Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | September 1, 2016

Flagging or Trails?


Flagging or Trails?

Last fall, (September 16, 2015) the Vancouver Island Section of the Alpine Club of Canada sent out an e-mail which expressed some thoughts which are opposite to my own beliefs about how to lessen and contain human impact in Strathcona Park.

The portion of the e-mail which concerns me is as follows, with no changes or corrections by me:

Dear All,

As a result of concerns raised by a member  and  correspondence with  Andy Smith, the Strathcona Area Supervisor for BC Parks , we discussed flagging trails at our executive meeting on September 14th 2015 and I was asked to write a letter to all members setting out  the policy of BC Parks and our policy with regard to flagging.

A brief summary of BC Parks policy is as follows:

1.  Unless specifically authorised  no flagging should be left in BC Parks. It is considered as littering and is contrary to the Park Act and Regulations.

2.  Temporary use is permissible for safety purposes provided it is removed on the way out.

3.  The reason for the policy is that permanent flagging is essentially supporting a new trail which requires consideration of  the long term impact on the park whilst having visitors find their own way reduces the impact as there is less soil compaction and less vegetation disturbance as the same path is not followed over and over again.

I hope it’s unnecessary for me to state that my intent is not to criticize the Alpine Club, but I’ll state it anyway: I have the utmost respect for the Alpine Club, which I think is an extremely good organization.

Obviously, the intent of the e-mail is good: to lessen the effects of human impact on Strathcona Park, but my thoughts go in a different direction from the thoughts expressed in the e-mail.  First, I think that focussing on flagging directs our attention away from the real problem, which I believe is actually the cause of flagging in the first place.  In my view, the real problem in the park isn’t flagging, but the lack of a good, comprehensive trail system.  As more people use the park, this problem naturally becomes more acute.  One result of the lack of good trails is that more and more park users are forced to “find their own way,” with flagging being one result.  Another result is that several trails often appear where only one is needed, with a consequent doubling or tripling (or more) of human impact.

In past years (starting in the 1960s with the Marble Plateau Trail and people like Syd Watts who had extensive knowledge and experience of Strathcona Park) I’ve helped reconnoitre and build quite a number of trails in the park.  In my mind, the single greatest purpose of those trails was (and is) to limit and contain human impact.  Many of these trails have been limiting and containing human impact for more than 50 years.  They’ve been doing this cheaply, efficiently, and unobtrusively, 24 hours a day, without supervision, by simply channelling people into following the same path.  This is the least harmful method of allowing people to experience the beauties of Strathcona Park.  It effectively contains human impact (soil compaction and vegetative disturbance) to the very limited area of the trail.  If the trail is intelligently sited and constructed it works for any number of people, over and over again, virtually forever.

“Finding our own way,” spreading our impact and creating many trails instead of one, is not a solution where human impact is concerned.  It’s an obvious problem, which only grows larger and increasingly more visible as more people use our parks.  There are already many areas in Strathcona Park where this is sadly evident.  We need to contain our impact, not spread it.  Good, easy to follow trails do this very well.  Strathcona Park desperately needs a good system of  trails to contain and limit human impact.  With good trails, the flagging “problem” won’t exist.  This can clearly be seen in the park wherever there are adequate trails.

In addition to what I’ve already said about trails, I think it’s critical that trails are planned, laid out, and constructed by people with adequate experience and knowledge of the unique conditions of weather, terrain, vegetation, et cetera, in Strathcona Park.  Without this experience and knowledge, trails can easily create as many problems (erosion, et cetera) as they solve.  The badly eroded trails on the Forbidden Plateau and the trail to Bedwell Lake are obvious examples.  The Marble Plateau Trail (planned, laid out, and built by volunteers) is an example of a trail which has suffered almost no erosion or other maintenance problems for more than 50 years.  The trail to Arnica Lake also seems to be holding up well, with minimal maintenance.  I believe these examples (and others), both good and bad, should be studied closely  to determine why some trails in Strathcona Park hold up over time, and others break down, often relatively quickly.  This only makes sense and would hopefully result in fewer mistakes, like those found in the plateau and around Bedwell Lake.  Incidentally, we might look to the elk for some useful tips. They’ve been using the same trails (following the same paths, over and over again) in the park for thousands of years with virtually no erosion damage.

With proper planning, and with the use of volunteers and the knowledge of people with years of actual experience in the park, I believe a good, comprehensive trail system could be created for amazingly little money.  This would be nothing new for Strathcona, it would merely be a continuation of what volunteers have done cheaply and efficiently for the park in the past.

So far, for more than a century, governments have been very poor stewards of Strathcona Park, with haphazard, thoughtless, and lacklustre attempts at “management” including mining, logging, and damming.  I believe it’s now time for some real thinking about how to care for the park we love.  Chasing after flagging is probably not harmful in itself, but it does essentially nothing toward solving any of the much more real problems facing the park.  Like many other human impacts upon the park (campfires, for instance, that are still visible in the alpine after almost 100 years), flagging is impossible to police.  Controlling such human impacts depends upon people themselves being taught how to properly care for this wonderful natural gift which governments have been neglecting and abusing for so many years.  This would mean (in conjunction with practical initiatives such as planning and making good trails) creating and implementing more educational opportunities like the interpretive programs and hikes already being conducted by volunteers from the Strathcona Wilderness Institute.

I believe it’s time to create and implement a very different way to administer Strathcona Park than the administrative model which has been so destructive to the park in the past.  It’s time to invent a new system which really works for the benefit of the park and the people who care for it.  I believe it’s time for those of us who actually know Strathcona Park to have a major role in the planning and decision making for a better future for the park we love.  One concrete, practical way to begin would be by creating a good, comprehensive trail system, which the park so badly needs.


PS  Sorry, the photos above should have been here, but computer ineptitude got in my way.  The first three photos are of  the trail from Arnica Lake to the Golden Hinde which was created at no cost with virtually no planning by people travelling to the Golden Hinde by the simplest, most sensible route.  Initially there was flagging, which kept everyone on pretty much the same path.  Where there weren’t sufficient ribbons, people followed several different paths, creating more trails and impacting more soil and vegetation than necessary.  Thankfully, the differing paths were kept to a minimum.  The ribbons are now mostly gone but the path remains, with no erosion or other problems worth mentioning.

Contrast the first three photos with the second three: one from the Forbidden Plateau, two from the trail to Bedwell Lake.  These trails were poorly sited and very costly to build, and the Forbidden Plateau Trails were further impacted for many years by commercial horse use.  The Bedwell Lake Trail required dangerous metal staircases which the snow destroyed, and  the trail quickly developed massive erosion problems which are increasing more rapidly every year.

Park users themselves, simply by confining their impact to one path, and not “finding their own way” (or many ways as happens when paths are inadequately marked or not marked at all) have obviously done a much better job at no cost with basically no planning.  With some intelligent planning, things could be even better.  Obviously the park would be much better off if a system was in place which welcomed knowledgeable park users into the planning and construction process instead of placing bureaucratic hurdles in their way, as is now the case.

Trails (and other park systems) don’t need to be poorly planned and constructed, and they don’t need to be hugely expensive.  What’s needed is a park system which welcomes knowledgeable park users into the planning and construction process.  Such a system would require some reconstruction of the provincial park management system, and even some important reconstruction of the BC Park Act, but it would certainly result in better, more sensibly managed provincial parks.

If anyone is interested in working to create a better provincial park management system, please let me know.  I believe it’s worth discussing, at least.





















Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | August 27, 2016

CWR Bedwell Commercial Horse Trail Plans No More

Friends of Strathcona Park (FOSP) have been fighting the intrusive commercial horse trail in the Bedwell Valley for 12 years.  It was an idiotic and impractical idea to begin with and Clayoquot wilderness Resort (CWR) finally figured it out, with no help from BC Parks officials.

The dude ranch in the park concept appears to have been mainly the misguided fantasy of a former country rock band manager from Toronto who is now reported to have moved on from CWR.

It could easily have been stopped 12 years ago by the BC Parks Department, but it wasn’t.  Instead, the park permit granting process continued steadily on, including changes to the Strathcona Park Master Plan to allow the operation, always against heavy public opposition, and eventually a park use permit was given to CWR.

