Over the years I poured over maps of BC and wondered about visiting the Meager Creek area. The massive landslide and subsequent closure gave the area a certain allure. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to visit so I made sure to nab a spot on this trip!
On a dark Friday night I was picked up and we hit the road for Pemberton. My mom, being a mom, had baked many, many cookies for the weekend and sharing was in order. We arrived at the first gate on the Lillooet FSR around midnight, but we were still the first ones there. Stretching from the car ride up as we set our tents up, we wondered where the others could be. Eventually everyone made it, and we tried scaring them by jumping out from behind the car, but they were more confused than spooked by the spectacle of four VOCers crouching behind a car. We spent some time standing around chatting and getting to know people before hitting the ground for some rest.
Waking up the next morning, we were greeted with the beautiful view which we had missed the night before: the Lillooet River. Rimmed with deciduous trees at the peak of their fall colours, and clouds swirling around the edges of the valley, obscuring the higher parts of the mountains. It smelled like fall – damp and rotting leaves.
It was a much longer than expected drive up-up-up and back-back-back following the Lillooet River and then Meager Creek. We marvelled at the devastation of the landslide which still marks this area and the precarious placement of the road daintily winding its way through it all. We found ourselves at the end of a road in the centre of a large cut block which spanned the landscape – snow dusted the mountainside.
Setting out with some tools, we got to roughing in the bottom section of the Harrison Hut trail. After a couple of hours of trail work, we returned to the cars with our tools and set out to the hut. Soon after hitting snow, we went from slipping and sliding here and there, to post-holing and sinking to our calves to the point of exhaustion. I had debated leaving snowshoes behind for this trip; I’m glad I decided not to. The few of us who had brought snowshoes were elevated to near-celebrity status (or, at least, it felt that way) as we broke trail. I must admit, this was kind of cool, maybe for the first hour or so, to be among the trail-breaking snowshoe-having heroes, but it got old pretty quickly after that. By the end, the going got to be rather miserable and a lot of time was spent wishing for the whole ordeal to be over and for the hut to appear.
After getting into the hut and getting the stove burning, twenty or so soaked and exhausted VOCers got to the important business of sharing cheese and bread and cookies and tea and whiskey and beer whilst playing guitar and singing and talking with people who were becoming less and less like strangers by the minute.
Stepping outside to collect water or go to the outhouse, I marvelled at the wintry stillness of where we were – a shocking difference from the orange leaves swirling around our cars as we drove up along the Lillooet.
The hut was packed with people. I and a few others had to sleep on the main floor, under the table, on the table, beside the stove—all over. Those of us on the main floor ended up staying awake longer chatting for a while. When we did get to bed, I was out like a light, and despite our rather cramped quarters I didn’t wake up until the next morning. From what I heard, it was very warm in the loft and many had trouble sleeping. I counted myself lucky to be down below.
The plan was to head down to the bridge where we would try our best to be pack mules and haul out the bridge in pieces on our backs. Before we left, though, we made sure to see how many VOCers it could take to install a doorknob. This particular knob, of the fancy, high-quality industrial-grade variety, should last some time out there. I understand from older VOCers that doorknobs are a bit of a perennial issue at the huts, with the various budget knobs falling apart not long after being installed. An FMCBC grant which allowed us to get extra bougie with the hardware was much appreciated!
Making our way back down was a little better than the way up—a soaking and miserable ordeal. Hanging out loading our packs, it felt like we were close and would be at the cars in no time. Unfortunately, the trail seemed longer on the way back, and I found myself wishing to be anywhere but there – now getting soaked while my extra loaded pack tugged on my back. I felt myself wishing it was over, but relishing the simplicity of my troubles; wet feet, wet clothes, fogged up glasses, burdened pack. The company of others who were equally soaked and fatigued, the swapping of stories, the rush from having an extra what felt like seventy pounds on our backs and the satisfaction of having gone through this with a group of kind friendly souls made it feel all the sweeter to eventually arrive at the cars.