Both the Verticle Smile and the Christina Crest Trail have the same Northern access points; they start at the summit of Mt. Saint Thomas.
After some research, I came to learn that Verticle Smile has an interesting history.
Formerly a championship downhill race course, it is now essentially used by dirt bikers to access high country roads.
Unfortunately, the trail has been decommissioned for downhill bike use due to excessive rutting and water erosion. I was determined to see for myself what had become of this famous trail.
Locating the Northern access point was the first challenge.
Active logging development on the Bonaza Creek FSR rendered the available, outdated access instructions useless, not to mention an updated spur of roads and off branches that will confuse any mortal man.
After a day of driving around the logging roads using good ol’ gut instinct we managed to locate what appeared to be the summit of Mt. Saint Thomas.
It was too late in the day to further investigate the peak so we decided to pack it in.
My fellow coworkers and I regrouped and decided to head out the next morning and review our GPS track file.
After viewing our track on a comprehensive topographical map including the location of our mountain, we saw that our former presumption of the location of Mt. Saint Thomas had been correct.
We set out for our second attempt to locate the trail head armed with a much better map-shape file in the GPS and with our existing general knowledge of the area.
Along for the ride this time was my hyperactive pup Scooby; franticly pacing around the back of the truck, clearly he was as excited to be in the high country as we were.
We got out of the truck after investigating an off branch to stretch and pee. Scooby shot out of the back of the truck like a race horse on steroids. In a matter of a few minutes he managed to pee on virtually every bush in a 3km radius.
While Scooby was busy with his tasks we tried to search for any sign of an old skid trail or trail leading to the summit of our mountain.
A hairy wood pecker was watching us with a curious eye while knocking away at a snag.
The precipitation from the last few days had us noticing the abundance of uncommon funguses popping up all over the place. Among some of the latter were Witches Butter and Orange peel.
Not knowing the exact location of the trail head, we decided to drive as close to the summit as we could get, park the car and hike the rest of the way to the summit.
We decided to follow the edge of a recently replanted cut block then continued heading towards the summit.
There were patches of snow present above 1800m.
As we neared the summit, we were elated to intersect the trail that would eventually lead us to the access points.
Looking out we could see endless mountain vistas veiled in rapidly changing weather.
Below us Highway 3 and the Paulson Bridge looked tiny.
Nearing the summit the trail was difficult to follow because it was hidden in quite a bit of snow, up to three feet deep in some areas.
We decided to turn around and back track down the trail to find the elusive access point.
When we finally reached the Bonaza FSR we had a good laugh at ourselves for we had passed the trailhead several times the previous day which is no surprise considering our outdated access instructions.
Despite being soaking wet and chilled to the bone we were a mighty happy group of people.
We look forward to our return once the snow had dissipated a bit more. It was an exhilarating experience being in the high country exposed to all elements.
Of course, when hiking in high country, make sure you take time to prepare yourself.
We saw signs of large animals including Grizzly Bear and the weather would change unexpectedly; one moment being very hot in direct sun and the next, frigid winds carrying hail and rain to chill your bones. Play safe.
Digital Trails Team 2014-2015
Christina Gateway CDA
Recreational Trail – Use At Own Risk.
Pack it in – Pack it out!
For a detailed map:
Christina Lake Welcome Centre,
1675 Highway 3, V0H 1E2