About the Vancouver Island Backbone
Vancouver Island lies just off the Pacific west coast of Canada. With a mild climate, spectacular scenery and endless recreation opportunities, the Island is quickly becoming a prime destination for outdoor adventurers. The Vancouver Island Backbone is a wilderness hiking route that weaves over 300 km (200 miles) along its mountainous interior. The route links trails, rugged alpine ridges, logging roads, lush river valleys and lakes as it charts a course from south to north. Although primarily a hiking route in concept, the Backbone covers terrain suitable for, Mountain Biking, Ski Touring and Whitewater Paddling. Completing it in a single expedition would be an experience of world class calibre. However, the route is conveniently dissected by roads and towns making much shorter trips possible. Within these sections, the Backbone traveller will find adventure to satisfy any level of ambition, whether that be; strolling the trails of Paradise Meadows, canoeing the rapids of the Nimpkish River or scaling the summit of Victoria Peak.
Following the Vancouver Island Backbone celebrates the spirit of First Nations traders and early European explorers. We can only imagine the journey up the Nimpkish River, hauling canoes and goods across to Tahsis when the land was wild and empty. William Bolton describes such an undertaking in his journal as, initially accompanied by Native guides, he led an expedition traversing the Island from the mouth of the Nimpkish River to Port Alberni in 1896. Bolton's route is now emulated and followed in part by the Backbone Route. However, the land that Bolton knew and that which had been inhabited by the First Nations people is now very different. Logging roads siphon out the Island's riches, and parks preserve its beauty, creating a landscape of incredible contrast.
This route provides a challenge unlike any other long distance hiking trail. To prevent further development and undue pressure on the fragile wilderness, no trails have been cut or even marked, beyond those that already existed. It is hoped this ethic is respected by those following the route in the future, thus helping to preserve this unique experience and landscape.
The Backbone Route crosses several Provincial Parks, and it is especially important to respect the conservation values and development plans for these Parks by passing through leaving no trace. Similar care is needed while hiking through private land on the Beaufort Range and around Buttle Lake. We must ensure future access is not jeopardized by conflicting with the wishes of land owners.
How It All Began
The Vancouver Island Backbone project began in the winter of 1991-92 as an initiative of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, Mid-Island Branch, in Nanaimo. Roseanne van Schie guided its early development. In 1993 the WCWC secured funding in the form of a grant from the Mountain Equipment Co-op to contract the mapping and exploratory work. The author undertook this work and through that summer hiked some of the lesser known sections, accompanied by various volunteers from the WCWC membership.
The data incorporated in this hiking guide was collected by plotting the route onto 1:50000 NTS maps, 35mm slides, video and field notes. With publication of this guide, access to some of the most spectacular terrain on Vancouver Island becomes reality. The secret is out!