June 7, 2014 is International Trails Day! An annual celebration of trails to promote trail development, the use of trails and the healthy lifestyle they encourage.
This year, I thought I would feature a trail that is the perfect poster trail for what the day represents. The Sunshine Coast Trail is a 180-kilometre trail that stretches from Sarah Point in Desolation Sound to Saltery Bay near Powell River, BC, Canada. It is Canada's longest hut to hut hiking trail with 12 beautiful huts strategically placed for public use and part of the National Hiking Trail of Canada. The Sunshine Coast Trail (SCT) traverses a wide variety of landscapes, from coastal shorelines, along creeks and lakes, through old growth forests to panoramic mountaintops. It provides hikers with the opportunity to experience Powell River’s breathtaking backcountry with its rich fauna and flora.
In May, my family and I headed to Powell River, BC from Vancouver Island looking for adventure. We had 4 days to burn and were intrigued by the trails history. Specifically the trail development. Without going into too much detail, the Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association is in the progress of completing a 700km long trail on Vancouver Island. We have a vested interest in such a trail here on Vancouver Island and felt to better educate ourselves on what a long haul trail looks like or can offer, we best try it out ourselves. We did just that by spending 4 days and 3 nights backpacking along the SCT. What began in 1992 with a few hard working dedicated outdoor enthusiasts looking to expand a trail by a few kilometers has turned into the formation of the Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society. This lead to an idea of connecting existing trails and creating new trails to form one trail. Sometimes ideas have a way of growing! Today, 22 years later, the SCT boasts 12 backcountry huts, 700 wooden signs, 12,000 trail markers, plenty of campsites, trail bridges, trail side benches, outhouses, and spectacular views. This trail has demonstrated how successful trail development can be. I applaud those who had a part in creating this wonderful wilderness trail.
Not only does the SCT deliver on trail development, it also delivers on use of trail. I foresee us adventuring here again in the near future in a variety of different ways. The SCT was well thought out and offers numerous access points along the entire 180km trail. This is great because it allows trail users to access the trail for day hikes or multi day hiking without committing to the entire 180 kms. If people are going to use a trail, it needs to be inclusive to as many outdoor users as possible. Like swimming for instance. I know my crew loves jumping in and that they did! The SCT has significant elevation gain so winter activities like snowshoeing keep the trails and huts alive through the snowy months. Trail running, bird watching, geocaching, and photography are more activities that are enjoyed on this wonderful trail. And if that was not enough for you, there is even a paddle route that shares use of campsites with the SCT. The Powell Forest Canoe Route is 57km in length including 8 lakes and 5 portages. We can't wait to get paddling here.
I know that trail use encourages a healthy lifestyle and I'm sure you do as well. But did you know (Canada stats) that active lifestyles can reduce health care costs. In fact, 2.5% of health care costs are attributed to physical inability! I was shocked when I first learned that statistic and I can tell you, based on our experience on the SCT that the trail is encouraging a healthy lifestyle for the residents of Powell River, for example. Of course we came across other fellow backpackers, some local but most visiting from other areas. That was expected. Encouraging was meeting three separate Powell River families who entered the trail from different access points specifically as a way to be active. Two families were day hiking and the intent was to get out as a family and enjoy the trails. One family even shared their summer goal of hiking the entire trail. They were most intrigued with our ability to backpack and would not be surprised if they attempt to tackle some of the trail this way as well. Good luck to them! The other family, also intrigued with us backpacking with Ben and Liv (9&7), were just out for the day enjoying the trail and plan to do more of the same as a way to stay active. The third family we met up with at the Manzanita Hut (16km point on the SCT). They hiked in from Malaspina Road, a short but uphill climb access trail, and enjoyed one night taking in the scenic views that Manzanita Bluffs amaze you with. Backpacking was not quite their style. They painstakingly hauled up heavy camp gear, an electric mattress pump (useless), milk jugs of water, beer, a box of wine, a Smore's making kit, and a fun spirited attitude. Hats off to their dedication and perseverance in taking on this challenge. A challenge I am sure they will continue with on the SCT, less the electric mattress pump I hope.
After reading this, take a moment to think about how trails impact your life. Now, get out off your computer/device and get out on the trails and celebrate them with those you love! Happy Trails!
Want to experience the Sunshine Coast Trail yourself? Here is another great read on how you will get to the beginning trail head. Totally worth the experience!
An unforgettable way to start a backpacking adventure - Water Taxi to the trailhead of the Sunshine Coast Trail