. If the tides are right, heading down the cliff at the end of the station to the beach, and off toward Dare Beach on the lower route. Heading south takes you to Carmanah Creek and then on to Bonilla Point toward Walbran Creek, and increasing difficulty on the trail.
Hiking the West Coast Trail is a challenge at any time. Once you have figured out the organization, the gear, the food, the clothing, and the fitness, there is the actual trail itself. Full of incredible scenery and experiences, the trail is a remarkable personal journey. A break from the inward, reflective nature of the hiking traverse happens at Chez Monique, with a brief interlude of great conversation, food, and beverage. Don’t miss it.