The next step was for CWR to present a plan for their operation in the park to the Parks Department.  An engineering survey was probably needed to prepare a plan, because engineering flagging appeared along the fantasy horse trail in the Bedwell recently.  I believe this is the very first time in 12 years that the fantasy was actually subject to knowledgeable, realistic scrutiny.  The engineering outfit must have told CWR how stupid, expensive, and totally impractical the dude ranch idea in a coastal rain forest valley (perpetual annual winter floods, washouts, avalanches, etcetera) actually was.  Very quickly, CWR abandoned the project and their park use permit has now been cancelled.

Of course, it should never have been granted in the first place, but that’s politics in the BC Park system.  After a hard and unnecessary 12 year fight, the Bedwell Valley now appears safe, at least until the next commercial threat comes along.  The government allowed the valley to be logged in the 1960s and 70s, and then dumped it from the park in the 1980s, (they said it had low park value because it had been logged) and the valley was put back into the park as a result of the Strathcona Blockade of 1988 (politics, you know).  The timber is now very slowly coming back.  In a few hundred years, it’ll be just like it was before the government (Parks Department) allowed it to be logged.

Will governments leave it alone for long enough for the trees to grow back?  Probably not, if the past (including the latest episode with CWR) is any guide.  So far, money and politics have played a much bigger part in BC Provincial Parks than any other factor. The future isn’t looking much different.  As usual, we (the voting public) can only wait and see…









Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | February 8, 2016

Trail System For Strathcona Park?

A Good Trail System For Strathcona Park?

(Click on link for map at bottom of article.)

This map is not 100% accurate, and it’s not intended as a trail guide.  Its purpose is to show to show the large number of trails created by park users in Strathcona Park.  BC Parks has never had funds to create trails in Strathcona (other than a few short trails to points of interest close to roads), so the bulk of trails in the park have been created by hikers themselves.

Its not always clear why BC Parks chooses whether or not to officially recognize a trail.  On this map, most of the trails outlined in black are hiker-created, and all are officially recognized.  All of the trails outlined in red are hiker-created, but it’s sometimes unclear which ones are officially recognized and which aren’t.  A few hiker-created trails might be missing from the map, since more are appearing all the time.

Some hiker-created trails are well marked and easy to follow, others aren’t.  Some are sporadically marked with ribbons and cairns, some aren’t.  BC Parks maps show some hiker-created trails but not others.  Some trails are good, some are bad, some are downright ugly.  Governments have never done anything to create a trail system for the park, and the “system” on the map is the inevitable result.  If it weren’t for trails created by park users, Strathcona would have almost no trails at all.

The purpose of this article is to see if people are interested in creating a coherent, practical, low-impact system of trails in Strathcona Park.  I believe a good, easy to follow trail system is urgently needed to allow people to enjoy and appreciate the park with minimal human impact.

Trails do this by confining human impact to the smallest area possible.  If people can see a trail they follow it, especially if they know it’ll take them where they want to go.  By following the trail, they automatically confine their own impact to the specific area of the trail. This happens with no supervision and no enforcement, as long as the trail is easy to follow.  If it’s hard to follow, people lose it, and blunder around trying to find it again.  They then impact large areas, create false trails, and totally defeat the purpose of the original trail.

This is currently happening in Strathcona Park.  If there’s no trail, people take the easiest route they can find.  As more people follow the same route, a definable path appears.  If the path isn’t easy to follow, people to lose it and blunder around, impacting large areas, creating false trails, and the cycle continues.  Park officials call the trails “routes” and tear down ribbons and other markings, but this isn’t a solution.  It actually makes things worse.  With the markings removed, more people lose the trail, blunder around, impact more areas, create more false trails, and on and on.

The real solution is to provide Strathcona Park with a good trail system.  Governments have had more than a century to do this in Strathcona, but as the map shows, they haven’t done it.   Will the next century be any different?  It certainly doesn’t look like it at this point.

But there might be another way — low cost, low impact, and very practical.  Park users — mainly hiking and mountaineering clubs — have built good trails in the park in the past.  These trails are almost all of the best trails in the park.  They’re still in use today, quietly and efficiently limiting and containing human impact, exactly as they’re supposed to, exactly as they’ve always done.

These trail have worked so well for one main reason: they were planned and sited by people who had years of experience in the park.  In practical matters, experience is often better than money, as these trails clearly show.  They’re wisely sited and they’re only wide enough for one person, which allowed them to be built with minimal ground disturbance and consequently minimal erosion.  Their width also made them quick and easy to build at very low cost.

Normal people with normal talents and intelligence (and an adequate pool of people with adequate experience and knowledge) can certainly plan and implement a coherent, comprehensive, practical, low cost trail system for Strathcona Park. The groundwork was put in place a long time ago by people who knew and loved the park.  Most of those people are gone now, but there’s a fresh crop of sufficiently experienced people today who know and love the park just as much, who are quite capable of continuing where they left off.

Good trails lessen and contain human impact, in accordance with the main theme of the Strathcona Park Master Plan.  Unplanned trails of all types are now springing up all over Strathcona Park.  A planned system of trails is obviously needed, and the likelihood of a government-created system is basically nil.  Experienced and knowledgeable park users can create such a system if government will allow it — a big question.

Park users created good trails in Strathcona Park in the past.  Park users today can do the same — if they’re allowed to.  Trail work is fun, believe it or not.  There’s always a place for everyone, and it’s a chance to give something to the park.  On the other hand, dealing with governments isn’t fun for most people, including me.  I’m hoping there’s someone out there willing to help with this.

If you’re interested, please send an e-mail to me, Karl Stevenson — particularly if you love negotiating with government officials.

I may not always reply to e-mails immediately — sometimes I’m away for several weeks — but I will reply.

A huge thank you to Tim Penney for the map.  —–  Link for map mentioned in article

I thought I’d better add a few things to my latest ramble.

The Bedwell Centennial Trail may not be the best name for the volunteer trail (or route, or whatever it is) but it must be differentiated somehow from the trail (or route, or whatever) which was built by Friends of Strathcona Park (FOSP) in cooperation with BC Parks in the 1990s. Also, it must be differentiated somehow from the commercial trail proposed by the Clayoquot Wilderness Resort (CWR) which will hopefully never be built.

The logging approved by BC Parks in the Bedwell (which took place in the 1960s and 70s) went as far up the Bedwell as what we now call “the Slide”. From the ocean, the logging road followed the left bank of the river until it crossed the river to the right bank just above the present Gayle McGee bridge. It then stayed on the right bank until it crossed back to the left bank at what is presently called “the Living bridge”(so-called because it’s covered with a growth of young trees). The road then stayed on the left bank until it crossed to the right bank just upstream from Ashwood Creek, and stayed on the right bank until it reached the Slide, some distance above You Creek.

By 1974, the Bedwell Valley was a massive logging slash, from the park boundary to the Slide, with branches off the main logging road stretching up several valleys, and around four bridges crossing the Bedwell River. In 1987, BC Parks chopped Strathcona Park in half and dumped the Bedwell (now a sad sea of massive stumps) from Strathcona Park, saying it had “low park value” because it had been logged.

At the same time, BC Parks created an industrial zone where industrial operations (such as exploratory drilling by mining companies) was permitted. This zone (which they called a “Recreation Area”) stretched from Buttle Lake (and included areas such as Cream Lake) to the Bedwell Valley, which they’d excluded from the park.

The 1988 Strathcona Blockade (a long, very unpleasant story in itself) forced the government to remove the industrial corridor and return the Bedwell to the park. In the 1990s, the Friends of Strathcona Park built what was called the Oinmitis Trail from Bedwell Lake to the ocean, in hopes that it would forestall further government actions against the park. Incidentally, a chastened government (not for long,of course) at that time worked together with people who loved the park for non-commercial reasons, and actually helped with the Oinmitis Trail.

Oinmitis is spelled various ways in English, but I believe it was the name of the people who originally lived on what is now called the Bedwell River. I think Oinmitis means “bear” and the Bedwell River was called the Bear River before it was given the relatively meaningless name of Bedwell. I’m going on memory here, so don’t take my word on all this. For a more accurate version, google “Oinmitis”, or better yet, talk to a knowledgeable native person.

