It’s been a great start to the season at Cape Scott Provincial Park. We’ve seen lots of happy campers relishing their beach campfires and wonderful accounts of the adventure of completing the North Coast Trail. As the operators of Cape Scott Park, we have six staff working across the park. They are busy clearing windfall and overgrown foliage, repairing park infrastructure like bridges and stairs, endlessly re-routing drainage, checking permits and ensuring everyone stays safe.
We operate out of three specific areas. Chelsea and Liam work for 15 days straight traversing the North Coast Trail, camping and maintaining its condition. Frank, Maleen and Claire get to spend the summer in relative luxury – working 10 day shifts out of the Nels Bight cabin, and repairing all of Cape Scott west’s trails. Heidi spends her shift living out of the yurt at San Josef Bay, keeping busy by checking in on the many campers who visit the most accessible and one of the most beautiful areas of Cape Scott.
If you have already been to the park this summer, you may have seen our staff during your adventures. If you are still planning to head in, read below to find out more about each of our hard-working Park Operators.
Heidi (San Josef Bay)
Fav Hike? Mount Gimli in Valhalla Provincial Park, near Slocan. I love the expansive views from alpine heather meadows, often with mountain goats hanging about nearby. I highly recommend this park if you are into paddling from beach to beach along Slocan Lake. There are also heritage buildings and rock climbing opportunities accessible by a short hike. I suggest visiting in September when it’s still swimming weather, but campsites are available and the colours of fall are starting to set in.
Most excited about for this summer season? This summer season I am most excited about getting unlimited amounts of fresh air and exercise – and meeting new people. The more tidbits of knowledge and experience I can collect from park visitors, the better. Another thing that I am looking forward to is watching people enjoy the freedom that this park allows – I get to see children at their most uninhibited, adults at their most relaxed (and vice-versa!).
What is your backcountry and parks experience? I’ve done lots of hiking and travelling around the parks of the West Kootenays of BC! I can tell you my experience with canoe camping, and also share my love for hiking on the southwestern coast (Vancouver/Squamish/Pemberton area).
Fav thing to do in your off time in the parks? It’s only a few weeks into the season, but in my off time I like to pack my dinner down to the beach and relax. I am working on identifying the different mushrooms I see along the trail, and am reading up on Indigenous history of the area. There is so much to learn! Learn more about the First Nations and European history in Cape Scott.
Coolest thing you’ve seen on your first shift? The coolest thing that I have seen was on my first shift – getting a bird’s eye view of San Josef Bay from a helicopter! It was a surreal experience I will not forget – landing on the beach and walking the trail to the Ranger Station was a wonderful introduction to the season.
Frank (Nels Bight)
Fav hike? The Iceline Trail circuit in Yoho National Park. I loved the high alpine wilderness and the icefields.
Most excited about for this summer season? Wolves!! I have never seen a wolf in the wild so I am excited to (hopefully) see one up close. The isolated and wild environment of Cape Scott makes wildlife viewing even more exciting! Find out more about the Vancouver Island wolf.
What is your backcountry and parks experience? I have worked as a volunteer with various parks organizations. This type of work has included trail building, trail maintenance, and invasive species removal. As an avid hiker, backpacking has been an important part of my outdoor adventures. I have done multi-day backcountry trips on the Vancouver Island coast and in the Canadian Rockies.
Fav thing to do in your off time in the parks? My favourite thing has been having fires on the beach and taking in the spectacular scenery. Nels is a prime spot for great sunsets and having a clear view of the stars at night.
Coolest thing you have seen on your first shift: While doing some danger tree removal, a black bear came around a corner on the trail in front of us. It was really cool to see the bear up close and watch how it reacted to us.
Maleen (Nels Bight)
Fav hike? The Cape Scott trail is one of my favourite longer hikes in BC- I hiked it last summer and felt a strong connection to the magic of this special place. I feel so fortunate to be able to live and work here this summer! I do also love the path down to Schooner’s Cove as well as the other trails near Tofino, especially watching the big waves crash onto rocks.
Most excited about for this summer season? I am really hoping that we are lucky enough to see some wolves in the park this summer! I am also excited to explore the North Island on my days off- so far I have made a day trip over to Sointula (Malcolm Island). Highlights were cycling around, beachcombing and checking out the amazing collection of Finnish archives at the museum!
What is your backcountry and parks experience? I’ve recently done the Angels Landing trail in Zion National Park, Utah and the Bright Angel trail down into the Grand Canyon, Arizona- it had the most spectacular night sky I have ever seen!
Fav thing to do in your off time in the parks? So far I have been settling into an evening routine of yoga and stretching, either on the beach or in front of the woodstove to wind down after a day of hiking. We also found a frisbee on a trip to Nissen Bight- score!
Coolest thing you’ve seen on your first shift? While on the trails I like to keep an eye out for animal tracks- we have seen otter, wolf and elk so far, as well as identifying different plants, fun fungi and slime moulds! I have also been captivated by the icy turquoise waves at Experiment Bight. Meeting hikers from so many different areas and backgrounds on our day trips and nightly beach walks has also been a cool experience so far!
