Column: Dreams of a trail network above Chilliwack

As the fall sets in we will finalize the route and begin to cut back brush and fallen trees from the future path.

Volunteers work to clear trails on the Eastern Hillsides. The plan is to build a 35-40 kilometre trail along the ridge line.

Volunteers work to clear trails on the Eastern Hillsides. The plan is to build a 35-40 kilometre trail along the ridge line.

As the dog days of summer descend upon us, it seems time to take stock of all that was accomplished this summer. I look back on days at the lake, hiking objectives that I have finally ticked off of my list, and afternoons spent paddling on the Vedder River. These are the good parts of summer; these are the warm sun-kissed memories that we store in our minds for those dreary days in February when the rain and grey overcast seems daunting and endless. Somehow no matter how well-spent a summer is, we always seem to recall those wasted days, those unachieved goals and those squandered opportunities. However summer is not yet over.

The narrative that is being told to us from meteorologists across the country is that we are in for a mild fall. In fact some are saying that it may not feel like autumn at all, but rather an unprecedented extension of summer. So what to do with this windfall summer extension? What trails are yet to be hiked as the fall colors begin to show and the alpine gets its nighttime dustings of surface frost? This is my favorite season for hiking in our mountains, for exploring in the alpine and for accomplishing a few last minute summer goals. Part of it is the climate I suppose, the mild temperatures make it a little bit easier to stay out all day and carry a heavy pack into hard to reach places. Part of it too is the mental game, the summer is fleeting and I am eager to make use of each and every sunny day, and so I make an effort to carve out the time.

With the inception of the Chilliwack Trails Society, and the Chilliwack River Valley Trails Rehabilitation Project, this summer has held a slightly different flavour for me. I have hiked our trails looking at their needs, instead of their beauty. I am noticing poorly drained sections and would-be lookouts as I hike in the mountains. Most of the work of the CTS has been done though our head trail builder Ewan, who spends days at a time with his crew on our trails, building steps, cutting back the ever encroaching brush and overall greatly improving the experience of being in Chilliwack.

I grew up in Rosedale. Every day I would look up the ridge that connects Elk Mountain and Mt. Cheam overlooking the Fraser Valley, and I would dream of a trail along the height of land. I thought about the views that one could see as they straddled the Chilliwack River Valley to the South and the Fraser Valley to the North. The sections of open alpine and the groves of high elevation old growth hemlock, fir and cedar make this area a rare a beautiful place. It seemed strange to me that it did not yet exist. It never sat well with me that this beautiful ridge between Chilliwack’s two most popular hikes remained inaccessible without a trail and without a plan for one.

This summer we went about changing that. The CTS crew and I hiked the Elk-Cheam ridgeline, planning where a trail might be able to be built, and how to make the experience great for the many people who will walk along it for years to come. As the fall sets in we will finalize the route and begin to cut back brush and fallen trees from the future path. This trail will not be ready for this summer, however we are planning to continue working on it next spring when the snow lifts and with any luck it should be complete in its first stage about a year from now. This trail will be 35 to 40 kilometres in length, making it a great two, to three-day day backpacking trip, or a big day for an eager trail runner. Our vision is for a trail that does not have a parallel in this part of the world, for a skyline traverse with 360-degree views of jagged alpine peaks, hanging glaciers, old growth forests and pastoral valley views.

Sam Waddington is owner of Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors, “Equipping you for rock, water, snow, sand, wind and anything else the outdoors can throw at you!”