Published: November 2008

Northern Giant

Toad River


The largest wilderness region in the Canadian Rockies might never have been preserved if not for a former logger who came to the rescue.

By John Vaillant
Photograph by Michael Christopher Brown

The route over Misery Pass is invisible unless you know exactly what to look for. There are no roads here at the headwaters of the Gataga River in British Columbia's northern Rockies, only animal trails, and that's the way Wayne Sawchuk likes it. "There should be one place in the world where you have to find your own trail," he says. "All it takes is a little guts."

The shale beneath our feet is slick with rain and offers about as much traction as a pile of broken china. It shatters under the weight of the horses' hooves as they slip and grind, sending shards clattering into the gorge. A thousand feet below is the tree line, and a thousand feet above is the pass, threading its way between a pair of hulking 9,000-footers. In every direction glaciers loom, strangely luminous beneath a heavy gray sky.

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