If you’ve never gone hiking in the South Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, Tim O’Hearn advises that you start by exploring the Taylor Creek or Pearson Creek basins over two or three days.
O’Hearn told the Georgia Straight that backpacking the Gun Creek Trail to Spruce Lake offers another excellent introduction to this remote and beautiful area, which lies 150 kilometres north of Whistler and 95 kilometres west of Lillooet.
“I would recommend doing a trip that’s shorter and more accessible,” O’Hearn said by phone from Burnaby. “There are parts of that area that are less accessible than others and just require a much longer drive, and it isn’t so easy to find the way. There’s no signs basically for the entire area.”
Together with his wife, Claudia, O’Hearn has authored a comprehensive new guide to outdoor recreation in the South Chilcotin Mountains. They published Southern Chilcotin Mountains Guidebook through their company Trail Ventures B.C., which is known for its GPS-based maps of the North Shore and Chilliwack River areas.
Indeed, the 191-page book—containing information on hiking, camping, mountaineering, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, and more—is designed to be used in conjunction with the second edition of their Southern Chilcotin Mountains trail map.
Both products cover South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park, Big Creek Provincial Park, and adjacent areas.
“We wanted to promote that area,” O’Hearn said. “It is an amazing area in a lot of ways. So we thought it would definitely help people find their way through that area. The map is good obviously, but that area has quite a complex trail system. We realized a book would help people quite a bit as well.”
According to O’Hearn, the South Chilcotin Mountains are particularly interesting due to the area’s First Nations and ranching history, old cabins, and meadows. He noted that “good quality” trails allow visitors to travel from one end to the other via a variety of routes.
“The wildflowers are some of the best in the province,” O’Hearn said. “Some people just do trips there specifically to see wildflowers.”
Asked to reveal his favourite spots, O’Hearn mentioned the Lorna Lake, Big Creek, and Dil-Dil Plateau areas. The book describes the plateau as a “land of many contrasts and extremes” featuring a “vast expanse of high alpine tundra rimmed by looming mountains on one side and steep dropoffs on the other”.
“Pretty well the whole area is amazing,” O’Hearn said. “We tend to go to various parts and rotate it, because we like the entire area.”
The book organizes the trails by drainage and includes access details and tables of statistics. O’Hearn maintained it was a challenge to include information on the many activities taking place in the area.
Southern Chilcotin Mountains Guidebook is available from the Trail Ventures B.C. website, MEC, and other stores.
The O’Hearns began producing maps a decade ago because of their love of backpacking and mountaineering. Each map takes two to three years to complete.
Next, Trail Ventures B.C. is printing the second edition of its North Shore map and a new map of the Stein Valley to Joffre Lakes area. Both are due out this summer.
“The reason why we started doing this and we’re continuing doing this is not for the money, because there’s no money to be made,” O’Hearn said. “We found that out pretty quick. It’s more for the love of it and producing maps and now the guidebook for reasons of helping people to find their way through and to promote people getting in touch with nature. That’s why we’re doing it.”