TUMBLER RIDGE HIKING TRAIL FEATURE SUPPLEMENT

The Stone Corral and the Monkman Pass Memorial Trail were featured in the August 1st issue. This week we are featuring the Boulder Gardens.

Introduction By Charles Helm

Residents and visitors to Tumbler Ridge now have over thirty hiking trails to choose from, thanks to the efforts of the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society (WNMS), the non-profit group that has explored the area, and designed, and helped build and maintain them.

A new brochure, available from the Visitor Centre, summarizes these trails, which lead to such diverse destinations as alpine summits, dinosaur trackways, caves, canyons, waterfalls, wetlands, lakes, and historic sites. Some find the variety of options quite overwhelming, and don?t know where to start.

Some of these destinations are spectacular, but can be duplicated elsewhere. Others are truly unique to the Tumbler Ridge area. This feature highlights three of these unique trails.

The Stone Corral is a success story, the Boulder Gardens is a success story hopefully in the making, and the Monkman Pass Memorial Trail is a project in evolution. Between them they epitomize what makes Tumbler Ridge such a truly special place to live in and to visit.

Twenty kilometers south of Tumbler Ridge is a mountain destination like no other in Canada. The rugged topography of the Boulder Gardens includes rock towers, enormous boulders, crevices and cracks, small caves, sinkholes, tarns, and a great variety of rock forms.

Its geological history is remarkable. Rocks on Babcock Mountain dip at about fifteen degrees, and at some points in time almost the entire top section of the mountain slid down over underlying softer layers. At the upper end of the slide the product is a surprising alpine valley near the summit of this flat-topped mountain, while at the bottom end is the Boulder Gardens, where the moving material buckled and toppled off the edge of the mountain.

In the early 1990s the Boulder Gardens was ?discovered? and identified by WNMS as a prime hiking destination. Government approval was obtained, and a short hiking route was built in 2002. In 2006, as part of the WNMS contribution to the 25th anniversary of Tumbler Ridge, this was extended into a circular four kilometer route with various offshoots. In 2007 a further side-trail has been built and signposted, to an imposing rocky section known as The Two Towers.

Visitor use is increasing ? people are overwhelmed by the unusual scenery, and enjoy bouldering, caving, summiting the towers, the lichens and the alpine flowers. The Boulder Gardens may soon rival Kinuseo Falls and the dinosaur trackways as ?must-see? destination in northeastern BC.

Mountain goats and caribou are often seen in the area, which has also yielded interesting plant fossils and dinosaur and bird footprints. These have been airlifted to Tumbler Ridge and are being studied.

WNMS has worked closely with government and local industry in preserving this jewel. The initial trail was constructed by an E-Team with the approval of Ministry of Forests and the support of the District of Tumbler Ridge. During the operation of the Quintette Mine, the limits of the restricted zone on Babcock Mountain were drawn up so that the Boulder Gardens would not be affected. Talisman Energy built a special trailhead parking lot for hikers. A local lumber company donated wood for use on the trail in 2006. The 2005 pullout feature on the Boulder Gardens in Tumbler Ridge News was sponsored by two local mining companies (Western Canadian Coal and NEMI).

But there was just one catch: the Boulder Gardens is situated within an existing coal tenure, and could in theory be mined one day. At the time the tenure was granted, no-one even knew of the Boulder Gardens, its unique nature, and its potential in the future regional tourism economy.

The District of Tumbler Ridge has taken up the issue in an enlightened fashion, and has made representations to BC?s Ministry of Energy and Mines, and the area has now been designated as a reserve. What this means is that should the current tenure holder relinquish its right to the area, no other company can acquire a lease and Boulder Gardens would then be preserved forever. Meetings with the mining company in question could be held in the hope that with their cooperation, securing this area for posterity could become a reality.

The Boulder Gardens Hiking Route takes hikers into the heart of this awe-inspiring landscape. It has sections of scree, and a few steep areas where simple rock scrambling is needed. Close by is the Peace River Coal mine and oil and gas installations. Some may find this disconcerting. But it appears that more come to understand and appreciate the remarkable co-operation that has occurred, which has enabled the potential preservation of this irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind Canadian destination.