By Julie Pendray
Manning Provincial Park, B.C., CANADA — Hundreds of Pacific Crest Trail “thru hikers” are due to arrive at E. C. Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia over the next two months, after a grueling journey from the U.S.-Mexican border near San Diego. Each year, adventurers from all over the world experience the scenery, camaraderie and challenge of trekking over the Sierra and Cascade mountains, through Southern California desert and into forests in California, Oregon and Washington on the trail, which ends at the Canadian border. Canada’s government allows hikers to come an extra 7 miles through the woods to connect with Highway 3 in Manning Park. Many hikers stay at the park’s hostel, then leave on a Greyhound bus to grab a plane out of Vancouver. The park is about a 3-hour drive from the city.
Only an estimated 40 percent of each year’s intended PCT thru hikers (those who hope to complete the 2,650 miles) make it to Manning Park. Snow can cause hikers to bail at a variety of points along the way. If they don’t get to Canada by late September, they run the risk of encountering prohibitive amounts of snow, according to Manning Park Resort staff. Peak season for PCT hiker arrivals here is August/September, they said, but some arrive in October.
There are more hikers on the route than ever before this year, due to the popularity of the book “Wild,” by Cheryl Strayed, who hiked part of the PCT alone in 1995. The book was made into a movie of the same name, which featured Reese Witherspoon. Figures for thru hikers this year haven’t been released yet by the Pacific Crest Trail Association, which issues permits for the adventure, so it’s unknown how many will arrive at Manning Park. However, anecdotal accounts by hikers on the trail indicate there could be 400 to 700 or so visiting the area between now and the end of September, or into October if they are fortunate with weather. Long distance (500 miles plus) permits were issued to 4,453 people last year.
Hikers are allowed to cross the border if they obtain a permit from the Canada Border Services Agency. However, it is illegal for anyone, regardless of nationality or citizenship, to enter the United States on the Pacific Crest Trail.
About 5 percent of hikers choose to embark from the north to the Mexican border each year. Many decide to miss the northernmost 30 miles because of the border issue and because there’s no nearby road access to the trail. Harts Pass is the closest access to the PCT, 30 miles south of the border. Other hikers refuse to miss any part of the trail. These southbound hopefuls do a “flip flop.” They begin from Stevens Pass, Ross Lake or Harts Pass in Washington state and go to Manning Park, then they get transportation to Vancouver and down to Seattle, and then go east and begin hiking southward from where they started.
Hiking at high elevation in Washington can be treacherous at this time of year, not only due to possible weather changes, but also trees that may have blown down, hikers report.
In addition to PCT hikers (most of whom have seen enough of trails by the time they get here), E. C. Manning Provincial Park attracts summer visitors ready to enjoy hundreds of miles of hikes, plus opportunities for biking, camping and boating. Manning Park Resort offers a variety of accommodations and food facilities, plus Loon Lagoon pool and a hot tub.
Even so, the park isn’t well known outside Canada. It lies deep in the Cascades, off the radar of many cross-country tourists. The park was made accessible to motor vehicles only as recently as 1949, when Hope Princeton Highway was completed.
This year, Manning Park is the focus of more attention due to its 75th anniversary, with a celebration on July 16, to coincide with Canada’s Parks Day. Most festivities will happen at Lightning Lake Day Use Area from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with community booths, displays, interactive games and crafts. Hope Mountain Centre and the Freshwater Fisheries Society will participate, with fishing gear for kids to try. BC Hydro will bring their electric vehicle and offer energy conservation tips. A number of hiking, naturalist, and outdoors groups will be there to offer information, and visitors can also go on guided hikes with park interpreters. There’ll be family-friendly rock and roll, kids’ crafts, face painting and BC Parks’ Jerry the Moose at the park too.
Manning Park is “thrilled” to have Murray Phillips, a renowned Artist for Conservation, attending, according to Manning Park Resort spokeswoman Robyn Barker. Murray is a well-traveled artist who makes his home in Langley, B.C. He has created a painting that showcases the iconic Three Brothers mountain range viewed from Alpine Meadows, and he is donating it to Manning Park to commemorate the anniversary. The resort has teamed with BC Parks to support a poster reproduction of the painting. Phillips will be there to sign posters.
A ceremony will begin at 1 p.m., with special guests to say a few words recognizing the history, dedicated people and continued conservation of the park. E. C. Manning Provincial Park is named after Ernest Calloway Manning, Chief Forester of British Columbia from 1936 to 1941. The park was established in 1941, the year Manning was killed in a plane accident. He is recognized for helping to promote the concept of setting land aside for the pleasure of future generations.
Manning Park’s trails of historical significance include the Dewdney Trail, Hope Pass, Whatcom Trail, Engineers Road, Skyline Trail and Blackeye’s Trail, according to British Columbia (BC) Parks. Features include the remains of ranches, trapping cabins, mining shafts, Buckhorn mining camp and historical fire lookout buildings at Windy Joe and Monument 83, the web site states.
Manning Park is home to 206 species of birds and 63 species of mammals, according to BC Parks. These include mountain beaver, wolverine and the Cascade golden-mantled ground squirrel. The area is also significant habitat for recovery of the threatened grizzly bear population of the North Cascades.
Rare spotted owls are known to occur within the park. A management plan to conserve them in the Manning and Skagit Valley areas is under way.
Manning Provincial Park covers an area of approximately 207,000 acres.
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