Anyway, when FOSP made the original Oinmitis Trail, they followed the logging road, which, of course, followed the easiest ground, but not the most scenic. Miles of trudging through old logging slash on decrepit logging roads isn’t something most people find particularly interesting or spiritually uplifting.

When CWR came on the scene, bought the property at the mouth of the Bedwell and started looking around for things for their dude ranch clients to do, they hit upon the idea of building horse trails up the old roadbed into Strathcona Park, and started lobbying the government for permission to do so. I won’t go into all the sordid details of what followed, but the history of Strathcona Park is full of similar stories (the logging of the Bedwell is only one of many such cases) where entrepreneurs have been permitted to try their luck in the park.  Of course CWR got their permit.

Back to the Bedwell Centennial Trail. From Ashwood Creek down to the Living Bridge, it doesn’t follow the old logging road, which means it travels through the few remaining sections of old growth timber in the Bedwell, Valley. On a practical note, it avoids expensive bridges across the Bedwell River (all the old logging bridges have fallen into the river except the Living Bridge, and it’s going soon) and the perennial washout areas where large sections of the old road have vanished completely.

BC Parks insists on calling these vanished areas “road corridor” because the original fiction was that the proposed commercial horse trail wouldn’t be harmful because it would be built on the old logging road bed.  When BC Parks discovered that huge chunks of the old road had disappeared, “road bed” suddenly became “road corridor”.  “Road corridor” seems to be a fairly vague and flexible term, but when looking at the existing ground, (or lack of it) where road has become river, it appears to mean something like “river bed” in current BC Parks lingo.

The Strathcona Park Master Plan (created as a result of the Strathcona Blockade, but with no legal power, unfortunately) stresses minimal human impact for Strathcona Park.  Commercial dude ranch operations aren’t minimal. As I said in a previous ramble, minimal impact means travelling gently through the park on our own two feet.

Luckily, the Bedwell Valley still has a few areas which have never been subjected to human moneymaking schemes. The Bedwell Centennial Trail traverses several of these precious places.  I hope the Centennial Trail will somehow combat the historic willingness of governments to invite hopeful moneymakers into Strathcona Park to try out their damaging schemes.

Now a few practical words about the trail. Going toward the ocean, the Bedwell Centennial Trail leaves the logging behind when it reaches the top of the Notch after crossing Ashwood Creek. (Whenever the trail climbs, it generally leaves the logging behind. When it returns to the river, it also returns to the logging, but the river is a magnificent wild force on its own, which is actively removing the signs of human exploitation, so it’s usually possible to imagine the valley as it once was.

The trail rejoins the logging road just below the Living Bridge, and follows the remains of the road to the Gayle McGee Bridge, where the road become drivable to the ocean. The section of old road from the Living Bridge almost to the Gayle McGee Bridge has never been brushed out, (salmon berry bushes) and there are two fairly major washouts. Hikers must negotiate the washouts and return to the old roadbed to continue toward the ocean. A short distance before the Gayle McGee Bridge, the old road reaches a much more defined road which leads down toward a short, obvious trail to the Gayle McGee Bridge which crosses the Bedwell. There’s a very nice camping place across the river just below the bridge.

For those hiking up from the ocean, after crossing the Gayle McGee Bridge, a short section (maybe a minute or two?) of trail leads to the well defined road which goes uphill past where the old logging road (not well defined, salmon berries) branches off to the left, leading toward the Living Bridge. It’s important to keep an eye out, and not miss the turnoff onto the old road (salmon berries) which is quite often marked with a ribbon or two. Some distance up the old road is a sign marking the Strathcona Park Boundary, letting you know you’re on the right track.

One more thing. Drinking water has never been a problem before, but it may be this year. For most of the distance from Alpine to Ocean, (maybe a better name for the trail than Centennial Trail, but…) there are camping places and water at reasonably convenient intervals, but that may not be so at the point where the Centennial Trail reaches the old logging road just downstream from the Living Bridge. The creek here has washed out the old road. The creek is dry at the washout, but water can often be found upstream in pools where the creek crosses bedrock. For me, carrying one litre of water is usually sufficient, but in present conditions, in places where water availability is doubtful, it may be advisable to carry two litres.

I know I’ve said this stuff about water and salmon berries before, in slightly different words.  As I said, I lost it and found it again.  I’ll leave it here in hopes that a little repetition won’t hurt.

That’s it for now. Good luck and best wishes, Karl.

Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | July 4, 2015

A Bit More…

I thought I should add a few things.

Water. For the most part, water and camping places are available at reasonably convenient intervals. One place where water might be a problem is where the Bedwell Centennial Trail joins the old logging road, downstream from the Living Bridge. There is a possible camping place here (not particularly pleasant, but flat) but water may not be available. The old road is washed out here, and the creek in the washout is dry. However, there’s often water upstream in pools where the creek crosses bedrock.

Usually, I’ve carried one litre between spots where water is available, and it’s been enough for me; perhaps not for others. In present conditions, in doubtful spots, it may be advisable to carry two litres.

Brush, salmon berries. The old road downstream from the Living Bridge is easy to follow, but it’s never been brushed out. There are also two fairly major washouts where it’s necessary to negotiate the washouts and return to the old roadbed. This section of road is somewhat nasty, but not too long. (I don’t really remember, but perhaps an hour or so?)

For those hiking up from the ocean, it’s important not to miss the left turn onto the old roadbed and into the salmon berries some distance after crossing the Gayle McGee Bridge. After crossing the bridge there’s a short section of trail, then a fairly well defined road. The road continues on and eventually turns downhill. If you get to where the road turns downhill, you’ve gone too far, the turnoff is behind you. The turnoff is usually marked by a ribbon or two in an area where the defined road is still trending upward. The old road should be visible as an avenue of sorts through the alders, and is fairly level where it leads away from the well defined road you are leaving. The park boundary is some distance along the old road, marked by a sign.

I hope this is reasonably clear and helpful. Good luck and best wishes, Karl.

Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | July 3, 2015

Bedwell Trail 2015 Update

Dear People

Sometime, either late in 2014, or early in 2015, someone brushed out and remarked the Bedwell Centennial Trail. It’s now in good shape and should be easy to follow by people in reasonably good condition with a reasonable amount of trail smarts.

The Comox District Mountaineering Club (CDMC) website has a good map and a link to the original trail guide I wrote a few years ago. My original guide has some photos and maps as well. Go to ROUTES, then BIG MAP, then click on the red “B” at the head of Bedwell Sound. I could see no names of creeks, etc., on this map, but many names can be seen on the maps which are found by clicking on the link to my original trail guide.

Some things have changed in the few years since the guide was first written, mostly due to our drastically warming climate. For instance, there is absolutely no snow on the “Snow Slide” of the original guide, and Ashwood Creek is bone dry, so no camping.  Water and campsites are available on the Bedwell River close by.

To get there, follow the old logging road to where it used to cross the river, just upstream from where Ashwood Creek flows (or used to flow) into the Bedwell.  There are some usable campsites on the river, and some on the old road bed.  To regain the Centennial Trail, go back a short distance (a few minutes) on the old road to the well marked turn-off where the trail takes an overgrown branch road to cross Ashwood Creek and head up into the Notch.

From the place where it crosses the river, the old logging road stays on the opposite bank until it crosses back at the Living Bridge (soon to collapse into the Bedwell like all the other logging bridges which have long since been eaten by the river, along with much of the old road) further downstream.  The Bedwell Centennial Trail avoids expensive and problematic bridges by staying on the same side of the river all the way from Bedwell lake to the park boundary, only crossing the river a short distance from the ocean.

Please remember that the Bedwell Centennial Trail was built as a protest against the planned commercial exploitation of the Bedwell Valley by Clayoquot Wilderness Resort (CWR) as allowed by BC Parks.  Commercial exploitation isn’t new to the Bedwell Valley.  BC Parks opened the valley to clear cut logging in the 1960s, and then dumped it from the park in 1987, saying it had “low park value” because it had been logged. They were forced to return the Bedwell to the park after the Strathcona Blockade of 1988, in which 64 people were arrested.

