The Early Years
The club was formed in 1974, a spin-off from the PG Naturalist Club, which had formed 4 or 5 years earlier.
The first meeting was organized by Win Glassford and Brian Looker. Others who attended that first meeting included Lorne Glassford, Doreen (Pitman) Itkonen and Dorothea Meyer. Dave Elliot, Thea and Dieter Koppe and Blake Dickens may have attended as well. I am not sure who suggested the club name, but Brian Looker is probable. He became the first president.
The club’s first hike was to Teapot Mountain (suggested by Bob Nelson) which, apparently, everyone felt was too easy.
Many things were happening in and around Prince George in the late 1960s and early 1970s: the consolidation of the forest industry, the building of the three pulp mills, and Highway 16 was being built through to Tete Jaune. There was a huge increase in PG's population. The College of New Caledonia (CNC) opened in 1969 and brought with it more academic oriented adults and students. The forest industry entered the clearcutting phase, and new main system forest roads were pushed back into the valleys in all directions. I mention these events as they all played a role in the formation of the club.
Prior to the construction of Hwy16, the people of PG did not have easy access to the mountains east of town. At that time there were few trails into our mountains aside from those going up to forest fire lookouts (Pope, Tacheeda, Longworth, Dome Mt/Slim, Boulder, McBride). There were roads up Bell Mt & Lucille near McBride, and Canoe Mt & McKirdy near Valemount. There were hunter and trapper trails, but these were semi-private and not known to most people, but I will mention two: the trail to Caribou meadows on Viking and the trail to Red Mt at Penny. The one to Caribou Meadows started as a First Nation's hunting trail and began on the Fraser River near the mouth of Hungary Creek.
Before the Ramblers formed, recreational interest in our backcountry was developing. The new highway helped a lot. In 1971, Blake Dickens (a CNC instructor) with assistance from Northwood Pulp and Timber located and built the original trail up Sugarbowl. Around the same time, Max Munro marked out another route up Sugarbowl from where Sugarbowl creek crosses the highway . . . it never became popular.
At this time, Bjorn Norheim was working for Northwood and was exploring the backcountry. He helped build the Hungary Creek road and explored the ridges above. In early 1972 Bjorn, Barry Hagen, and Vern Fraser went to the Raven Lake area to spend a night (a plaque on a rock not far from the cabin marks the location). That led to the Grizzly Den (1973) and Raven Lake (1974) cabins and trail system being built by Northwood. Forest fire fighter crews assisted as well. The Tumuch trail was built off the newly constructed Tumuch Forest Road. Bob Nelson explored a route into Erg Mt from a gravel pit developed during the Hwy 16 construction. His first trip, in 1973, was with three CNC students including a daughter of Niilo Itkonen. The students suggested the name "Erg" for the mountain as it took so much effort/energy.
Bob, as a member of the Naturalist Club, began putting together the first guide to trails in this area and the Robson Valley. Dave Balcaen, a CNC student from McBride, helped. The original bright yellow guide went through 9 editions and many reprints. In 2007, the guide was split into two volumes to accommodate more trails, especially in the Robson Valley and Barkerville areas. The Central Interior Trail Guide(s) continues to sell well, as no other guide to trails in this region is updated annually. Dave King edits ongoing changes to access and other factors.
It was within the above context that the Caledonia Ramblers Hiking Club evolved. The first year, there were only monthly trips, but by 1975 there were weekly hikes including overnighters.
From the beginning, the club has developed new trails and carried out maintenance. Trails established, and instigators, include:
|Erg Mountain||Bob Nelson|
|Ptarmigan Creek||Bob Nelson|
|Caledonia Mountain||Dave King|
|Viking Ridge||Dave King|
|Murray Mountain||Mike Nash|
|Fort George Canyon||Lorne & Win Glassford|
|LC Gunn/Fraser Cutbanks||George Evanoff & Mike Nash|
|Fang Mountain||George Evanoff & Dave King|
|Torpy Mountian||George Evanoff|
|Driscoll Ridge||Nowell Senior & Mike Nash|
|Ancient Forest Trail||Nowell Senior & Dave King|
The Club also relocated parts of the Giscome Portage, Blackwater, Sugarbowl, Farm, Tacheeda, Tumuch and Raven Lake Trails.
Maintenance, coordinated by Dave King, has been carried out on many other trails, as well as those the club helped establish. This work continues. The club now has Volunteer Working Agreements with both BC Parks and Recreation Sites and Trails and in recent years has put in much time re-opening and maintaining part of the Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail south of PG.
Members of the club, especially Bjorn Norheim, but also, B. Nelson, G. Evanoff, D. King and M. Nash, have given names to many mountains and other features in the areas where the club developed trails and hiked.
The development of the Ancient Forest Trail deserves special mention. Little did we know in 2006 when the trail was started that this nature trail through the old growth cedar forest would turn into a major tourist attraction. This trail, which was developed in cooperation with the provincial government, Recreation, Sites and Trails BC, had about 15,000 visitors in 2013. The proposal by Nowell Senior of the addition of the universal boardwalk (2010-13) has added considerably to the trail's attractiveness. Starting in the late 1990s, University of Northern B. C. (UNBC) professors, Darwyn Coxson and others, carried out research in the vicinity of the ancient forest. Now the trail and a much larger area are being proposed as a provincial park (It became a provincial park in 2016 and efforts are now being made to get UNESCO World Heritage Site status). In conjunction with the trail the Club has formed a charitable organization, Caledonia Ramblers Trust Friends of the Ancient Forest.
From early in the Club’s history, members have taken active roles in land use management planning as it pertains to hiking, backpacking, etc. Members (George Evanoff, Mike Nash, Dave King, Sandra Kinsey) played active roles in the Land Resource Management Plan (LRMP) process of the 1990s that led to the establishment of new parks in several areas that included hiking trails (Eskers, Sugarbowl-Grizzly Den, Erg, Ptarmigan Creek, George Evanoff Park, Pine Pass/Mt Lemoray). The club also helped establish other parks: Kakwa, Arctic Lake, Bobtail and Pope Mt. We continue to have input into park management plans and some logging plans.
George Evanoff deserves credit with starting the weeklong backpacking trips that have become a tradition with the club. In 1982 the first such trip was into Kakwa. Besides several trips to Kakwa there have been trips, mostly led by Dave King, to Mt Edziza, WokKpash, Hedrick Lake area, Blueberry/Jasper, Berg Lake, Monkman Park, Limestone Lakes, Tweedsmuir, East Twin-Holmes Mt., the Niut Range and the Wolverine Range.
About ten years ago, an active snowshoeing schedule was started, for which Nowell Senior deserves full credit. There had been scattered trips in earlier years but nothing scheduled. Now the club rolls from a "summer" hiking schedule straight into a "snowshoe" schedule and back again.
The Club has been a member of the Federation of Mountain Clubs that represents about 40 clubs scattered around the province. The Club is also a member of the PG Backcountry Recreation Society, the Greenway Society, the Tabor Mountain Recreation Society and is a supporter of Hike BC, which is developing the National Hiking Trail that traverses the southern part of our area.