Can we make a change in the world? It seems so hopeless, how can one person move a mountain. I remember arguing with an office mate of mine, who chose not to vote since his one little vote would not make a difference. Yes, sure, a quick look at the history books shows that some smart leaders have effected change (such as Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela), but they couldn’t have done it without a group of determined individuals to help them out. Given enough resources, such a group can indeed move a mountain, or, as happened on this trip, build a trail and a road.
The Harrison Hut, which belongs to the Varsity Outdoor Club (VOC) has been easily accessible for only a short time during the past decade, due to washouts periodically taking out key bridges, and most recently in 2010 the whole access road. Two enterprising members of the club, Ben and Christian, decided to build a new access route, by far the longest, farthest and most involved trail that the club has ever built. The objective of this work hike was to brush out the second part of the trail: before this trip the beginning of the route had been worked on, but the rest was literally a “flagged bushwhack”.
After a 3.5 hour drive from Vancouver, up a logging road, we arrived to the trailhead, picked up some tools and set off up the new trail. Our hike in took us through a long clearcut, where I was slowed down considerably by the blueberries, huckleberries, thimbleberries and raspberries. We did a bit of clearing and pushed on, since we knew it was a very long way. The most exciting moment of the day was the “au cheval” log creek crossing. I had one leg in the raging creek, trying to push me under the slippery log, and the other flailing in mid air. After that it was just a very long slog, involving pushing through Devil’s Club (a horrendous thorny plant), clambering over numerous fallen logs, and side-hilling for long distances (which caused a burning sensation in my right foot). It was a relief to reach the hut, and I think most of us were quite beat, but the views of three glaciers and numerous alpine peaks made up for it. The previous time I was at the hut, the year before, we were on skis and saw almost no views.
The second day was a full day of work. We placed reflective markers, sawed down small trees, chainsawed fallen logs and pulled out numerous blueberry bushes. On the third (and last) day we mostly hiked down, and admired the good work done on the trail. Once back at the cars, we drove down, just to find that a creek had washed out and a section of the road was completely missing. After some milling about, we determined that the washout had blocked the culverts (drainage pipes going under the road) and then placed a small hill of debris on top. We began clearing rocks, soil and logs, mostly with our bare hands, although we also had one shovel and Christian pulled out logs with his car using a handy strap.
In the beginning things looked hopeless: no water was going through the culverts, and we could not even see them! After half an hour of work, and no perceptible change, we decided to press our SPOT beacons’ non-emergency help button, which caused Maya much worrying on her vacation in Ontario. Then Frank pulled out a key log and a tiny stream of water began flowing through. Gradually we made the hole bigger and diverted the creek back into the culverts. After more than two hours of work, the main creek had become low enough that we could concentrate on rebuilding the road. We threw large rocks onto the creek bed to fill in the holes and then smaller ones to make a flat surface. Where there was once a creek, there was now a nice looking smooth road. We drove across easily and were on our way home.
It was amazing to see what a group of determined people can do. On an outdoor trip, they can clear a trail, build a road and I’m starting to think that in “real life” they might be able to even move a mountain.