Several years ago, when CWR started petitioning the government to be allowed to build a horse trail into the valley for their clients, the government began claiming that it was necessary to allow CWR into the park to build a trail.

To show that it wasn’t necessary, the Bedwell Centennial Trail was built by volunteers. The trail has been in use by hikers ever since.  Meanwhile, the government never deviated from its goal, and eventually CWR received a Park Use Permit, but the scheme of moving a dude ranch operation into a west coast rainforest valley in a provincial park seems harebrained at best, so we’ll see.

In a sense, using the trail is a political act.   The very existence of the non-commercial, low-impact Bedwell Centennial Trail shows that commercial exploitation isn’t needed or wanted by non-commercial users of Strathcona Park.

Unfortunately, the trail goes through obvious evidence of past commercial exploitation. Massive stumps are all that remain of the beautiful ancient forests in this once pristine valley. But the valley is slowly regaining its wild nature and the river removes more evidence of human destruction every year.

A taste of what the valley was once like can be experienced in several places on the Centennial Trail, most notably in the area of “the Notch”. The hike up into the Notch from Ashwood Creek is, unfortunately, through old logging slash, made more difficult by logs cut and left to rot by logging companies, but the hike down from the Notch to Sundew lake is entirely different.

For some reason, this area wasn’t “harvested”, so it’s possible to experience what the whole valley was like before BC Parks opened it to logging.  The huge Firs, Cedars, and Hemlocks still stand here, just as they’ve been standing for centuries, unmolested and unexploited.  They stand silently, filling the space around them with the unexplainable, timeless aura of wild places.  For many people, this is the most memorable part of their hike.

To me, this is what parks are about, not commercial exploitation.

I’ll finish this update by saying that I believe we could eliminate almost all of the most intrusive and harmful uses of our parks if we followed one very simple rule: FOOT TRAVEL ONLY.  I believe this rule should be followed in the Bedwell Valley.

I wish you happy hiking. If you have any questions, ask away, I’ll do my best to answer. Thanks, Karl.

  Bedwell Trail Update, August 2014

Unfortunately, someone has recently removed most of the ribbons marking the Bedwell Centennial Trail.  The identity of this “someone” isn’t hard to guess.   As long as the Centennial Trail exists and is being used and enjoyed by hikers, it hurts the government claim that a commercial trail is necessary.  Obviously a trail CAN be created for non-commercial reasons by non-commercial park users.  At the present time, despite the removal of many ribbons, the Bedwell Centennial Trail is still usable, and it’s still being used, but it’s not as easy to follow over its entire length as it was when the ribbons were in place.  The trail also needs some maintenance clipping in spots where salmon berry bushes have put out new growth.  Until improvements are made, it’s not a trail for less savvy hikers.  Hopefully this will be a temporary situation.  

For me, the Bedwell Centennial Trail is, and always has been, a political trail.  Ever since the government opened the valley to logging, then dumped it from the park “because it had no park value because it had been logged,” then were forced to return it to the park after the Strathcona Blockade of 1988, I’ve enjoyed watching the Bedwell Valley gradually healing itself from the massive commercial impacts which have been inflicted upon it.

In the years since the Bedwell was clear-cut logged, it’s felt very good to look down from the surrounding heights and see the forces of nature steadily working to destroy the old logging bridges and large sections of the defunct logging road.  It’s been good for my spirit to watch the valley gradually covering the huge, ugly logging scars with new trees.  I’ve enjoyed thinking that perhaps, if we left it alone for a few hundred years, the Bedwell Valley might once again become what it was; a beautiful, wild, west coast rainforest valley, with wolves, bears, and herds of elk free to carry out their lives, without being messed about by humans. 

The Bedwell Valley, like most of Strathcona Park, has endured a rough history.

After having spent most of my life in the park trying to ignore industrial garbage, blast holes, logging slashes, logged and dammed lakes, discarded fuel drums, entire abandoned mining camps with tons of rusting machinery leaking various fluids, it’s become obvious to me that the government idea of the purpose of Strathcona Park is much different than mine.  Governments pretend otherwise for political reasons, but their actions (and the garbage, clear-cuts, and other gruesome reminders) speak for themselves. 

It’s impossible to ignore the fact that almost every government action, since Strathcona Park was created in 1911, has been directed toward opening the park to commercial and industrial interests.  The physical damage is plainly seen in almost every corner of the park.  Historically, whenever someone produced a scheme for making money from the park, governments have always been quick to open the way.

This happened recently when government altered the Strathcona Park Master Plan to allow a commercial operation into the Bedwell Valley.  Clayoquot Wilderness Resort (CWR) wanted to extend their dude ranch operation into the park, and petitioned the government for permission.  The resort wanted to build a high-impact horse trail into the Bedwell for the use of their clients.  A foot trail already existed, but it had been closed by the government because a vital link in the trail (the last remaining logging bridge across the Bedwell River) was on the verge of collapsing into the river.

Leaving aside the question of whether the proposed high-impact trail was needed or wanted by anyone but the resort, the government said the resort proposal was the only feasible way to make a trail in the Bedwell.  Building and maintaining the trail and the vital bridge, government said, was too expensive – the government said it had no funds for parks – and impossible for volunteers.  

This was the government line, but non-commercial park users thought otherwise.  They believed that, after years of commercial abuse, the valley deserved to be free from high-impact commercial operations.  They agreed with the Strathcona Park Master Plan which (even after it was altered by the government to open the way for the resort/dude ranch proposal) held that Minimal Human Impact was an essential guiding principle for Strathcona Park.

I believe that the government was mostly wrong, but they were right that huge bridges like the one the loggers needed (and a horse trail would require) are very costly, probably too costly for volunteers.  But a volunteer built trail was far from impossible.  The solution was actually quite simple.  The volunteer trail builders figured it out quickly.  There was no need for a volunteer trail to cross the river.  Voila.  If the trail doesn’t cross the river, a costly, intrusive bridge becomes unnecessary and irrelevant.  After weeks of intensive scouting, volunteers laid out a scenic route which skirted numerous bluffs and other obstacles, and stayed on the southeast side of the Bedwell River, all the way from Bedwell Lake to the Strathcona Park boundary.  Downstream from the park, not far from the ocean, the trail makes one river crossing, on an existing bridge.      

As I said earlier, the Bedwell Centennial Trail is a political trail.  Stopping governments isn’t easy, as many of us learned during the Strathcona Blockade of 1988, but sometimes it’s possible.  The Bedwell Trail was built in an effort to stop the government from opening the Bedwell Valley to yet another intrusive commercial enterprise.  Despite the government line, it’s not necessary to invite high-impact commercial operations into the park.  Volunteers CAN build a trail in the Bedwell.  They did it.  The trail is there.  Of course the government (or someone connected with government – isn’t transparency wonderful?) would like it gone.  As long as the trail exists and is being used by the public, it shows that (despite the government line) it’s not necessary to allow a commercial outfit to build a high-impact commercial trail into the park for commercial purposes.  The Bedwell Centennial Trail (or Alpine to Ocean Trail, call it what you will) is a practical, low-impact, non-commercial, easily maintained trail, and it’s entirely built by volunteers and hasn’t cost the public a cent.  So far, unfortunately, the trail hasn’t achieved its political objective, but who knows?  

Meanwhile, for those who feel so inclined, it might be helpful to send your thoughts on the situation to wherever (or whomever) you think will do the most good.  Remember, letters sent to government are never seen again.  If you do the work of writing a letter, please use it fully.  Send it where it might be seen by others.  Send it to newspapers, etcetera, as well as government.  There’s a list of possible recipients on the FOSP web-site.  I thank you.  Karl Stevenson.  

Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | August 2, 2012

Bedwell Trail Guide

A Very Small Bit of Bedwell Valley History

Strathcona Park has a long history of commercial exploitation.  Corporations have always done the damage, but governments have always been to blame.  it’s simple.  Corporations aren’t supposed to protect parks, governments are.  If government doesn’t open the doors, corporations can’t move in.

