- Our Town
Ben Wilkey wants to boost interest in Revelstoke hiking trails old and new
For years, Ben Wilkey has been exploring trails in the Revelstoke area. First as a member of the wildfire crew, now as a helicopter pilot, and always as a hiker he has been to all those areas that are mostly just lines in the Backcountry Map Book.
Many are very remote, some are overgrown and no longer in existence, others are very difficult to access.
Lately, he has compiled everything together into the website RevelstokeTrails.com, and he hopes to create enough interest to form a trail society that would look at maintaining old trails and building new ones.
"My whole reason for Revelstoke Trails, unless you've been around and know the logging roads, these trails are hard to find," he said. "I thought if we could get the word out and get some interest in these trails, then maybe we can get some people together."
For someone interested in exploring new areas, the Revelstoke Trails website is a goldmine. There is comprehensive information on pretty much every trail in the Revelstoke area, from the short trails around Williamson's Lake to the remote Cummins Trails in the Rocky Mountains, across the Kinbasket Reservoir. The trip there requires 168 kilometres of driving, a boat ride, a 15-kilometre bike ride and five kilometres of hiking.
I've looked through the Backcountry Map Book at all the different trails marked in it, planning adventures, but not knowing what trails still are still hikeable (or bikeable). Wilkey does his best to provide that information.
Each trail is given a rating from one star to five, and the best use (walking, running, biking, dirt biking, or ATV) is also listed. There are descriptions of each trail and directions on how to get to them. Wilkey has also posted PDF maps of each trail made using Garmin GPS software, and KMZ files to view the trails in Google Earth.
Some trails don't have any information yet, but Wilkey has been updating the site regularly. He also plans on posting descriptions of big traverses, as well as alpine areas that can be accessed easily via high logging roads.
"That's the benefit of working as a helicopter pilot. I can see the linkups. I can see where the high roads goes," he said. "These are the things I haven't begun to post. It would be such an easy thing, even a weekend a half-dozen guys could put in a trail to an amazing ridge. For me, that's super-exciting stuff."
Ben Wilkey. Photo by Alex Cooper/Revelstoke Times Review
Wilkey wants to put together a trail society that would be focused on developing and maintaining hiking trails. The way he sees it, there are active groups for mountain biking, dirt biking and quadding, but no group dedicated to hiking trails.
"We have no organized body when it comes to hiking trails," he said. "I think that's where I want to see the slack picked up."
(The Revelstoke Trail Alliance seems to be largely inactive since the Revelstoke Cycling Association took over the former's mountain biking trails.)
It wasn't hard to get Wilkey talking about where he's like to see some trails built. He'd first like to see a focus on the surrounding mountains – Macpherson, Boulder, Turtle.
"A trail up Begbie Shoulder – it's perfect," he said. "There's a high road there, with a cut block, and it wouldn't take much to put in a little trail. People would use that because it's easy, it's close to town."
The key, he said, is to organize a group of people to do the paperwork and put in the grunt work to get the trails funded and built. He said he will try to organize a group in the fall.
Wilkey also wants to get local youth involved by having them help build trails in exchange for teaching them mountaineering skills.
"That's a vision too, to get the young people tuned into these trails so they're maintaining them for themselves and the next generation," he said.
I asked Wilkey about his favourite trail. He was hesitant to answer. "They're all special in their own way," he said at first. Then, quickly, he added, "McCrae has always been the nicest. You have a bit of a summit, it's easy access, you have beautiful lakes.
"That one and Begbie would be the obvious."