My good friend Ian and I have regularly hiked Strathcona Park since we were 16 in 1975. We decided to celebrate turning 60 by tackling the toughest hike in the park.
The first 3 days on Phillips Ridge were excellent although the “undulations” and “lots of down” were much tougher than we expected. A bout of food poisoning likely caused by trail mix purchased from a bulk food bin cancelled our planned side trip to the Golden Hinde peak. Even if healthy I’m not sure we would have tackled it after speaking with returning hikers who spoke of feeling exposed and unsafe, and wishing they had brought helmets to protect themselves from falling boulders. Seeing the route to the peak up close was intimidating. We have new respect for people who accomplish the Golden Hinde peak return trip.
The final “3 day adventure” on the Elk River “route” proved to be a bushwhacking nightmare. Each day we made only about 30% of our expected progress despite grueling effort. We had the best available maps and guidebook but the “route” had no flags or cairns and no signs of recent use. The maps were out of date and did not reflect obstacles like new landslides. On a whim, just before departing, I purchased a digital version of our paper map and we would have been screwed without it and my phone’s GPS. Even with the GPS, we had to retrace many steps and elevation changes many times.
Tired, discouraged, not wanting to face the ordeals of retracing our path, and believing it unlikely we could complete the Elk River route before running out of food, we decided to punch the eject button.
We were very lucky to have brought a satellite phone and to have found a helicopter not already committed to fighting forest fires with a pilot brave enough to fly in low visibility smoke. Our “rescue” was quite a thrill for me because I had never been in a helicopter and the heavy smoke forced the pilot to skim the trees down a river valley to avoid bumping into something hard. Click the link above for some great video.
Next year I hope we do the Bedwell trail out to the west coast but we’ll first find some people who have recently done the trail.
In case you’re wondering, I detected a lot of denial in my brain throughout the adventure. 🙂