In the Bedwell,  the government opened the doors to mining and logging, then dumped the valley from the park, saying it had low park value because it had been logged. The Strathcona Blockade of 1988 forced them to put the Bedwell back.  Since then, the valley has been slowly healing itself.  In a few hundred years it’ll be as good as new.  It simply requires us to leave it alone.

This isn’t happening.  The government has been working to open the Bedwell Valley to yet another commercial operation.  This one, (Clayoquot Wilderness Resort) is owned (according to Google) by Richard Genovese and “the Genovese Family Trust.”  Google describes Richard as a “venture capitalist” originally from Toronto and Monaco.  I’ve tried to learn more about Richard and the Genovese Family Trust but I’ve been spectacularly unsuccessful.  I find this disturbing.  Why is it so hard to learn anything about who and what our government seems so determined  to allow into Strathcona Park?

Volunteers have worked hard for years creating the Bedwell Centennial Trail as a practical model of a low-disturbance trail suitable for the Bedwell Valley.   Now the government has granted a permit to Clayoquot Wilderness Resort to build a high-impact, high-disturbance commercial trail.  This is being fought in court.

It remains to be seen whether the commercial trail will ever be built.  The financial powers behind the resort may finally realize (even if the government doesn’t) that the project makes no practical or financial sense, and, if it’s built, it’ll clearly be harmful to the park.  West coast rain forest valleys are poor locations for luxury dude ranches.  The resort has already suffered major flood damage, and it’ll suffer more.

Major erosion is constant.  A horse trail along the river will disappear in chunks, exactly like the old logging roads and bridges.  The river’s been working for years to eliminate all signs of destructive human activity in the Bedwell, and it won’t stop.  The valley is sending an obvious message.  I believe we should listen.  Hello, government?  Hello?

Location Map

Some Points About the Trail

The trail begins near the parks camp site (tent platforms) on Bedwell Lake.  From there, it basically follows the left side of the Bedwell River (going downstream) until it crosses over to the right side on the Gayle McGee bridge.  It then stays on the right side of the river all the way to the head of Bedwell Inlet.

The Bedwell Valley is rough and wild.  Snow often stays late into the summer at higher elevations and the trail crosses one semi-permanent snow slide.  The Bedwell River and the creeks feeding into it can rise very quickly during any large rainfall, so beware.  Thankfully, they usually fall equally quickly once rain stops.

In general, the last few weeks in August and the first week or so in September are usually the best times to plan a trip down the Bedwell, because water levels are at their lowest.  In times of high water, almost any creek may rise enough to stop travel.  In low water, all creeks (except possibly K2 Creek) should be safe to wade.  Sam Craig Creek generally appears to carry less water, and should be easy to wade almost any time from late July into early September.  K2 Creek, You Creek, and Ashwood Creek are currently spanned by logs or log jams, which might change or vanish during any winter.

The trail basically goes where the country allows it to go.  Sometimes rock bluffs or other obstructions funnel travellers ( both two legged and four) into one route.  Often the trail follows the elk, which have been travelling up and down this valley for centuries.  There are muddy sections, rocky sections, steep sections, and marshy sections.  The valley was logged up to about where the snow slide crosses the trail, so the trail intermittently follows old logging roads (where they exist) from this point down.

At present, the trail and route are marked with ribbons, all the way from Bedwell Lake to where the trail joins the old logging road just downstream from the “Living Bridge.”  The trail has been brushed out and almost all windfalls have been removed, except where the government wouldn’t give permission to do this between Ashwood Creek and Sam Craig Creek.

Bedwell Climate and Topography

The Bedwell Valley is similar to most valleys in Strathcona Park in that it’s narrow and steep, particularly in the upper sections.  The Bedwell River flows from Bedwell Lake (at the height of land) entirely through mountains which face the Pacific Ocean.  These two factors (narrow and steep, facing the Pacific) guarantee major precipitation and rapid runoff.

With sufficient rain, the Bedwell River can become a fearsome torrent in a very short time.  Rises of eight feet and more (particularly lower down on the river) aren’t uncommon.

Why the Troute Stays Most of the Way on the Left Side (Going Down) of the River

1) The troute avoids all potentially dangerous Bedwell River crossings.  It crosses the river only once, closer to the ocean on the existing Gayle McGee bridge.  Also, the more dangerous side creeks are on the other side of the river.  The creeks on the left side are much easier to cross.

2) The troute is often safely above the reach of the river which is so efficiently destroying the old logging road which follows the flats on the right side.

3) By going higher, the troute often avoids areas frequented by elk and other animals, lessening human disturbance.

4) By staying higher, the troute passes through several areas of old growth timber which escaped logging.  We can truly appreciate what the valley was like before it was logged.  Going higher also gives us some wonderful views of the valley and mountains, different vegetation, and one encouraging glimpse of our destination, the ocean.

The Trail Guide

The troute actually begins near the BC Parks campsite and tent platforms on Bedwell Lake, reached via the Bedwell Lake trail.

The Bedwell Lake Trailhead is reached by turning left off the pavement (which goes to the mine on Myra Creek) onto a gravel side road shortly after crossing Thelwood Creek near the head of Buttle Lake.  This is the Jim Mitchell Lake road, which is where the historic Strathcona Blockade began in January, 1988.  The road is a very steep industrial road, built by the mine to reach their hydro dam on Jim Mitchell Lake.  The road may be in poor condition, requiring at least front wheel drive, possibly more.

The times given in the guide are from recent trips done by reasonably fit people of varying ages and abilities, with reasonably heavy (40-55 pound) packs,  travelling from alpine to ocean, not vice versa.  Obviously, the times may not match your times.  If you’re faster, no problem.  If you’re slower, especially a lot slower, you might think about allowing yourself more time, or perhaps choosing another trip.

The first leg, from the Bedwell Lake Trailhead to Bedwell Lake, should give some idea of how fast or slow you are compared to the times given.  I think it’s important from many perspectives, including safety, to find and maintain a pace which is comfortable for you, not someone else.  A few strong people will run all the way to the beach in one day.  Most won’t.  I think a good, reasonably moderate time from Bedwell Lake to saltwater might be about four days.

An Attempt to Explain “Troute”

From now on, in the actual guide, I’ll often use the word “troute” to refer to what I’ve so far called the Bedwell Centennial Trail.  To me, a troute is  somewhere between a route and a trail.  Sometimes it’s more of a trail, sometimes it’s more of a route, and sometimes it’s something in between.  I also call troutes “gentle trails,” because a good troute moves through the country as gently as possible.  I think the Bedwell Centennial Trail qualifies as a gentle trail, or troute, especially since we originally created it in hopes of protecting the park from the threat of a hugely brutal commercial horse trail.

My Thoughts on “Gentle Trails” or “Troutes”

In general, I don’t think wide trails suit many areas in Strathcona very well.  A narrow trail can easily (and gently) go many places a wide trail can’t.  In a park like Strathcona, if we decide our trails must be wide, we drastically limit  where the trail can go.  A narrow trail can wiggle through intricate obstacles where a wide trail can’t.  This means that wide trails often must force their way through, while narrow trails are usually able to work with the country, not against it, and to make use of natural features rather than blast them out of the way.

Wide trails, especially on steep side hills, often demand total destruction of important root systems which work to hold everything in place.  Wide trails also often remove the “duff,” or accumulated needles and other small forest debris which holds up amazingly well under human feet.  What I call “gentle” trails, or “troutes,” don’t usually disturb root systems or duff at all.  This helps immeasurably to diminish or eliminate the erosion problems which turn many of the wider trails in Strathcona (Forbidden Plateau, Bedwell Lake Trail) into little more than mud holes and rocky creek beds.

Gental trails (troutes) are easy to build and easy to maintain by volunteers at little or no cost.  In the past, they’ve usually been planned, sited, and built by people who understand the park, and what suits the park’s special conditions.

These “gentle” trails create little disturbance, and they only last as long as they receive regular use.  If people don’t use them, they fade away into the landscape, unlike the huge, deep scars of wide trails (very obvious on the Forbidden Plateau) which continually grow larger and get worse.

Wider trails take a lot of time and effort to build, and they cost a lot of money.  If they’re poorly sited (which is often the case, since their size makes this almost inevitable) they’re often almost impossible to change.  Not so with a troute.  If, after a few years, a better location is found for a shorter or longer section of a troute, it can be relocated quickly and easily, and the abandoned section will simply disappear.

