Taking the “high way” between Skidegate and Queen Charlotte may never be the same.
Local trailblazers Mark Walsh and Remi Gauthier hope the two villages will jointly build and manage a new hiking trail that runs about 10 km along the plateau between them.
“It’s something that everyone can roll up their sleeves and get involved in,” says Walsh, speaking from his hillside home in Queen Charlotte.
Going west, the new Dempsey Collinson Memorial Trail would start with a gentle climb up to the plateau from Skidegate’s existing Spirit Lake Trail.
Featuring views of Skidegate Inlet, sub-alpine meadows, and several forest types, the trail would then pass Slarkedus and Regier Lakes before gradually returning to sea level near Crabapple Creek at the west end of Queen Charlotte.
From there, hikers could continue along the beach to Kagan Bay, where they could connect with the Sleeping Beauty and Slatechuck Mountain trails, or load into kayaks and explore the narrows and islands of Skidegate Inlet.
Walsh and Gauthier, who kickstarted the 1990s effort to build the Louise Dover Memorial Trail near Sandspit, have already started pouring over topographic maps and flagging a potential route, starting with the remains of what appears to be a 1940s skidder track along Crabapple Creek.
They have also hiked the heart-pumping trail to Regier Lake that takes a more direct route to the plateau from 3rd Avenue in Queen Charlotte — it’s steep, said Gauthier, but would give the proposed Dempsey Collinson Trail an easy access or early exit about halfway between the two villages.
The meadows just before Regier Lake also gave Gauthier a glimpse of the kind of landscapes hikers might see on the plateau.
“Because it’s so exposed to the north and all the wind there, it just makes spectacular trees and forest,” Gauthier said, speaking about the many stunted, bonzai-like hemlock and spruce in the open sections. The trail would also pass stands of yellow cedar, several monumental red cedar and big spruce, as well as the Kagan Bay log sort.
“You see the log sort, you hear the logging trucks and everything,” said Walsh. “That’s part of life here.”
The area along the proposed trail is all Crown land in the Timber Supply Area, and could be allocated to a future Haida Gwaii Community Forest run in partnership with BC Timber Sales.
Walsh said people in Queen Charlotte and Skidegate should think about whether they want the area logged. Besides being visible from Skidegate Inlet and some points in town, he noted that the sloped sections behind Queen Charlotte have several salmon-bearing creeks and brooks.
“I don’t want to see the creek that runs through my property slide off the top of the hill,” Walsh said.
Walsh and Gauthier presented their proposal to village councillors in Skidegate and Queen Charlotte in September, and hope councillors agree to support the initiative, suggesting there may also be grants and summer-student programs available to get the trail built.
“One of the things that’s impressed me about living here is how well the two communities get along,” Walsh said, noting how Skidegate and Queen Charlotte share schools, a hospital, and social events.
“It’s for our mutual benefit.”