Late August 2011, after a particularly wet and disappointing July Vancouver Islanders finally found themselves enjoying a much yearned for bout of good weather. 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 a variety of booths and food presented by members of various Vancouver Island clubs and other organizations. The event also featured several speeches by long time members and activists who spoke on 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 Strathcona for its intended use under the original Master Plan (90's plan, 2001 amendment, 2010 amendment, FSOP on the amendments). Members of the FOSP have been instrumental in the long term preservation of the park and the fight to prevent the abuse of it 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 Inlet. The trail is a labour of love by the FOSP. For ten years the trail had seen moderate use and was beginning to show its age. There were numerous windfalls and river bank erosions erosions/wash out which required maintenance of the light impact trail. Additionally, some sections of the trail needed rerouting as engineers deemed the Living Bridge that crosses the Bedwell River unsafe. . Upon observation it is easy to see there are several stringers dangling from the bottom.
FOSP members inspecting the stringers hanging from the bottom of the Living Bridge
In 2010 and 2011, 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 Clayoquot 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 You Creek. The work was completed by 30 eager volunteers over three days. Cutting was quick as the trail is well traversed and the route well planned. 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 Basin 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 trends downhill, which is often follows 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 trailhead 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, though they subside in a day or two. Though the trail is of moderate difficulty there are a few sections that provide short challenges, like logs crossing overtop rushing water.
Between the work completed in 2010 and 2011, there remains only one short section of the trail uncut, about 4 km between Ashwood Creek to Sam Craig Creek. 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 (the permits were granted for a 25 year period) 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 Centennial 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 Ashwood Creek and Sam Craig Creek.
Here is another article about the trail and its plight.