Troutes, or gentle trails are gentle on the land.  Because gentle trails bend to the land, they aren’t sidewalks.  They aren’t intended to be.  Sidewalks work better in cities.  Gentle trails are intended to be easy on the park and to provide us with a practical way to move unobtrusively and respectfully through sometimes difficult country.

Is there a better way for us to experience our park?

The Start

Index Map

Bedwell Trailhead to Baby Bedwell Lake – about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Pretty much all uphill.

Map 1: Trailhead to Bedwell Lake

Baby Bedwell to Bedwell Lake tent platforms – about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Some uphill, some down, packed snow often covering sections of trail in late July/early August.  Horrible steel stairways, often badly mutilated by winter snow.

Bedwell Lake tent platforms to K2 Creek crossing – about 1 hour.  Creek crossing somewhat intimidating for many, but not for Tat.  Two yellow cedar logs laid across the creek at the very brink of a high waterfall.  Logs apparently still sound, but no guarantee.  This is no place for heroics.  Most cross by straddling the logs or crawling.  Braver people may help more timid people with their packs.  The distance across is short, and improvements here (or a permanent solution, like a bridge) would be relatively simple, and it may come to pass.  Meanwhile, be careful.  So far, hundreds have survived.

K2 Creek Crossing

K2 Creek to Elk Flat – about 30 minutes.  I’m not sure if this time is correct, but it’s what I’ve got written down.  The troute veers away from the river and then returns, at what I call the Elk Flat.  Camping is possible here beside the river, but snow often lies later on this flat than in areas where the ground is steeper.

Elk Flat to Appreciation Falls – about 1 hour.  There are several points of interest along this part of the troute.  Toward the lower end of the Elk Flat is what I call “Vitality Bridge,” where a creek crossing has been created by the living roots of trees.  Soon after crossing Vitality Bridge, the troute trends steeply downward, as does the river, which can be heard roaring off to the right.

Watch for a side trail which leads to “Cliff Hanger Falls.”  No sign at the trail turn off, but one at the falls.  Further down, “Appreciation Falls,” (short side trail, no sign as yet) was named in appreciation of all the volunteers who worked on the Bedwell Centennial Troute as part of the effort to stop the government from opening the Bedwell Valley to commercial exploitation.  Also simple, honest  appreciation for a beautiful park, a beautiful valley, and a beautiful wild river.

Appreciation Falls to Upstream Edge of Snow slide – about 30 minutes.  This snow slide is replenished every winter by avalanches coming down the slopes and gullies of Big Interior Mountain.  It currently seems to stay all year, and the slide covers the Bedwell River in this area until well into summer.

Map 2: Bedwell Lake to Ashwood Creek

The snow is compacted and moderately steep, but can normally be crossed safely, using normal care.  Warmer weather generally makes for softer snow and better footing, whereas colder weather could mean frozen snow.  Another good reason to plan this trip for the warmest, driest part of the year, centred usually approximately around the last two weeks of August and the first week or so of a warm, dry September.

The snow slide

Bedwell River disappearing under the slide

From Upstream Edge of Snow slide to Start of Old Logging Road – about 1 hour.  At the point where the troute comes out of the timber at the upstream edge of the snow slide, the view opens up.   Immediately ahead is the snow slide, with the Bedwell River (either covered or uncovered, depending on how much snow has melted) low down on the right.  On the far side of the snow slide is a strip of maples (which stands out in this region of predominately coniferous trees) which I call the Elk Pasture since it’s an area favoured by the elk.

Between the snow slide and the maples is a strip of brush, mainly salmon berries.  Our goal is to reach the Elk Pasture (nice walking) while avoiding thrashing through the thick salmon berries.  To do this, we follow the elk, as we’ve been doing pretty much all the way from Bedwell Lake.

A tongue of relatively clear ground interspersed with boulders extends upward on the far edge of the snow field.  The troute crosses the snow field to the upper part of this rocky, bouldery tongue, (delicious wild strawberries in season) and then heads downhill to where the elk trail leaves the tongue and finds its way through the salmon berries to the maples.

The elk trail stays to rockier areas across the salmon berries, and it’s a good trail, quite well defined.  There should also be ribbons, and perhaps a few cairns.  If you’re carrying a roll of marking tape this would be a good place to use some of it, to help others keep to the straight and narrow.  It’ll help the park, too.  Ribbons and cairns disappear over time, and when people get confused they start making extra trails, which confuses more people, who make more trails leading nowhere…

Once in the maples, the troute goes down, running roughly parallel (but not too close) to a creek which the troute eventually crosses.  This creek is normally pretty tame (one step across) but a good rain can quickly turn it into a snarling monster.  After crossing the creek, it’s a short distance downhill to the beginning of the old logging road.

From the Start of the Old Logging Road to You Creek – 50 minutes.  This road is straightforward.  Except for a few washed out sections, it’s a simple trudge down the road to You Creek.  You’ll pass some huge old stumps dwarfing the puny second growth stems, another reminder of what an amazing place this valley must have been before they destroyed this part of the park for money.  Oh well, just another few hundred years…

You Creek has good camping.  The creek should be easy to wade across in times of low water.  At present (and probably for years to come) a big log spans the creek just upstream from the old road crossing.  There’s a beautiful waterfall a short distance up the creek.  Someday, there may be a cable car crossing here.

You Creek Crossing

You Creek to Ashwood Creek – about 2 hours.  The Bedwell River has been changing course from one side of the valley to the other for thousands of years.  A short distance downstream from You Creek, the road has vanished into the river, forcing the troute to climb up a muddy elk trail.  It then parallels the river until it strikes an old spur which leads back down to where the old road is still in place.

The road is gone in several places between You Creek and Ashwood Creek.  The troute detours where necessary.  The last section of road before Ashwood Creek is still in pretty good shape.  There’s a fork toward the end of this final section, with the troute heading up the left fork for about ten minutes to the Ashwood Creek crossing and campsite.  The right fork once crossed the river on a  bridge which has long since disappeared.

There’s very good camping at Ashwood Creek.  The crossing is on an old log jam which could wash out any year.  The creek should be easy to wade in any sort of low water.

Ashwood Creek marks the start of the middle section of the Bedwell Centennial Troute, which the government wouldn’t give us permission to brush out.  It’s a short section (about 2 hours and 30 minutes with day packs) between Ashwood Creek and Sam Craig Creek.

The Ashwood crossing is well marked, but this might be another helpful place to hang some fresh flagging tape if you have it.  A side creek comes into the Ashwood at this point, and the troute follows the creek for a short distance, then heads uphill into a notch to avoid bluffs along the river.  This notch is actually a sort of narrow slit which runs up one side of a hill from Ashwood Creek and then down the other side to a small marshy lake.  From the lake, (which I call Sundew Lake) the troute returns to the river.

Ashwood Creek Crossing

Ashwood Creek to Sundew Lake – about 1 hour.  The Ashwood side of the notch has been logged, and the way up is choked in places with felled logs left to rot.  The other side, going down to Sundew Lake, for some reason wasn’t logged, and it’s probably the only sizeable stand of old growth timber remaining in the Bedwell Valley.  The entire valley was once like this.  These old trees have seen plenty, and they deserve all the appreciation and respect we can give them.  Somehow, trees like this feed our spirits.  If wilderness parks have a real purpose, this is it.  For whatever reason, money, stumps, and commercial operations didn’t quite make it here, so these ancient beings still exist to feed something in us we’ll never understand.

Map 3: Ashwood Creek to Sam Craig Creek

Old growth Yellow Cedar

Sundew Lake to Sam Craig Creek – about 1 hour and 30 minutes.  From Sundew Lake, the troute goes a short distance downhill to the river, and follows elk trails (elk troutes?) along the river all the way to Sam Craig Creek.  In this section there are wonderful views of the Bedwell River in it’s many different forms.  There are rapids, quieter sections, and places where the river somehow squeezes through closely packed collections of gigantic boulders.

