Local youth will be heading deep into the backcountry this July to explore the Hornaday Wilderness near Elkford with Wildsight’s Go Wild! Rockies Youth Leadership Program. This 6-day, self-sufficient backpacking trip starts July 8th and is open to youth from ages 14 to 18 who want to experience the Rockies as they were more than a century ago.
“This really is an incredible opportunity for our 21st-century youth to experience one of the few remaining large chunks of unprotected true wilderness left in the Kootenays,” explains trip leader and certified mountain guide Dave Quinn.
In 1905, famed American big-game hunter and early wildlife conservationist William T. Hornaday spent part of the hunting season in the wilderness of the Upper Elk and Bull River Valleys. With legendary local guide outfitter Mac Norboe and photographer John Phillips, Hornaday spent a month travelling on foot and by horse through remote valleys of the region in search of goat, bear and other game to hunt. His book about his adventures, Campfires in the Canadian Rockies, became an instant classic, and is required reading for historians and wilderness lovers alike.
At the time Hornaday was the Director of the New York Zoological Park, and in addition to hunting, he showed a deep scientific curiosity about the natural world and the need to share what knowledge he could acquire in these rugged mountains, some of which had seen few, if any European travellers. In addition to chapters dedicated to mountain goat, grizzly and elk, Hornaday’s classic includes discussions on avalanches, alpine plants, geology and everything from ground squirrels to wolverines.
“To travel through these wild spaces, be self-sufficient, and rely on ourselves to cook, camp and travel safely through some iconic Rocky Mountain scenery is the opportunity of a lifetime. This generation will need to decide what we do with these last pockets of connected, but still unprotected, wilderness, so it is important that they get a chance to experience them to understand their value, and what they offer us” added Quinn.
Today the valleys of Norboe, Culvert, Boivin, and Avalanche (Brule) Creeks look much the same as they did in Hornaday’s time over a century ago, as some of the last large intact, unroaded wilderness areas in a sea of heavily industrialized landscapes. The Hornaday Wilderness Society has been working hard to protect this rare wilderness, which is still critical habitat for sheep, goats, grizzlies, wolverines and all of the other iconic Rocky Mountain wildlife.
Quinn hopes to see plenty of wildlife, and some of the most spectacular scenery around.