A Ranger's Retreat in Paradise
For more than 20 years, an unassuming building nestled in the trees beyond the outer reaches of Paradise Meadows has been a welcome refuge for Rangers performing backcountry patrols or hikers seeking shelter from the rain.
Now, the cabin has become command central for Windy Park Operations’ backcountry patrols.
The Ranger Cabin was built in the mid-1980s to provide more Ranger presence in the backcountry during the peak season of June to September. “Up to four Rangers used the seasonal facility at its peak,” said Andy Smith, Area Supervisor for BC Parks.
In the winter the two-storey-tall structure is buried in snow, and access for inspection is through digging down to walk directly into the top floor, he said.
In the late 1990s BC Parks moved to maintenance contractors and a Park Facility Operator (PFO) was hired to maintain the plateau trails and campgrounds. That PFO is now Jerry McArthur, owner and operator of the family-run Windy Park Operations.
McArthur is responsible for maintaining all the trails in Strathcona Park near Mount Washington Alpine Resort as well as the back end of Buttle Lake, the Bedwell Trail and Elk River Trail (20 kilometres short of Gold River).
“We use the cabin as a base during the season,” says McArthur, who employs his three sons as well as three other people during peak season. “We have one person and sometimes two people staying in the cabin as their base. We equip it in the spring when we activate the Park.”
The cabin is about one and a half hours from the Strathcona Park trailhead beside Raven Lodge at Mount Washington. It features three bedrooms – leaving one available for BC Parks staff – a shower stall, small galley kitchen and a common room with an airtight wood stove.
McArthur flies in wood, propane and other supplies during routine maintenance flights. “It’s a great facility for what we need it for. If we’re doing work anywhere at that level, we can have up to four or five people staying comfortably in the cabin,” he says.
McArthur worked for 10 years with Osprey Silviculture, which previously had the Strathcona backcountry contract. This is his second summer having the contract under his own company.
A moderate hiker before he started working the park contract, McArthur says he “goes everywhere now.” He especially likes working with the people he meets in the park - some of them returning year after year.
Jerry and his crew walk every kilometre of the trails they are responsible for at least once during the summer, repairing trails, replacing boardwalk or railings, replacing infrastructure like pit toilets and answering questions of the public. They even hit the non-core areas, and clear the Della Falls trail once a year.
The busiest place is Forbidden Plateau, which sees thousands of visitors each month during the summer, according to McArthur’s traffic counters.
“We try and educate people, especially when the snow is still on the trails, so they have the ability to find the trails. We always caution people to be as prepared as they can…and don’t hike beyond their capabilities.”