In Pictures: Dempsey Collinson Trail begins to take shape

A huge cedar tree stands above Gore Brook. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)A huge cedar tree stands above Gore Brook. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)
Moss grows in the gears of an old “diesel donkey” once used to yard timber near Crabapple Creek. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)Moss grows in the gears of an old “diesel donkey” once used to yard timber near Crabapple Creek. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)
This little waterfall, and the gravel-collecting eddies behind it, came courtesy of local streamkeeping groups who worked to restore the lower part of Crabapple Creek. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)This little waterfall, and the gravel-collecting eddies behind it, came courtesy of local streamkeeping groups who worked to restore the lower part of Crabapple Creek. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)
Mark Walsh stands by one of the tributaries for Crabapple Creek where it crosses an old cat trail that is still far from overgrown. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)Mark Walsh stands by one of the tributaries for Crabapple Creek where it crosses an old cat trail that is still far from overgrown. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)
In Pictures: Dempsey Collinson Trail begins to take shape
In Pictures: Dempsey Collinson Trail begins to take shape
A soaring, culturally-modified cedar tree. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)A soaring, culturally-modified cedar tree. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)
Mark Walsh admirers a group of tall, twisting cedars. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)Mark Walsh admirers a group of tall, twisting cedars. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)
Throughout the woods, hemlock are beset by mistletoe. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)Throughout the woods, hemlock are beset by mistletoe. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)
Gore Brook rushing by. Many of the “backyard” trails behind Queen Charlotte were originally made for running gravity-fed water lines. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)Gore Brook rushing by. Many of the “backyard” trails behind Queen Charlotte were originally made for running gravity-fed water lines. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Mark Walsh is a trailblazer, but if he has a machete it stays home — his choice tools are garden clippers and a balsam walking stick.

Last fall, Walsh and his trail-building colleague Remi Gauthier pitched the idea of a hiking trail that goes up and along the plateau between Skidegate and Queen Charlotte.

Named after the late Chief Sgiidagids, Dempsey Collinson, it would rise up from Spirit Lake in the east, Crabapple Creek in the west, winding a way up and over creeks, old caterpillar trails, muskeg, hilltops, and stands of old-growth spruce and cedar.

Officially, the idea seems to be gaining steam, though it’s far from a sure thing. Most of the woods the trail would pass through are part of the Haida Gwaii Timber Supply Area.

But even though it’s not ready for prime time, Walsh and Gauthier have already blazed a kind of rough draft for a west-end loop that goes up Crabapple Creek and over east to Gore Brook before coming back down and connecting some of the “backyard” trails just behind Queen Charlotte.

Peeled balsam in hand, Walsh took the Observer on a well guided tour that still managed to lose the route a few times.

“It shows the whole history of human habitation on these islands,” Walsh said, who imagines eco-tourists would enjoy doing the hike with local guides who can speak to that history.

A short way up from the Crabapple Creek trailhead, Walsh and Gauthier found a surprise first exhibit — a rusting “diesel donkey” with its motor long gone.

“You would think it was a Mayan ruin or something, it was just totally covered with moss,” said Walsh, adding that some locals remember working the machine in the early 1950s. Together with a spar tree, it was used to yard logs from the surrounding hillside.

Next, the trail crosses Crabapple Creek — at a spot where local streamkeepers have made little eddies and waterfalls that mimic the big trees that once fell naturally across the creek, slowing its flow and building up gravel for salmon habitat.

In the “bad old days” of logging, Walsh said the creek was basically used as a skid row for giant spruce, though a few are still growing nearby, spared because they were too small at the time or somehow not shaped for easy hauling or milling.

After tunnelling through salmonberries, the proposed trail follows an old “cat” trail up and alongside the creek, crossing a couple of its tributaries. Here, the forest quickly shows its pre-chainsaw history — the largest stumps stand eight or 10 feet above the forest floor, marked by springboards.

Not until the trail leaves the creek and begins climbing the slope in earnest are there any old-growth cedar.

But once they spotted the groves, Walsh and Gauthier routed the trail to meander past them. Sure enough, several show signs of Haida bark stripping, some way up the trunk, stretching over ages.

Walsh and Gauthier have had a little hi-tech help — GPS and LiDAR maps — but while they show ridges and gullies, the maps say nothing about the impassable hemlock thickets that grow up in blown-down clearings.

“It takes a lot longer than you think just to find the best route, never mind the rest of it,” said Walsh, a point that is underscored when the trail markers turn to flagging tape and the unfinished trail starts heading early, only two-thirds up to the plateau, and becomes harder to track as it follows the steeper Gore Brook back to Queen Charlotte.

Hours later, back at the mouth of Crababble Creek, the flat deck of an old herring gillnetter makes a welcome bench.

From here, Walsh hopes, someday hikers who have walked all the way from Skidegate will continue on, trading the woods for the intertidal as they round Hadyn Turner and cross the Honna on the way to Slatechuck Mountain.

“Our thinking is to have it as much wilderness trail as possible,” he said.

Queen CharlotteSkidegate

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cases have gone up in Northern Health in the past week, as they have all over B.C. (K-J Millar/Black Press Media)
Northern Health reports new highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

Nineteen cases were reported to Public Health last Tuesday (Nov. 17)

FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Many retailers and businesses had voiced their frustration with a lack of mask mandate before

(Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared Thursday.
COVID-19 outbreak at LNG Canada Project site

14 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at this time

A man has been arrested after a Nov. 11 break and enter at the Sandspit Airport, Queen Charlotte RCMP said in a media release on. Nov 17. (Black Press Media files)
Man arrested after Nov. 11 break and enter at local airport

Queen Charlotte RCMP investigate recent spate of break and enters

The 4.1 magnitude earthquake detected on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, is shown in pink. (Earthquakes Canada)
4.1 magnitude earthquake detected near Haida Gwaii

Event happened about 40 kilometres southwest of Village of Queen Charlotte

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

An Oceana Canada audit of Canadian fish stocks reveals a growing number with critical populations, calling on Fisheries and Oceans Canada to enact existing commitments. (File photo)
B.C.’s declining fisheries the result of poor DFO management: audit

Oceana Canada calls for follow through on government commitments

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Randy Bell. (File photo)
Former northern B.C. mayoral candidate arrested after allegedly refusing to wear mask

Randy Bell handcuffed and given a warning at Bulkley Valley Credit Union in Smithers

James Corden on the Late Late Show talking about BC Ferries on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. (Screenshot)
‘You’ll see it when you see it’: BC Ferries mask graphic gains James Corden’s attention

Turns out, James Corden fans were just as quick as B.C. social media users to pick up on the dual imagery

Most Read