There are several gravel bar campsites with beautiful alders and grassy areas.  Blaney Creek actually splits into a swampy maze of several creeks, and the troute weaves a torturous way through.  Nearing Sam Craig Creek, the troute leaves the river and moves slightly uphill to avoid a thick brushy patch of second growth.  A short elk trail leads back to the river and from there the troute follows pleasant alder flats to the mouth of Sam Craig Creek.

There are no convenient logs across Sam Craig Creek, but it’s an easy wade in the summer.

From Sam Craig Creek, the troute stays beside the river for a short distance, then goes up and over a short, steep section and back down to a beautiful gravel bar campsite on the river.  Sam Craig Creek to gravel bar – about 30 minutes.

Gravel bar campsite to old logging road near “Living Bridge” – About 3 hours and 50 minutes.

Heading out from the gravel bar, the troute goes through an alder flat, then starts to climb to avoid bluffs ahead on the river.  The climb is steep, because the troute is squeezed  into a gully here by bluffs on the upstream side as well.  I call this “the Deer Gully” because this is a deer route.  It leads up from the river to a sort of rolling plateau with two marshy lakes or ponds, which I call “the Beautiful Ponds.”

Map 4: Sam Craig Creek to Living Bridge

From the Beautiful Ponds, the troute follows elk trails back down to the river.  There is at least one good gravel bar campsite with swiming opportunities on this section, before the troute climbs again to avoid another section of difficult ground beside the river.  It then descends almost to the river (chance to fill water bottles before dry climb to top of bluffs) before making a final longer and steeper climb (with a very small area old growth near the top) to pause on some bluffs with a good view up and down the Bedwell Valley, including (from the right spot) a view of saltwater in Bedwell Inlet.

From there, the troute descends to join the old logging road near a creek about a 15 minute walk downstream from “the Living Bridge.”  The creek may appear dry, but water can usually be found in rocky pools by following the creek a short distance up from the road.

From where the troute joins the old logging road to Gayle McGee Bridge – 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Basically this is just a trudge down the old logging road through salmon berries and occasional wash outs to the Gayle McGee Bridge across the Bedwell River.  Just below the bridge is an excellent camping area beside the river.

Gayle McGee Bridge to salt water – 3 hours.  This is just a trudge down a dusty road to saltwater, a wharf where you’ve hopefully arranged for a water taxi from Tofino to meet you, and the unlikely spectacle of a dude ranch for the wealthy at the mouth of the Bedwell River.

Map 5: Living Bridge to Bedwell Inlet

Bedwell River, Mt Mariner

Gravel bar campsite

For more information, including a GPS map, see this Comox District Mountaineering Club page.

Best wishes and good luck!

Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | December 2, 2011

Accounts of 2011 Bedwell Trail Work Experiences

Dear People:

These two accounts are by Ken and Mathew (or Matthius)  about their experiences on the 2011 Bedwell Centennial Trail work party.  If anyone wants to add their own thoughts on the trail, or the Bedwell issue, or Strathcona Park in general, please send them along.  I apologize for my absent computer skills.    Karl.

Mathew’s Account

Late August this year, Vancouver Islanders finally found themselves enjoying a much yearned for bout of good weather after a particularly wet and disappointing July. It was perfect for the celebration organized by the Friends of Strathcona Park (FOSP).  August 20th, was a day celebrated by more than 100 participants at a festival held in Strathcona Park. The day included canoeing, kayaking, short and long hikes as well as booths and food presented by members of various Vancouver Island clubs and other organizations. The event also hosted several speeches by long time members and activists who spoke of the history of Strathcona Park and the challenges the friends faced and personal sacrifices made in order to preserve the park.

The Friends of Strathcona Park is a group dedicated to the preservation of the park for the intended use under the original master plan. Members of the FOSP have been instrumental in the long term preservation of the park and the fight to prevent the abuse of the park by government and private industry. As well as legal challenges, one of the key ways that the FOSP insure the preservation of the park is by promoting its use.

The Bedwell Centennial Trail was constructed by the FOSP in 1992. It traverses 34km between Bedwell Lake and Bedwell Bay. The trail is a labour of love by the FOSP for ten years the trail had seen moderate use but was beginning to show its age. There were numerous windfalls and erosion that necessitated the need for maintenance of the light impact trail. Additionally, some sections of the trail needed to be rerouted as engineers have indicated that the Living Bridge that crosses the Bedwell River is no longer safe to traverse as there are several stringers dangling from the bottom. For the past two consecutive years, the FOSP have obtained work permits to do trail maintenance in the Bedwell Valley to reroute some sections and clear others.

In 2010, FOSP brought a small work party in to start trail maintenance on the west end of the trail, from Claoyquot Wilderness Resort in Bedwell Bay to Sam Craig Creek. At this time the trail was rerouted so that the Living Bridge is no longer required to complete the hike. In 2010, the friends cut the trail clear up to the Sam Craig Creek.

In 2011, the friends received another permit allowing them to cut from Bedwell Lake to Ashwood Creek. The work was completed by 30 eager volunteers over three days. Cutting was quick as the trail is well traversed.

As a member of the work party, I had the choice to continue on past You Creek, crossing the Spine of Vancouver Island and leave via Bedwell Bay by water Taxi to Tofino. I jumped at chance to cross Vancouver Island by foot! The highest point of the trail is Baby Bedwell Lake. From this point, the remainder of the trail is primarily downhill, which is often following overgrown logging roads and the Bedwell River. A particular highlight of this trail is walking through a preserved section of the Bedwell Valley filled with old growth cedar and rich flora. For some unknown reason this section was never logged at the time that the Valley was removed from the park.

The Bedwell Centennial Trail is 34 km long from the trail head on the Jim Mitchell Lake Road near the south end of Buttle Lake to the head of Bedwell Inlet. Prior arrangements need to be made with a water taxi to get to Tofino. The trip is best done in July through September when stream levels are low. Allow 3 to 4 days one way, and travel only when good weather is predicted. Heavy rains can quickly make dry streams impassable, but they soon recover in a day or two. Though the trail is of moderate difficulty there are a few sections that provide short challenges, like logs crossing rushing water.

Between the work completed in 2010 and 2011, there remains only one short section of the trail uncut, about 4 km. Even this section is easily traversable and is well marked with ribbons hanging every ten to fifteen feet. Even with this short section the trail is one of the most beautiful and enjoyable hikes I have done on Vancouver Island. It takes the hiker from the alpine to the ocean and crosses through sections of the park that have not had regular visitors in over 60 years.

FOSP continues to advocate for light trail use and the continued exclusion of horses in the Park. Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, a private company that caters to affluent adventure seekers, is currently seeking permits that will allow them to bring their clients into the park by horse. This remains a big concern for FOSP as the original master plan does not allow for horses to be used within this area of the park. It is the belief of FOSP that the completion of the Bedwell Centenial Trail will show that there is already an established trail and this will prevent future applications by CWR from gaining a foothold. It is also the belief of the friends that the interests of private companies remains  the primary reason why the FOSP cannot obtain a permit to cut the final 4 Km of trail between You Creek and Sam Craig Creek.

For more information about the FOSP and a full route description of the Bedwell Centennial Trail visit the groups website;

Sincerely and Truly, Matthius Lettington

A First Hand Account of Last Summer’s Trail Building

by Ken Van de burgt

It was a dark and stormy night. I had

commitments till Sunday afternoon and only

started up the Bedwell Lakes trail at about

7PM with the intention of meeting up with

the FOSP work party. It started raining as I

made my way up the trail. I was glad to be

making camp, soaking wet, in the dark,

with blowing wind and rain, on the tent pad

at Baby Bedwell Lake 3 hours later. The

tent pads tend to get water flowing along

the boards under the tent and it is a chore

to get the tent tied down with limited string

but camping on the flooded ground would

have been worse.

My first experience with the Bedwell

Valley was in the summer of 2004. I

paddled my kayak from Tofino with all my

hiking gear stuffed in the cockpit and

strapped to the deck. My first big surprise

was at the head of Bedwell Sound where my

brand new edition of Hiking Trails III failed

entirely to mention about the resort that had

been built there. Leaving my kayak on the

beach, I hiked on the old logging road as far

as the ford on the Bedwell River just below

Ashwood Creek. I wasn’t able to find the

route from there and I turned back. The hike

had been a disappointment because it was in

a dark dreary second growth scrub forest

and an exercise in getting my face slapped

by the brush that pretty much filled in the

entire trail. Obviously, no trail maintenance

had been done in years.

