Monday, January 17, 2011

The Story Behind The Grind by Bruce Grierson

The Story Behind The Grind by Bruce Grierson


This is the story behind a hiking trail in Vancouver called The Grind, which goes up Grouse Mountain. It is apparently the busiest hiking trail in Canada, with 100, 000 people a year going up and down. The trail is 2.9km long and 2,798 feet up. It has become a social phenomenon in Vancouver. People record and compare their times, the Canucks hockey team tests new player on it, and there are wilderness therapy programs based on it, among many other events. The people behind this hiking trail are Don McPherson and Phil Severy, who are 67 and 70 years of age respectively. They met in the hospital in 1980 where Phil worked and Don started to teach Phil how to rock climb. Eventually they got off rock climbing and started making trails. They originally made the Grind for themselves; they thought that only experienced climber would be inclined to hike it for the coffee at the top. It took Don and Phil 2 years to clear a trail, working nights and weekends, even in the winter. The people who owned Grouse Mountain didn`t even want the trail. They often saw Don and Phil working and told them to get off. Eventually they banned their use of a chainsaw, limiting them to handsaws. In 1995 the trail was becoming popular and worn down so the two friend got permission to rebuild the trail. They got help with the work this time but the work still took another 3 years. It is being rebuilt again this year, due to it being the most popular hiking trail in Canada. The odd thing about the trail is that when Don and Phil first saw people on their trail they were happy and excited. Now they say that as the Grind became ``a racetrack for the masses`` it has lost its original purpose. Phil cleared four other trail on the mountain that are unmarked so he could have some solitude on his hikes, especially since Don`s knee is preventing him from hiking at all. Phil still misses the original trail though.

I found this article intriguing because of how I tried to sympathize with Don and Phil. The trail they made was eventually worn down and warped in a way because of all the people walking on it. Rocks were moved and people veered off the original path, cutting corners and what not. In this way I can understand how Don and Phil would think that their handiwork was slowly being destroyed. But I also wonder if they are proud of what they`ve accomplished, or what they`ve started. Don and Phil don`t exactly take much credit for the trail though, people who tried to get in touch with Don have thought maybe he`s dead because of his lack of response to phone calls. This article also makes me wonder about who actually creates the hiking trails I`ve hiked on. I always took it for granted that they were just there. A path through the woods that many people have worn down over time instead of actually being made. I can understand in this respect that Don and Phil could be insulted by the lack of regard for the designated path they created. People just go around the rocky features of the path. Once carefully crafted steps have now become obstacles and are now simply avoided. Another point is to take into considerations Don and Phil`s intentions for hiking. For me, hiking is a scenic walk through the woods where you get to listen to creeks and watch the birds. But for these people it has become a race to the top, and with so many people going up it has probably lost most of its nature appeal. Still I am curious as to what the trail is like and would like to try it someday, if I`m ever in Vancouver.

Bruce Grierson, The Story Behind The Grind, Explore Magazine, May 2010 issue, January 17, 2011.

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