The Wild Side Trail on Flores Island
by Adam Buskard, Tofino
Wrapping around the southeast corner of Flores Island, connecting the village of Ahousaht to its outside beaches is the Wildside Heritage Trail. This 11 km trail has been used by the Nuu-chah-nulth for many generations and thanks to the amazing work that they have done it will be around for many more.
The path of the trail follows a course that it is rich in natural wonders and cultural significance. It begins from the village of Ahousaht which sits protected inside a deep harbour on the east side of Flores island, a 45 minute boat ride from Tofino.
The trail follows the coast, stopping periodically at points of interest such as spiritually significant locations, battlegrounds from first nation conflicts of the 1800's and culturally modified trees. There are a score of beaches that the trail touches as it heads westward, each one of them with an ancient story of it's own. For interpretation of these points be sure to get yourself a guidebook or even better a First Nations Guide to elaborate. The last beach is Cow Bay and then the trail turns inland and follows Cow Creek to the peek of Mt. Flores sitting at 900 meters.
The revival of this ancient path began in 1993 when a group of Ahouhaht women formed Walk the Wildside with the intent of promoting the trail as an eco-tourism destination. An initial investment of time, sweat and a little marketing and the Wild Side Heritage Trail was open for business, Quickly tales of the stunning beaches, deep forest tunnels and wild life that was truly wild swept through the hiking community of the west coast. Thousands made the trip and effects were felt both positively financially and unfortunately negatively on the land.
he trail had begun to deteriorate by the mid 1990's, there was concern within the Ahousaht elders as to amount of damage that could be done to the environment and to culturally sensitive spots. This was addressed and it was decided that a proper trail with boardwalks, bridges and other forms of engineered support was needed.
The work began in 1996 under the management of a joint venture between the Ahousaht Band Council and the Western Canadian Wilderness Committee. It took a group of 25 native and non-native youth and workers 7 months to compete the work.
There is a $20 per person fee that goes to the maintenance of the trail. Registration is at the Wildside Trail office which is located in Mini-Mall just above the Hydro dock in Ahousaht.