Harrison Hut Trail Work: Making a Change in the World

Arrival at the trailhead

Arrival at the trailhead

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 Capricorn Creek Mudslide left a deep scar

The Capricorn Creek Mudslide left a deep scar

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”.

The log creek crossing was exciting

The log creek crossing was exciting

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.

Arrival to the Harrison Hut

Arrival to the Harrison Hut

Clearing the trail through the clear cut

Clearing the trail through the clear cut

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.

The road was washed out, the situation looked hopeless

The road was washed out, the situation looked hopeless

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.

We diverted the creek and then rebuilt this section of road

We diverted the creek and then rebuilt this section of road

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.

Views from the Harrison Hut

Views from the Harrison Hut

This entry was posted in British Columbia (and nearby), Hiking & Scrambling, Hurley & Lillooet Valley, Trip Reports, Varsity Outdoor Club (VOC). Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Harrison Hut Trail Work: Making a Change in the World

  1. Jan & Warrick says:

    You probably know the well worn saying from Margaret Mead:
    Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.
    Sounds like a hard work weekend, great photos and we will all appreciate the trail when it is finished; thanks to the group. Great you made it out as well !!!

  2. Nicole says:

    Sounds like a challenging few days. Good work!!!!!!
    I don’t see any mention of any response to your SPOT help call?

  3. Gili says:

    We called the RCMP in Pemberton as soon as we had reception. They were apparently just thinking of heading out to check on us. We figured a police car would show up sometime late at night. We also thought of sending two people to hike out, but it was a 20-30km hike or so to the first house / cell reception.

  4. ron clifford says:

    Way to go. Our group arrived at the washout sunday morn. and couldn’t see a way across. We spotted a culvert down the creek and assumed it was the one from the road so turned back. Went to tenquille Lake instead.
    Your photos give us encouragement for our next years hike to the hut. Fourth time lucky we hope.

    thanks again for all the fine work you’re doing in there.

  5. pn says:

    Hey Ron,

    Good info given – but left me wondering for some more details.

    What kind of car/truck did you have?
    Is the road completely washed out? How deep would the water be and what do you think the subgrade is?

    Is this near the switchbacks at the end of the drive to the new “trailhead” or about how far is it from the Duffy turnoff and start of FSR?

    Guess I’m wondering if it is it crossable on foot and not adding 10 km to the hike? Sounds like not by your post.

    No one has given a great description of where this issue is other than 20-30km from nearest house.. would be great to know.

    If we have a truck with 12″ clearance do we have a hope in heck of making it is my ultimate goal.

  6. pn says:

    looks from google earth that it is spidery creek that is the issue. is that correct?

    lat: 50°34’46.29″N
    long: 123°19’41.87″W

  7. pn says:

    Road was fine yesterday (Sep.1, 2013). Trail was in amazing shape. 16 people were at the campsite/spring on Saturday night apparently, most came in the south side – a couple canoed across the Lillooet from old bridge crossing and crossed the landslide – though they said Capricorn creek crossing by food is slightly sketchy.

    As for south route, looks like two new very large (60 inch?) culverts installed at the crossing that was the issue August 7 for trail builder. (this is after KM17 forestry road marker inbound).

    Not sure what Ron found, but there’s a few branchs on the road that can lead you the wrong way. Maybe he took one of those, or maybe he just wanted the spring to himself?
    Can’t really see any creeks that aren’t well culverted at this stage, but should always be prepared for unexpected in this part of the world.

    Pretty easy though for directions. Stay as close as possible to the river (eg. no lefts) until KM23, then head up the switchback in your 4×4 (Subaru could even make it likely) until about KM27 and there is a few triangle markers and a rock cairn there.

    See map here for trailhead and last portion of road:

    This is from this website which shows where you need to go, there should be a GPS .gpx file on the site somewhere too, I got it at one point in June (is called – “HarrisonMay2013Pre.gpx”:

    • Gili says:

      I’m pretty sure I measured 59km from the Petrocan in Pemberton (along the Lillooet River) until the left turn to the branch where the trailhead is located, hope this helps. We drove up in a Subaru Legacy with no trouble. You probably need 4wd for this road, a 2wd might not make it to the trailhead.

      I assume Ron was there on the August long weekend, which is when we were there. There was rain on Saturday evening which probably caused the washout which his group saw on Sunday morning and we came to only on Monday evening, on our way out.

      Yes, I think Spidery Creek was the troublesome creek.

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