Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | July 4, 2015

Even More Things – Somewhat Long Winded, As Usual – I Lost This, Then Found It Again

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.


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