OLD GLORY 2376m 7794′
This popular trail climbs the highest peak in the southwestern portion of the West Kootenay. From its alpine summit, views are all-encompassing. The trail features two alternate routes and so makes a pleasant day-trip loop.
Location: 11 miles NW of downtown Rossland along Hwy 3B.
Elevation gain: 974m (3194′)
Key elevations: Hanna Ck TH
Distance: Short trail 9.6km one-way; Long trail 12.8km one-way
Time: Day-long round trip
Access: Any vehicle
Season: Late June to October
Map: 82F/4 Trail
Drive: From Rossland, drive 11.2kms to the sharp corner at Hanna Creek.
From the Rossland-Nancy Greene Summit Hwy junction, it is 19.2kms. Park on either side off the road.
Trail: Most favour the short trail via Plewman Basin up and the long trail via Unnecessary Ridge back. The long trail ascends logging slash to the logging road at the top of the hill and follow it until it becomes a trail on the crest of Unnecessary Ridge.
The Hanna Creek TH is for the short trail and the marked trailhead is up the bank on the south side of the road. The steep and rutted trail climbs steadily through the shady forest to the subalpine of Plewman Basin. From here, the trail climbs Unnecessary Ridge (named for the elevation you gain and quickly lose) and rejoins the alternate route on its way to the pass at the base of Old Glory.
The trail climbs along the eastern flank of Old Glory to its prominent south ridge. At this point, it steepens and starts to switchback; and pass a number of old snow depth measuring poles as you head for the summit and the old lookout. The old meteorological station that once stood on the summit burned long ago (all the old foundations), a retired BC Forest Service lookout still stands. You can appreciate why the lookout building is equipped with strong reinforcing cables and ground wires if you can imagine lightning and 100 kph winds.
Old Glory is the only significant peak in the areas and as such provides a panoramic and instructive view. The terrain immediately around this southern tip of the Monashee Mountains is generally rolling and forest covered. The Valhallas and Kokanee range peaks are far to the north, the Bonningtons to the east and everywhere else, the mountains fade into hills.
Descent. To make the return more interesting, take the opposite trail down for a loop. If you hiked up the short route, keep right at the Unnecessary Ridge trail junction and follow the trail down past an old cabin to the logging road, which bottoms out on the road below your vehicle. Road walk back to the Hanna parking area.
Wilf and Ruth married on May 7, 1938, and the same month Wilf started work with the forest service as an Old Glory lookout man. Highway 3B did not exist back then. Reaching Old Glory was an arduous journey – a snowshoe form Red Mountain ski lodge. The first year he cleared windfall, repaired tools, replaced telephone poles and lines, and all the other odd jobs that came up in addition to chores, like hauling drinking water from a spring a mile down the mountain. Staying up top, often with Ruth and the kids, Wilf built a swing on top of the mountain for his young daughter Darlene in the early 1940s. Perched on top, they lived in a shelter held down by cables. “We endured many wild and wonderful storms during our summers on the mountaintop!” Wilf wrote. Once lightning struck while he was outside with wet hair. “It really dried out my hair,” he wrote. “It wasn’t back to normal until I had about three haircuts.” Another time he smelled something “I have never smelled before or since,” and his horse Punch was extremely nervous and unable to settle down. “We never saw anything,” Wilf wrote, but he wondered, “Was it a sasquatch?”
In 1941, the Met Station was put in, and after a decade as a lookout, Wilf was given the packer’s contract in 1948. The Met was manned constantly. Todd thought back fondly to a childhood out at the O’Brien camp every summer at the base of the Old Glory trail. “It was a wonderful life as a child,” she said, although she conceded it was a lot of work for her mother, caring for six children. “We had a cabin and packed everything in. We had cougars and bears wander through our camp — we didn’t worry too much about them. We had a sawdust pile to play in, and picked huckleberries. It was a lovely place for children.”
Ruth and Wilf got up at five each morning, and “Dad would get packing at 6 a.m. and be on the trail by 8. He hauled everything up to the Old Glory Met Station.” Wilf wrote about loads that included 90-gallon gas tanks, bed frames and spring mattresses, tables, chairs, desks, washing machines, chesterfields, and lumber in addition to radio transmitters and large glass-jar batteries. “He’d get the horses started, and they’d wander up there on their own, just trucked all the way up,” Todd said. “All the Met boys would help him unload, feed him lunch, and he’d go back down. He enjoyed that life, they were probably the best years of his life.”
Todd paused, then added: “I actually married one of those Met guys!” She recalled another love story: Jim Waldie was a young man in love with a Rossland girl who sent the love-stricken lookout love letters all summer as he sat watching for fires. “He’d come and get his load from Dad, but he’d run off and read his love letter without helping to unload,” Todd said. “So, once Dad hid the letter under the horse’s tail so Jim wouldn’t find it until the end. Dad rolled on the ground over that one!”
One sunny day in October, 1952, Wilf was supplying the Ridge Cabin half way up Old Glory with wood. He sent the horses packing and went into the woods to hunt grouse when he caught the glint of a piece of plane. The next day, Wilf guided RCMP to the remains of a crash that had been missing since a foggy day five years before.His obituary says, “He loved horses, pie and apple turnovers, mountain tops, a joke, a rousing game of cards, a good huckleberry season, a fruitful garden, a cowboy song, deep snow for skiing, a bargain, working with his hands, Christmas morning, his friends, his family, and his beloved Ruthie…” While those who knew him will miss the “twinkle in his eyes” and zest for life, Wilf’s own words tell the story: “I’m sure I did the right thing to marry that little prairie farm girl. We have three girls and three boys. Who could ask for anything more? I have a lot to be thankful for: Good kids, best of son-in laws and daughter-in-laws, loving good-looking grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I can boast a little, can’t I?”
Even though “many of his peers are long gone,” Todd expects the celebration of life on Aug. 6, from 2 to 4 p.m., to fill the Christina Lake Community Hall. “He made friends easily,” she said. In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made to the Friends of the Rossland Range.
Glory Lookout, elevation 7792
That is the place that welcomes you.
We’ll make you tea, now take your time
For this is the place, where the air’s sublime.
This is the country where the grizzly bear play
And mountain goats roam, night and day.
If you want fresh meat, go shoot a deer
Or if you like blue grouse better, there’s lots here.
Up here we get bad storms at night
With the thunder’s roar and lightning bright.
The cabin rolls and rocks, you feel it sway
And you pray for the dawn of another day.
We have a telephone and radio too.
Visitors, we have a few.
They hike up but cannot stay long,
For they’re afraid of bears, when night comes on.