Sunday 12 May 2024

A Memorable Hike to the Natural Arch

        In 1977 upon moving to the Robson Valley, I was, of course, very eager to explore the wild and pristine mountain landscape that surrounded us.  Once, while traveling along Highway 16 between Dunster and McBride, a local resident pointed out the Natural Arch, that could be seen from one particular spot along the highway.  The Arch was very distant and high upon a mountain, but with careful examination, it could be seen.

        I was immediately intrigued with the stone arch and put it on my bucket list of places I wanted to explore more closely.  In my early days of discovering landscape photography, I had been very impressed with photos of some of the natural arches in the US Southwest, showing the reddish stone structures arching against the deep blue sky.  I longed to get up to the Natural Arch and take a similar photo.

        In 1990 I got a chance when I joined a group of hikers who planned a trek up to the arch.  There were eight of us that met up for the day hike.   The group was made up of members of the Ozalenka Hiking Club, with one exception:  Harry Barber, the District Manager for our Forest District.  I was surprised that he showed up for the hike, but that was no problem.

    We started up the trail at 10:00.  The trail was a fairly unrelenting grunt up the steep incline.  About 1:00 we had reached the viewpoint where we could see the Arch.  After a very grueling hike to get to a place where the Arch could be clearly seen, the Natural Arch itself was a bit of a disappointment.

        The photos that I had imagined I would take of the arch standing against a blue sky, were just not feasible, because the arch was situated across a steep valley with another steep slope behind it, and wherever I went to take a photo, instead of sky, I always just got the arch in front of the similarly colored slope which didn’t really make for a stunning picture.  The surrounding area was very steep, and so I couldn’t really get very close to the arch, it could only be viewed it from a distance.

    When everyone had had enough of viewing the arch and it was time to hike back down to the vehicles, the group split.  The females among us chose to go down we way we had come, while us guys, chose to hike further up through the snow to the ridge above the arch, then trek to the nearby “Barker Ridge Trail” and go down an old Caterpillar tractor trail that had been made during an old agricultural experiment to encourage sheep grazing the the alpine.

        As us guys began to descend downward, we left the alpine and entered the forested area of the trail.  That is when things turned horrible.  

    The steep “cat” trail was nuts. We were suddenly surrounded by an explosion of mosquitoes.  There was no way to escape them.  We just had to continue non-stop downward.  It was exhausting, my legs began to really hurt, but there was no resting; stopping meant being attacked by the unrelenting aggressive mosquitoes.  

    At one point, Harry Barber, the Forestry District Manager (and the big  boss at Forestry, who had just weeks before warned me I could lose my job if I didn’t quit my environmental activities) twisted his ankle, so he had to make his descent down the steep slope very carefully and slowly.  He could walk, but not very quickly.  He became mosquito food.  I’m afraid the torment of the seemingly thousands of mosquitoes, prompted the rest of us guys just to leave Harry to his slow and miserable descent, while we continued down as fast as we could, to escape the hungry pests.

    Once we had arrived at the parking area at 7:00, we were surprised to discover that the females had not yet gotten there.   We hung around in the mosquito-free area where the trucks were parked, relaxing from our ordeal.  Eventually, Harry made it down, and then a bit later, the group of females arrived, and we all headed home.

    Our hike to the Natural Arch had certainly been a memorable one.  I could hardly walk for the next two days because my legs ached so much from the hike.  That, coupled with the Attack of the Killer Mosquitoes, forever dampened my enthusiasm for ever returning to the Natural Arch again.

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