Hiker calling for better directions on secondary Thetis trails after six-hour ordeal

A hiker is calling for better signage on secondary trails at Thetis Lake Regional Park after getting so lost the RCMP had to help lead her to safety in the dark.

Julie Elizabeth, 71, said she keeps fit by regularly walking along the park’s trails with Colby, her eight-year-old cocker spaniel/Jack Russell terrier cross.

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She lives a five-minute drive from the park, and has walked on the well-marked primary trials regularly since she moved to the area seven years ago.

But two weeks ago, she decided to try a different route on a secondary trail she had not taken before.

Up to that point, she had only encountered paths that were wide and with signage at every intersection or fork in the road.

“I just assumed that the other trails indicated on the map at the trailhead would be the same,” Elizabeth said.

She started off at 4 p.m. for what she thought would be a one-hour hike.

After leaving the main trail, she found the secondary trails “little more than a deer path.”

Along the way, she came upon coloured-metal squares fixed to the ground.

“But there was no explanation as to what they mean,” she said. “And there were no signposts.”

A few wrong turns later, she was lost.

After calling 911, she was found by RCMP, wet and cold, six hours after she began.

She is calling on CRD Regional Parks to improve signage on the lightly travelled secondary trails to ensure that others don’t run into the same problem.

But Jeff Leahy, senior manager for CRD Regional Parks, which manages Thetis Lake and 30 other regional parks, said the trails are appropriately and clearly signed, as long as visitors stay on designated trails.

Last year, the park, which attracts close to 500,000 visitors annually, had new signs and maps placed at strategic locations, he said.

“It is important to stay on designated trails, as it can be easy to get turned around and lose your way,” Leahy said.

“We are relieved to hear the individual was found safe and unharmed.

“Getting lost in the backcountry can be quite serious.”

He stressed that the safety of park users is a top priority.

“If concerns are raised, we will evaluate the situation and take appropriate action if required.”

parrais@timescolonist.com

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