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.


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