(What follows is taken from a Facebook post I put up this week.)
RETURN TO BURMA BRIDGE (*Warning* - Storytime ahead…)
This is the only image I could find online of the legendary Burma Bridge which was once situated over Gold Creek in Golden Ears Provincial Park, north of Maple Ridge. Among the evidence of what remains of Burma Bridge is this cable lashing which we managed to locate while hiking in the area today. These types of bridges were originally designed as appearing here—a suspended link consisting of a single cable to walk on and two others to hold on to, all tied together by rope. As intimidating a prospect it is to be negotiating such a structure over rushing water, it was even scarier when as a 15 year old out for an overnight camping trip with a buddy that I had an encounter with this very bridge—which ended in my first and only episode of wilderness survival.
It was an Easter weekend long ago and our intention was to hike in far enough to set up camp just below the snow line. I had never even heard of a Burma Bridge let alone having crossed one until I found myself doing just that, weighed down with at least 30 pounds of camping gear after trekking for a couple of hours towards our destination. This was not the lightweight, efficient technical gear of today. Back then everything was piled heavily onto a full-frame pack which basically amounted to a top-heavy balancing act—much as you can imagine the guy in the picture had to deal with—as I steeled my nerves in preparing to negotiate the walk across. Rain earlier that day had made the lone cable beneath my feet look as though it had been sprayed with WD-40 and combined with my natural wariness of heights, my heart began racing with each careful step forward across the swaying beast as its span laid out before me.
What’s the one piece of advice given to anyone challenged by a fear of heights or vertigo? “Whatever you do, don’t look DOWN...” ...but the backpack’s weight which caused the slightest of my leanings towards either side to suddenly increase in severity along with my being mesmerized by the rushing spring run-off below quickly overwhelmed my young mind as uncertainty steadily descended upon me. At about the halfway point I lost what remained of my nerve and decided I’d be better off taking my chances by jumping onto the rocks below and boulder hopping my way across the remaining 10 or so metres of Gold Creek. HUGE MISTAKE! I actually made it to the final metre and a half gap between the last rock and the shore but after first chucking my pack onto land, my lunge across to the moss-laden rocky edge of the bank came up short and I was suddenly swept into the churning frigid waters until managing to grab onto the next rocky outcrop several metres ahead.
Although never endangered by the prospect of being hurtled over Upper Falls (another 1 kilometre downstream) I found myself climbing up the next bank, completely soaked from head to toe—with my buddy rounding a bend towards me on the trail ahead and laughing at me as anyone would, given the situation. The only safety provision we had packed was an old-school “space blanket” which looked like something that had recently escaped from the Alcan aluminum foil factory. Nevertheless I spent the rest of the day wrapped in that blanket and huddled next to a campfire which suddenly became THE priority even before our tent was set up at the base camp. By morning the layer of clothes I had been wearing when I plunged into the creek and which I had laid out in hopes of drying by the fire were instead frozen stiff from the overnight sub-zero temperatures. I remember comically folding the pant legs and waist section of my frozen Levi’s into a makeshift “table” to eat breakfast off of. How it was that I didn’t end up with hypothermia completely baffles me to this day.
As much as I tried to enjoy what remained of the weekend excursion, my mind was consumed with the prospect of having to cross back over Burma Bridge, it being the only link to the main trailhead. All I recall about that return trek the next day is that somehow I managed to conquer my fear and make it fully across the second time without looking down and having to take another unscheduled swim.
BC Parks made the decision to tear down Burma Bridge almost 40 years ago citing both hazard and liability concerns and it was replaced in 2015 with a much safer and more efficient footbridge. It may be a long-forgotten part of the history of Golden Ears Provincial Park to some, but in all these years Burma Bridge has never strayed too far from my mind’s eye...or my heart’s gratitude for providing me with that first taste of backcountry adventure.
Last edited by BJDoyle; 10-13-2019 at 12:52 AM.
Reason: Correcting punctuation and adding disclaimer.