#845 BC portion Trans Canada Trail
The Best of the Great Trail, Volume 2: Northern Ontario to British Columbia on the Trans Canada Trail
by Michael Haynes
Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions, 2019
$29.95 / 9781773100326
Reviewed by Walter Volovsek
As a trail builder and avid hiker, I was very impressed by Michael Haynes’s Volume 2 of The Best of the Great Trail, sent to me for this review. The information within is well organized and tastefully presented. A passage from the Foreword concerning the Trans Canada Trail resonated with me:
The Great Trail is a monumental accomplishment that allows all of us to access Canada’s diverse and stunning beauty. But the Trail is more than a geographic entity. It also connects us to journeys of the heart and mind, and it can help us connect with each other. By allowing The Great Trail to dance with our imaginations, it becomes a network that symbolizes our country’s collective commitment to community.
That passage describes perfectly my own motivation for building enhanced walking trails for the Castlegar community. As I say in my Trails in Time website, like Hayes I see the trails I built as having two-fold value: they are geographical features for healthy exercise, and they serve as pathways through time. The website is dedicated to the contemplative walker, and serves to provide the temporal pathways.
Haynes’s book focuses on a selection of thirty trails in the western region of Canada, that is, from British Columbia to Ontario. The trail descriptions are detailed and concise, and accompanied by informative tables of permitted uses. Excellent photographs by the author provide a feast for the eye and the maps showing the trails are first rate.
In his introduction, Haynes goes to some length to explain his selection process, which was dependent on advice from trail stewardship groups, government organizations, and helpful trail users. I fully appreciate the difficulty of distilling the magnificence of the Trans Canada Trail project into select glimpses of choice segments, and I think his process worked very well.
I hope Michael Haynes will not object to me complementing his effort by adding to it my local perspective and including some post-publication updates. The trails I helped to develop were built as a local initiative, some before the Trans Canada Trail concept was even launched. Several, however, were subsequently adopted as part of the official route across the country. Initially, passage through the West Kootenay Region was linked to the Dewdney Trail between Christina and Kootenay lakes. It took some time to convince its proponents that the Columbia and Western rail grade provided a far more scenic and historically embellished option.
Once that was adopted from Midway eastward, the pathway was linked to my first completed trail project, Waldie Island Trail, followed by Skattebo Reach and Ward’s Ferry trails to Nelson. This routing provides a side linkage to the abandoned rail grade in the Slocan Valley, which offers a direct connection to its historical endowment. That includes several abandoned mine sites as well as the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre in New Denver.
I followed the trail-enhancement approach that I pioneered along Waldie Island Trail to develop additional interpretive sign panels so that now the traveller on The Great Trail will be exposed to nearly fifty such story boards between Christina Lake and Brilliant, some isolated along the trail and others in cluster settings in locations such as Castlegar City Hall and Brilliant Bridge Park. Some of these are mentioned in Haynes’s book, but the majority were installed after the author’s visit here. As the Columbia and Western Trail is covered by the book, I will update that information by listing the titles of the panels now in place along the abandoned rail grade. These are: Coryell; Verigin Monument; Merry Siding; Farron Summit; Tunnel; Brooklyn; Ghost Town; Shields Landing; Arrow Lake Grade; and West Robson.
Haynes meticulously traces what I think to be unnecessary changes to the original Trans Canada Trail vision: from kiosk design, to trail name, to trail logo. The progression is always from good to mediocre, and sometimes just plain bad. Instead of following the latest fashion, I would rather see the money so wasted dedicated to more trail development.
I did note a few slips in the text. The author errs in placing the Purcells in the West Kootenay Region. His exquisite photo of a rattlesnake is a bit tarnished by misspelling its generic name in the caption below it. But these are minor blemishes in what is an excellent and very useful guidebook to the Trans Canada Trail, our second national dream.
After studying medicine and managing the biology labs at Selkirk College for 24 years, Walter O. Volovsek retired to a second voluntary career: developing walking and ski touring trails for the Castlegar community. Most of these are also presented to the user as conduits into the past by means of interpretive signage and related essays on his website. This led to connections with descendants of important Castlegar pioneers, and in 2012 Walter self-published his biography of Castlegar founder Edward Mahon, The Green Necklace: The Vision Quest of Edward Mahon (Otmar Publishing, 2012). Mahon was also known for his legacy of parks and greenways in North Vancouver. Walter has also written a book on his trail-building efforts, Trails in Time: Reflections (Otmar, 2012), and has been commissioned to develop signs in key locations including Castlegar Millennium Park, Castlegar Spirit Square, and Brilliant Bridge Regional Park.
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