An article about exploring and hiking in the vast, empty wilderness of British Columbia.
Words & Photography: Jacalyn Beales
Whenever I set foot in British Columbia, a beloved quote from my favourite novel immediately comes to mind: “Each time, you happen to me all over again.”
There are few places on this beautiful planet which hope to measure up to the sweeping, boundless beauty of British Columbia. Beyond the temperate rainforest and mountain peaks lay miles of lush forests, breathtaking landscapes and hidden utopias aching to be discovered - and kept secret - by those who dream of traversing an Eden where time stands still. While hiking the rugged terrain or exploring the deep blue ebb and flow of a hidden waterfall, you’re left with the oddest feeling; the notion that you could be anywhere in the world, a paradise separate from reality and the city beyond the forest limits.
British Columbia has a spirit to it that you can’t find anywhere else; an inherent calling to be wild and free, uninhibited by the footprints left by those who hike to great heights or scale unreal summits. It’s vast lakes, their rich, lapis blue reaching endlessly beyond tree-lined shores, seem to reflect the wide expanse of sky, often hued with greys on rainy days which kindly (and sometimes, begrudgingly) make room for the sun and wide-open, baby blue skies. Standing atop a mountain in British Columbia gives you the distinct impression that, despite every challenge and threat to its wilderness, the mountains, trees, lakes, and wildlife which help forge the landscape will still remain undaunted by us long after we’re gone.
There is no feeling like it.
My favourite place to explore and breathe in the fresh scent of pine and rushing water in British Columbia is the Capitano Salmon Hatchery. Despite being a self-proclaimed popular tourist destination, each time I find myself gravitating towards this serene setting in the wilderness, I am always surprised to find it devoid of people.
I wonder how anyone can pass beyond this place, where salmon can be seen jumping with a flash of pink which your eye catches only for a moment before you wonder whether you even saw it at all. The only sound to be heard is the rushing of the water over the small dam; as you explore further into the deep, lush trails of the Hatchery, silence ensues, leaving nothing but a quiet mist to settle over the trees and curl the ends of your hair. As my feet hit in the ground and I hear the distant rush of water, I feel at once elated and subdued; I’ve found my utopia.
Elsewhere, popular hiking and viewing spots like Lynn Canyon or Capilano Suspension Bridge Park allow you a glimpse into the wild as you cross a bridge strung above rushing blue water; from the other side, the bridges lead you to clustered forests waiting to envelope you in their subtly wild scent. I always feel as though I’m entering a different land the moment my foot touches the first rung in the bridge, knowing it’s just me, the bridge, and the water beneath. Englishman River Falls, Shannon Falls, Porteau Cove, Murrin Provincial Park, Brandywine Falls, Stawamus Chief, and Deep Cove are other essential spots most BC natives and frequent travellers are likely to have visited, but nonetheless, they are both stunning and awe-inspiring.
To visit British Columbia is to fall for a place few have adequate words to describe. As your feet move you along hidden trails, through the mountains, and among the peaks of hills and valleys seeming to reach towards the sky, you can’t help but feel as though you are amongst the wilderness of a different place and time. You feel as though the experience of the wilderness happens to you each time, all over again.