The British Columbia Department of Highways said, “It’s impossible.” The citizens of Bella Coola and Anaheim Lake said, “Oh ya? Just watch!”
The top of the hill and the bottom of the hill were no problem. It was the bit in between. The cliff. The “straight down.” The “Big Hill.”
For two years, the citizens laboured. They dug by hand, pried out rocks with jackhammers (the rock was so hard it dulled the bits in no time flat), tossed said rocks over the edge (and listened to them ricochet down the cliff), and bulldozed wherever possible (one slipped off the trail but, fortunately, was able to be winched back up). By dint of hard work, determination and a sense of “up yours, government!”, they transformed that former goat trail into a vehicle trail.
In September, 1953, two bulldozers – one from above and one from below – touched blades mid-way down the “Big Hill.” The “highway” was complete. It had cost $1300 per mile (1953 dollars) to build, plus uncounted hours of volunteer labour. The Minister of Highways attended the official opening and paid off the debt of $8700.
The highway is still considered one of North America’s dangerous highways. It’s narrow and winding; some sections are single-lane only; and there are no guard-rails protecting drivers from a “sharp drop off pavement” to the valley below. Thanks (?) to two serious and steep switchbacks (and a few lesser ones) and a 15% grade, the “Big Hill” drops 5000 feet in seven miles. It gets the heart pounding.
#WhichWayChallenge #AliveAndTrekking #The BigHill #BCHwy20 #DangerousRoads #MargaretGHanna