The Opinionated Hikers on Patrol for You
During our recent backcountry research trip in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia, we spent as much time checking trailhead access roads as we did hiking. A lot of what we learned was discouraging. If you keep reading, however, you’ll find we also have encouraging news.
You’re unfamiliar with the West Kootenay? Take time to view an inspiring slide show (http://www.hikingcamping.com/photos-west-kootenay.php) comprising many images from remote but spectacular high-alpine country in the Purcell and Selkirk ranges, which isolate the region.
The West Kootenay is on your agenda? Here’s what you need to know…
Several trailheads described in the 2007 edition of our guidebook Where Locals Hike in the West Kootenay (http://www.hikingcamping.com/hike-west-kootenay.php) are no longer accessible. Some roads are now unmaintained—either overgrown or prohibitively rough. Others have been closed due to forest fires or bridge failures, or decommissioned because resource extraction (forestry, mining) has ceased. In particular, please note the following:
(1) Monica Meadows (Trip 3) and Jumbo Pass (Trip 4) will be inaccessible until a new bridge spans Glacier Creek in the fall of 2010. For details, phone the Ministry of Forests, Kootenay Lake District: (250) 825-1100.
(2) The Lemon Creek road is now impassably overgrown, and the Lemon Creek trail is no longer maintained. So hiking to Glory Basin via Nilsik Creek (Trip 21) or Lemon Creek is inadvisable. Glory Basin is now accessible only via Kokanee Glacier Park Road and the Gibson Lake trailhead, as described in Trip 24.
(3) The Keen Creek road to Joker Millsite trailhead suffered damage and is now impassably overgrown. None of the authorities we spoke with expect the road to re-open. This places Helen Deane and Joker Lakes (Trips 17 and 18) beyond dayhiking distance. To reach these destinations, you must backpack starting at Gibson Lake trailhead (Trips 22, 23, 24).
(4) The Enterprise Creek Valley was severely burned during a 2007 wildfire. The road is now closed due to threat of debris torrents, so the trailheads for Blue Grouse Basin (Trip 19) and Enterprise Creek / Tanal Lake (Trip 20) are inaccessible.
(5) The trailhead for Sphinx Mtn (Trip 30) is inaccessible because the access spur (off the Gray Creek Pass Road) has been decommissioned.
(6) The trail following Sharp Creek upstream to New Denver Glacier (Trip 13) in Valhalla Provincial Park has been, and will likely remain, unmaintained.
NEW & IMPROVED
(1) In Kaslo, hike the 3.5-km Kaslo River Trail starting at the end of Railroad Ave. It leads upstream to a beautiful, beet-coloured bridge spanning the river. Ask local shops for the brochure/map.
(2) From Kaslo, at the junction of 5th Street and A Avenue (near the post office), drive Highway 31A northwest 23.7 km to the the K&S Rail Trail info kiosk near the Robb bridge, which spans the Kaslo River. From there, hike the rail trail upstream 2.5 km to Retallack. Just beyond the lodge is a short but enchanting Cedar Loop. Retrace your steps to the Robb bridge.
(3) The Kaslo Viewpoint Trail starts near the end of Prospectors Street in Kaslo. The short, steep ascent (155 m in 1.5 km) climbs the forested skirt of Mt. Buchanan to a spectacular vantage of the town, Kootenay Lake, and the mountains beyond. From the junction of 5th Street and A Avenue (near the post office), drive Highway 31A northwest. Pass Highway 31N. At the stoplight where left is 31A to New Denver, turn right onto Washington Street, left onto Water Street, then right at the T-junction. 100 meters farther, go left onto Park Street. Ascend to a T-junction where you’ll see the signed trailhead (right). On foot, immediately bear right, and at 3 minutes fork left.
(4) In Nelson, the Pulpit Rock Trail (Trip 48) has been vastly improved. It used to be a steep, rough route. Now it’s a broad, comfortable, gently-switchbacking path with a dedicated, trailhead parking area.
(5) You’re an experienced backpacker, competent scrambler, and capable cross-country navigator? The all new, 3rd edition of Where Locals Hike in the West Kootenay—available July 2012—will include the traverse between the Woodbury and Silver Spray cabins in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. It will detail complete directions for this three-day trip.
(6) Trailhead access for Haystack Mountain (Trip 32) has improved. New bridges in the Sanca Creek drainage allow you to safely drive all the way to the Kianuko Provincial Park trailhead—17 km from Highway 3A (east shore of Kootenay Lake). This puts the summit within much closer reach.