My second experience was in 2010 when I

Trail Builders on the dock at CWR

Those who traversed the entire trail from

alpinbe to ocean.

participated with the Friends in building a new

trail from near the only remaining logging bridge

to Sam Craig creek. It was a much better

experience because the new trail got above the

gloomy recovering industrial forest on the valley

floor and opened up to views of the mountains.

The logging and mining have caused a lot of

damage, but there are still natural treasures to be

found here and the new trees are beginning to

mask the worst of the scars left by industrial

activity. I met a lot of like-minded people who are

not happy about the direction BC Parks is taking

in mismanaging our Park and found a positive

expression of that frustration in the work

building a new trail.

I packed up quite late on Monday afternoon waiting for

the weather to settle and had just about enough time to

get to the Bedwell Lake campsite and set up in the light.

Every creek was swollen with rain and melting snow

from the huge late summer snow pack. Wet foot

crossings were needed to ford the creeks that flow into

Bedwell Lake. You could see water lapping at the

remains of foundations of BC Parks poorly engineered

bridges that had been washed away years ago.

Most of the work party had gone up Saturday and had

worked all day Sunday. I encountered several people,

who had been in the work party, on their way out. The

stories were conflicting as to how far the work had been

completed. The common theme was that people had

gotten soaked in the wet weather. The information

suggested that trail had been reopened to the landslide

and that the party of 11 people below the landslide were

nearly finished their work to reopen the trail to

Ashwood Creek.

On Tuesday morning in doubtful looking weather I

decided to hike at least as far as You Creek. I had never

been on that section of trail and I wanted the


The crossing at K2 Creek was a bit intimidating; the

bridge consists of two logs (placed in mid 1990’s) with

no handrail and the water was roaring underneath. I

noted the simple design seems to work a lot better than

bridges built by BC Parks that tend to be poorly placed

and incapable of managing the snow load. From there it

was easy and pleasant walking down the newly brushed

out trail.

I met two of the lower valley work party making their

way out and so there were nine when I caught up with

the work party at You Creek. As it turned out work was

not as close to completion as I had been led to believe.

Clearing trail is heavy work. We used hand tools

consisting of saws and garden clippers. Some of the

deadfall was more than a foot in diameter. The saw

tended to bind as weight shifted around, particularly

when there were several trees piled on each other. Due

to my late arrival I got only a part of the experience,

working just Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday

morning and I found it exhausting. The rest of the crew

had been at work since Saturday.

On Wednesday afternoon we reached Ashwood Creek,

the limit of the volunteer agreement worked out by

FOSP with BC Parks. We had lunch, hoisted our packs

and route bashed along the true left bank of the Bedwell

River to a beautiful camp on a gravel bar near Sam

Craig Creek. The route was flagged during

reconnaissance work done by FOSP this summer. There

is a huge logjam here consisting of stumps and wood

debris. The logjam is responsible for the river’s course

changing here.

Thursday we hiked along the trail that was cleared last

year from Sam Craig Creek to the Gail McGee Bridge.

My pack was heavy and I was quite happy to leave the

route bashing and get onto the previously cleared route.

Friday we followed the road through Crown Forest and

CWR land to the tidewater at Bedwell Sound. The

water taxi showed up as arranged to bring us to Tofino.

A chartered bus brought us back to Courtenay.

I hope BC Parks will allow volunteers to complete

clearing the route from Ashwood Creek to Sam Craig

Creek. The rain event that we encountered would have

made it impossible to ford the Bedwell River at

Ashwood Creek; the route along the true left bank

eliminates that ford and the crossing of the condemned

logging bridge. Walking the new route is a much more

pleasant experience than walking that old logging road

could ever be. And of course, we don’t need

commercial operators building trails, bridges, and other

unwanted intrusive infrastructure in our parks.


Additional comments on the trail project

by Karl Stevenson

From the FOSP standpoint, the Bedwell issue is (like

all park issues) very complicated, but in one way it’s

also very simple: The government wants to open

Strathcona Park up to high-impact commercial

operations and we don’t. We’ve been working very

hard to prevent the government and a commercial resort

from having their way in the Bedwell Valley for

approximately seven years.

We don’t want a high-impact commercial trail in the

Bedwell Valley, or in any other area of Strathcona

Park. This is why we’ve expended so much time,

money, and energy in building a low-impact non-

commercial trail in the Bedwell. This

year we could easily have completed the remaining

short section of the Bedwell Centennial Trail (we had

the volunteers and we were ready) but the government

refused to give us permission.

The Battle for the Bedwell is far from over. We are

the process of preparing a Bedwell

Centennial Trail guide, along with

photographs, a list of volunteers, and other

interesting information for the FOSP web-

site. I’m more grateful than I can ever

possibly say to all the volunteers who have

given their time and energy in support of

our wonderful park.   Thanks once again.  Karl.

Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | August 29, 2011

Legal Challenge, Bedwell Centennial Trail, Wilderness Festival



Dear Editor


The Friends of Strathcona Park have hired a Vancouver law firm to prepare a legal challenge against  government efforts to give commercial rights in Strathcona Park to a private resort on the edge of the park.  The resort operates a dude ranch for the wealthy on the west coast of Vancouver Island.  The government has approved the permit, but has yet to sign it.


The process of granting a park use permit to the resort  was begun by the Campbell government against the guidelines of the Strathcona Park Master Plan, against the recommendations of the Strathcona Park Public Advisory Committee, and against the stated wishes of an overwhelming majority (around 90%) of citizens who attended public consultation meetings.


Our lawyers believe there are serious legal flaws in the government process which has put Strathcona under threat of damage by a high impact commercial operation.  Legal proceedings will begin against the government if and when they sign the permit allowing the resort into the park.


On other fronts, the Friends of Strathcona have been working to build a trail in the area under threat, (the Bedwell Valley) hoping that a low impact trail will stave off the apparent wish of government to grant  privileges in the park to a private operation which has dreams of building a high impact commercial trail for wealthy clients in the Bedwell Valley.


For the last three years, the Friends of Strathcona have been working with volunteers to build the Bedwell Centennial Trail, a beautiful low impact trail which won’t cost the public a penny.  The route follows the Bedwell River from source to mouth, and will allow hikers to walk from the east side of Vancouver Island to the west coast near Tofino.  The Friends intended to complete the trail for Strathcona’s 100th birthday this year, but the government wouldn’t give permission to brush out one last very short section in the middle, and won’t allow us to say the trail has been completed.


We had the volunteers, the tools, and we could have easily completed the trail, but we weren’t permitted to close the final gap.  Why?  For some reason, the government doesn’t want our low impact, no cost volunteer trail completed.  Meanwhile they’re poised to sign a park use permit allowing a damaging commercial operation to use the Bedwell Valley, almost into the centre of Strathcona Park, for its own private purposes.


The Campbell government bulldozed public wishes in many ways and they were very good at it, but the HST debacle was the straw which finally broke the camel’s back.  Exit Gordon Campbell.  Unfortunately, we’re left with many of his legacies, one of them being the damage which is about to occur in Strathcona Park if the Cristy Clark government signs the park use permit.


Parks are not commercial enterprizes, and their purpose isn’t to serve the economic wishes of private interests.  Although it’s true that Strathcona has suffered terribly from commercial damage in the last 100 years, we don’t need to allow the process to go on for the next 100.


Thanks very much to the volunteers who worked very hard this year, and for the preceding two years, on the Bedwell Centennial Trail with hopes of stopping the government from allowing commercial damage in the Bedwell Valley.   For whatever reasons, the government didn’t allow us to brush out the last little bit of trail this year, but the trail is now almost complete, and it’s well marked and easy to follow for its entire length, all the way from Bedwell Lake to Bedwell Inlet.


Thanks very much also to all those who contributed to the very successful Strathcona Wilderness Festival, and to all those who attended and showed their support for Strathcona, BC’s oldest provincial park.


Karl Stevenson

Older Posts »