As soon as B.C.’s Vancouver Island Spine Trail is completed, Rumon Carter plans to run all 700 kilometres of it. At 50 kilometres a day, he anticipates being able to cover the proposed trail from Victoria to Cape Scott in two weeks.
Carter, a director of the Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association, told the Georgia Straight that the long-distance trail will be the island’s version of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail in the United States and the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
“Each of these trails are huge shining lights for tourism in those regions, and great attractors and feathers in the caps of outdoor adventurers—whether they’re thru-hiking the trails in their entirety or just exploring various portions of them,” Carter said by phone from Victoria.
On May 31, VISTA will host the inaugural Vancouver Island Trails Network Conference in Courtenay. A Trails Day Out event in Cumberland on June 1 will follow the conference.
Gilbert Parker, VISTA’s past president, formed the organization in 2008, after hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs 4,265 kilometres through California, Oregon, and Washington. According to Carter, their goal is to finish building the Spine Trail by 2017, the 150th anniversary of Canada.
“As you can imagine just doing the basic math, that is, as I say, quite ambitious, so we really need to expand our capacity,” Carter said. “To do that, we really need to build a network and a community of individuals around this to start building trails more rapidly on multiple fronts.”
As a nonmotorized, multi-use route, the Spine Trail will be used by hikers, runners, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. Carter estimates that thru-hikers will take about one month to walk from end to end, but most people will explore sections of the trail.
About one-third of the Spine Trail already exists. At its southern end, it will follow the Trans Canada Trail from Victoria to Lake Cowichan. In Cape Scott Provincial Park, the proposed route incorporates the 59.5-kilometre North Coast Trail.
The Spine Trail will also take in the Beaufort Range and cross Strathcona Provincial Park. Carter said that, over the past two years, volunteers have built 50 kilometres of new trail at a cost of $200 per kilometre.
He noted that the Trans Canada Trail on southern Vancouver Island is “machine-built” and travels through urban areas. However, the rest of the Spine Trail will be a single track.
“The remainder of the Spine Trail, though it will intersect with communities, will by and large have a wilderness feel, be a backcountry trail, and be one that is both physically much narrower and, perhaps I’d suggest, aesthetically accessing areas that the TCT won’t necessarily see,” Carter said. “We’re going to take the trail up high in many instances.”
The Spine Trail offers many benefits to Vancouver Island, according to Carter. For one thing, it will connect trails and provide more opportunities for outdoor recreation. He also believes it will promote ecotourism in communities along the route and, therefore, help diversify the economy.
“We’re all deeply passionate about this island—what it has to offer,” Carter said. “We’ve all explored it to the greatest extent that time allows, and we really want to show that island off to folks that are residents on the island—many of whom, it’s come to be my experience, really don’t have a sense of the wealth of wilderness opportunities that exist on the island. This trail will allow people to access those spaces as residents. We also envision it as a really strong keystone attractor for tourism as well.”