McPhail Creek Topo Map

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The old "Elk Trail" from the Elk River over Weary Creek Gap and down McPhail Creek was used by generations of Kootenay Indians hunting elk. Today, large numbers of elk still graze the slopes around McPhail Creek, crossing the Highwood River in late fall to their wintering grounds on the western outliers of the Highwood Range. Which is why the highway closes on December 1st. For a period of its history, the valley was known locally as Bunk Creek after bunks of logging sleighs were found stacked up against the forge of Mr. Wilson's abandoned logging camp. The Wilson Lumber Company took over leases from Lineham about 1920 and for a few years cut lodgepoles for telephone poles, mine props and fence posts. In The Buffalo Head Raymond Patterson describes zigzagging back and forth across McPhail Creek (the bridges had all collapsed) as he followed the old logging road to the camp which was sited "on a little flat on the right bank of the creek, tucked up against a low cliff". Even in 1936 the buildings were in bad shape—the logs rotting, the roofs falling in. In Patterson's day, this logging road was the key to the inner sanctum. When you reached the camp you found a way up the bank to the "Elk Trail" on the bench. The subsequent bulldozing of cutlines and new logging roads has changed the line of approach. The present route is along the valley's major logging road which follows the route of the old Indian trail to within half a kilometre of the headwall. It makes sense to take a bike, though I urge you to spend more than one day at the valley head. Three is about right. And watch out for covered wagons!
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