Claire J (Nels Bight)
Fav hike? The first multi-day hike I ever did was up to Cape Scott, so it holds a special place in my heart. I also loved hiking up Mt. McBride in Strathcona Provincial Park to get my first taste of the alpine. I couldn’t believe the abundance of wildflowers up there, and how turquoise the little mountain lakes are. I’m used to coastal areas on the Island, so seeing such a different ecosystem was an amazing experience.
Most excited about for this summer season? The chance to see wildlife and talk to visitors about their sightings! We’ve had a lot of people telling us they’ve seen wolves, bears and whales during their visit to the park. It’s awesome to exchange stories. It also feels good to be able to reassure some people who are a little nervous of wildlife encounters that for the most part the animals are not to be feared, so long as you observe some common-sense guidelines.
What is your backcountry and parks experience?I’ve done one two-week hiking trip in Strathcona, several hikes in Cape Scott and completed the North Coast Trail in 2016. I’ve also done a lot of the smaller trails on the North Island such as the Commuter Trail and Tex Lyon trail in Port Hardy. In 2015 I traveled to Tanzania and had the opportunity to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro. Then there were all those local Girl Guide camp outs, which certainly got me used to rain!
Fav thing to do in your off time in the parks? I brought a plant identification book with me and in my spare time I have been trying to learn the names and uses of more of the local flora. My co-worker, Maleen, already knew a bunch so she was able to teach me, like yarrow and silverweed. I’ve also learned to recognize vetch, sweet gale, blue-eyed grass and various willows. It’s also tons of fun to observe animal tracks on the beach, mostly wolf, bear and shorebirds. The wolf tracks are the most exciting because you can see where they’ve walked beside each other, tussled in the sand, or stopped to chew on a lump of seaweed. One time Frank and I followed some bear tracks just a few steps off the trail and found a path the bear had made from repeated use, and you could even see that he puts his feet down in the same place every time he uses it, making a clear set of footholds on the sloped ground.
Coolest thing you’ve seen on your first shift? I saw a type of bird I hadn’t seen before, which I’ve been trying to identify since coming home to my bird books. It was absolutely tiny, body the size of a hummingbird but without the long beak, entirely chocolate brown and flitting around from twig to twig. I’m still trying to figure out what it was. I’ll take my bird book out with me next shift! In other bird news, on day two of the shift I had to shoo out a very flustered jenny wren from our outhouse that could not seem to understand the wide open door.
Chelsea (North Coast Trail)
Fav hike? The NCT! The combination of the butt-kicking challenge of the trail itself and the awesome land/seascapes has totally blown me away. It’s a fantastic hike in a gorgeous and remote part of the island.
Most excited about for this summer season? Being outside all the time and getting my butt kicked by Mother Nature! This butt-kicking thing seems to be a theme with me. I’m excited at how the challenges posed by the NCT will drive me to work hard and be creative in such a beautiful but often harsh environment. I’m excited about the learning opportunities the trail presents to me, not only regarding practical skills about trail maintenance but also about myself and how I exist in nature for long periods of time. Also, seeing whales and sea otters!
What is your backcountry and parks experience? I worked on Forbidden Plateau in Strathcona Park last summer, plus having grown up in Comox I have a good grasp (and appreciation) of that area. I also recently spent a bunch of time living out of my (recently deceased) minivan exploring many National Parks in the US! I spent most of my time in Utah hiking through the super cool and unique rock formations there. I also visited Arizona and New Mexico to learn about life in the desert, and finally traversed the coast from Southern California all the way home to the island. It was super fun and I’d do it again in an instant.
Fav thing to do in your off time in the parks? Walk some more! Nothing beats a long day of hiking like hiking some more (except without a big pack and in comfier shoes). After that, kicking back with a book or just chatting with fellow hikers around a fire.
Coolest thing you’ve seen on your first shift? I’m going to cheat and tell you the coolest thing from my second shift instead. Late one evening at Laura Creek, we (the NCT Team and some new friends) saw some humpback whales breaching! We probably watched for hours as the leaped around out there, and for one of the hikers with us it was his first time ever seeing a whale.
Liam (North Coast Trail)
Fav hike? The Stein Valley Traverse in the Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park. There’s beautiful scenery and interesting terrain, and it’s very different from the other (mainly coastal) hikes I’ve done.
Most excited about for this summer season? Just being on the NCT! The scenery, wildlife, hiking, and everything else is phenomenal.
What is your backcountry and parks experience?
In BC, I’ve hiked the
- Stein Valley Traverse
- West Coast Trail
- North Coast Trail
- Juan de Fuca Marine Trail
- Howe Sound Crest Trail
as well as a lot of day hikes and a few winter backcountry expeditions.
Fav thing to do in your off time in the parks? Fishing! I’ve only caught one fish so far, but I’m planning to hike in more tackle in future shifts, so hopefully my luck will improve.
Coolest thing you’ve seen on your first shift? Rafts of sea otters on the boat to and from Port Hardy