Hikers who venture past the lookout at Pulpit Rock will notice some new hardware up at the flagpole site.
No longer does the Canadian flag wave from a makeshift timber beam. On May 20, the Friends of Pulpit Rock Society installed 25 foot metal flagpole in a concrete base.
“It was a proud moment,” society director Guy Woods said. “Despite the rain … about 15 people attended [the pole raising] and sang ‘O Canada.'”
A proper flagpole has been on the society’s wish list for many years, but they lacked funds to purchase one. A recent donation from Nelson sisters Yonne Couch and Fermina Bath changed that.
“We’re all very grateful for the donation,” Wood said. “The flagpoles we had up there were quite haphazard. People basically carved sticks and stuck flags on them, and they were always falling down.”
The flagpole site is about a three kilometer hike from the Pulpit Rock trailhead or about one kilometre from the lookout. There are two paths leading to it — the original and extremely steep trail, and an easier route, which was added three years ago.
“Few people hike past the lookout, but it’s definitely worth doing,” Wood said. “You get an even better view up there.”
Beyond the flagpole, the trail continues to the CBC tower at the summit. Friends of Pulpit Rock maintain the full length of the trail.
This spring the society started tracking the number of hikers on the trail, using an infrared sensor near the base.
Between March 9 and May 20, some 4,700 people used the trail. The busiest day was April 22 with 265 hikers. This month has seen an average of 115 daily visitors.
“It’s become Nelson’s outdoor gym,” Wood said. “People walk and run up it for exercise.”
Friends of Pulpit Rock keep on top of trail maintenance with the help of students in Selkirk College’s recreation program and initial attack fire fighters from the Ministry of Forests who clear brush from the trail as part of a regular training exercises.
The society is also considering organizing work parties for other community members who want to work on the trail.
The main concerns on the trail are hiker safety and soil erosion. Wooden steps have been built in some areas the trail was wearing down to too steep a grade, and eventually those steps will need to be supported with concrete.
Encouraging hikers to stay on the trail is also an issue.
“We pile brush where people cut through on the switchbacks,” Wood said. “I encourage people, if they’re trying to get more exercise by cutting up a steeper way, to just jog up the trail instead.”
During busy times, parking can be hard to find. Bike racks have been installed to help deal with that.
“These are all symptoms of a much loved trail,” Wood said. “As issues come up, we deal with them, bit by bit every year.”