OPINION: From Trailblazers to La-Z-boys

It’s been on our bucket list for a couple of years, but we’ve yet to knock it off. Fires, injuries, and laziness — something has always got in the way.

News in last week’s Chief, though, that there’s a proposal to build a series of high-end camping huts along the Howe Sound Crest Trail, has spurred my daughter and me into action— this summer, we’re going to “run” the 30 km from Cypress to Porteau in a day — before the hordes arrive.

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I will admit to some very mixed feelings about building what amounts to hotels in the backcountry. In my “purist” heart, I think that we should leave nature alone, and let those who have the drive, fight their way into and out of it. Being alone in a meadow or on a mountaintop that you’ve struggled to get to is a rare feeling and one that seems harder and harder to achieve in our world, and certainly harder and harder to do in the Sea to Sky Corridor. Are these huts just another effort to dummy-down the backcountry experience? To make it accessible to the novice adventurers?

The whole question of backcountry access has been building in the Squamish during the 30 years that I’ve lived here. There was a time when even a popular trail like the Stawamus Chief was virtually empty except for weekends and holidays. Now, with the changing demographics of Squamish and the heightened global profile of the corridor, people want that experience of getting to a special place. And there’s a paradox that comes from that: is the place still special when you’re sharing it with 99 other people?

It seems that each year another “hidden gem” becomes more easily attainable. It’s easy to bemoan what’s been lost. The gondola has opened what were once very difficult areas to access to anyone who can afford the price of a pass. Peaks like Sky Pilot, that were very difficult goals, are now available to people like me with only moderate experience. Helicopters will fly you into the Tantalus Range, and it looks like soon we’ll be able to eat poutine and have a beer while watching the rock falls from Dalton Dome on Brohm Ridge.

Is the Howe Sound Crest Trail really pristine backcountry? It is a trail after all, and through the summer there are dozens of people on it every day. Someone else did the hard work- — found the route, built the trail, made the bridges and I just get to cruise along the path they’ve blazed.

 

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