Members of the Canadian Rangers atop Mount Baldy during an exercise in which the group restored a significant portion of the historic Baldy Trail.

Gold rush revisited – The Baldy Trail has been reopened thanks to some hard work

The Baldy Trail used to be the route north for gold seekers wishing to access the Omineca gold fields from Manson Creek.

The trail was established after the 1861 discovery of gold in the Omineca area, resulting in the Omineca Gold Rush of the 1870s.

The Baldy Trail used to be the route north for gold seekers wishing to access the Omineca gold fields from Manson Creek.

The trail was established after the 1861 discovery of gold in the Omineca area, resulting in the Omineca Gold Rush of the 1870s.

The trail was used to access the area up until the construction of the North Road in 1939.

While the trail was no longer used by vehicle traffic, it was still used extensively by trappers, hunters, hikers, ATV riders, snowmobilers, dogsledders and others in the following decades.

However, a fire in the early 1980s burnt a section of the trail and then resulted in heavy windfall and thick pine regeneration, making an estimated two kilometer section of the trail impassable, and the trail was then in poor condition and unused.

But a large 52 km section of the trail is once again open, thanks to some hard work carried out this year by the Vanderhoof Canadian Ranger Patrol, initiated by their commander, Frank Read.

After Read heard of the state the historic trail was in, he thought it was an appropriate challenge to undertake the restoration of the historically significant route.

The group of Canadian Rangers made it into an exercise for the patrol, with an assessment and reconnaissance and then the establishment of a base-camp to work from.

The group consisted of 18 people, Sergeant Paul Brandson and Patrol Commander Frank Read leading the 16 rangers on “Exercise Mount Baldy.”

BALDY

The group worked for four days on the trail after establishing a base on the Thudate-Nation Road. The trail was cleared using chainsaws and quads to move themselves and equipment along the route, and in the first day alone, 14 km of trail were successfully improved.

Baldy Trail was still maintained and cleared from the one side, between Mount Baldy and Manson Creek, however, the group managed to clear the other section to the top of Baldy Mountain from the Thudate-Nation Rd.

The group also enjoyed an extensive visit by Terry and Margaret-Ann Houghton while they were camped in the area.

Terry Houghton is the owner of a trap-line in the area, and told many stories to the group about the history of the area, which seemed to make an impression on the group.

Along the way, one member of the group, Ranger Krueger, also happened to stumble across an old gravesite belonging to Hugh Gillis.

Legend has it, Gillis came to the goldfields in the 1870s to seek his fortune, but not before making a promise to his fiance that he would return after one year to marry her.

One year later, Gillis was on his way back home with a “poke full of gold” when he happened across a pack train which was carrying a letter for him.

When Gillis opened the letter from his betrothed, walked a short distance away, put a revolver to his head and committed suicide.

He was buried there, a short distance from the trail, with stones to mark the spot.

In the 1940s, the Gillis grave had been upgraded by Albert Alexander, who placed a memorial on the site.

In 2010, Louis Gauthier and his wife also rediscovered the grave and once again refurbished it.

A poem by the late Earl Buck is contained in a weatherproof container at the site and there is a journal for visitors to sign.

After their many days of hard work, the ranger group broke camp, loaded all their gear up and headed back down to their home bease of Vanderhoof.

The Vanderhoof Canadian Ranger Patrol seemed to not only have done a great service to the region by restoring the historic recreation trail, but also seemed to have gained a great experience while doing it, full of history and discovery.

Written by Ruth Lloyd from information in a report by Sam Campese

 

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