By Lorne Eckersley
I have been pretty understanding about the many, many closures we have faced in the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic, but my reaction to the announcement that the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area was to close on Sunday night really hit a nerve.
Only the day before we had gone out, parked in the Balancing Rock lot, then headed east on foot to catch the trail that takes us past the site of the old, and now completely removed, Wildlife Centre. It’s a strange sight now, with only a tidy flat gravelled spot service as a reminder of the once loved educational centre set right into the marshes.
There was a breeze on that afternoon and my first inclination was just to continue on that path that runs parallel to West Creston Road, then return to the car on the same route. But soon we had established our walking rhythm and the wind seemed to ease, so we carried on, out onto West Creston Road for about 50 metres and then back down onto the trail that takes us north to the Kootenay River, then west to Highway 3 and back to the parking lot. It’s about a 7km loop and it’s one of our favourites when we just don’t want any climbing. We did not see a soul until we got back near the car.
On Saturday we went up to check out the Ka Papa Cedars Trail near Kootenay Pass. We left our snowshoes behind, confident that the trail would be reasonably well packed. It was a slog just to get over the snowplowed pile to get access to the trail, and we followed another couple in, at a distance, who were trying out their snowshoes.
The footbridge, installed last year, was an awesome sight. The snow had built up a few feet over the handrails, but a path had been packed down so that access was not lost. Crossing the bridge, we had a bit of scramble getting up the short steep hill, and were grateful for the help of our hiking poles. Within a hundred meters we came across the snowshoers, who graciously encouraged us to go past them. As we made our way around that beautiful loop, sinking occasionally up to our knees in the odd soft spot in the snow, we were smitten once again by the beauty of those ancient cedars. Our memories, as they always do in that location, brought our friend Ralph Moore to mind. Ka Papa Cedars Trail does have a nice ring to it, but we and, I suspect, many others, will always think of that spot as Ralph’s Grove.
When we returned home I read about the CVWMA closure on Facebook, and commented with displeasure on what I believe is a ban with no scientific merit. I could almost hear Ralph’s voice, scoffing.
We had another hike planned for Sunday, where we would meet friends at the Summit Creek parking lot, then head over and upward to Williams Creek Falls, then northward across the marsh to Kootenay River and then back along the dike to our vehicles. With not much snow to deal with, it was easy for us to keep our distance from one another, but still carry on a lively and much-needed conversation. It didn’t even particularly bother me when the descent from the falls led into the wet marsh, and I occasionally sank into calf-deep water. Once we got to the dike we had to stop so I could empty my waterproof boots and wring my socks out.
The entire hike took more than three hours and covered about 12km under mostly cloudy skies and occasional lightly falling snow. It was a glorious outing, one that feeds the spirit in undefinable ways.
Imagine, being out among our valley’s natural beauty for more than three hours and not coming across one other person. It wasn’t until we returned to our vehicles that we saw another human, a fellow who was pulling firewood up to his SUV.
There are still lots of options for walking and hiking left—trails in town, out in Lister, Goat Mountain and the Skimmerhorns, and they are all needed in a time when the world closes in on us. We need to get out, stay active and keep fit and healthy, and the fresh air and the natural beauty are surely the best barrier to depression and anger that so many of us feel as we face so many necessary restrictions.
“The Creston Valley Wildlife Management authority is taking proactive measures to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and, as such, is closing the CVWMA until further notice. We understand that nature is a great place to be, but the safety and health of visitors, staff and our community its our top priority right now,” says a notice on the CVWMA web site.
It is a worthy sentiment, but I don’t believe that the closure does anything to achieve the stated goal.