Five amazing stories from the dude who mapped BC for Google Earth
When you trek all over BC by foot, horse, boat, floatplane and helicopter, you’re going to see a grizzly bear
When Freddy Ellmark got the call last summer, he didn't hesitate for a second. Destination BC wanted to know: would he be interested in heading out into the most remote wilds of B.C., with a 45-pound Google Street View Trekker on his back – outfitted with 15 cameras that capture a 360-degree panoramic view – mapping the province for Google Earth? Yes! Yes, he would.
The Swedish-Canadian outdoorsman spent 12 weeks last summer hiking B.C.'s wilderness with his girlfriend Cathleen Sarmiento, covering six regions and more than 500 kilometres for the ambitious, 1,000-kilometre mapping project, which included 200 treks by foot, horse, boat, floatplane and helicopter. Here's Freddy's top five magical moments from the adventure of a lifetime.
The struggle gets real
"The first day was the toughest day. I didn't know how it was going to be. I had blisters on both feet. We thought we were going to be hiking 17 kilometres, but it turned out to be 23. We had someone waiting for us at the end; you just had to do the whole stretch. And we had no cell reception! I almost failed the first day because I got so tired. My right leg was cramping up; it was extremely painful. And then it turned out I had 6 more kilometres to hike. I was limping out. I could barely get up the next morning. I was so stiff and sore. I was like, 'How am I going to do this?' I was thinking about people coming to Canada back in the day, exploring, breaking ground, building the railroad. I was complaining, and this was voluntary. Imagine the people who did this to survive, to make a living. You are way out there in the wilderness – there's no one around. You just have to get it done."
A whale of a time
"One day we trekked in Cape Scott, on the Northern tip of Vancouver Island. We left Port Hardy on the boat that would take us up closer to the Cape Scott Provincial Park for this beautiful hike. One of the most stunning places. It was a clear day, blue skies, when we landed on the beach. Once you stepped into the forest, it was all mist. We went back on the same boat. Ten minutes before getting back to Port Hardy, Cathleen said, "It's a whale!" And it was an orca coming toward us. And then suddenly there were orcas popping up everywhere. We were in a big mega-pod. We had like 75 to 100 orcas popping up. Wherever you looked, you could see the spouts. Unbelievable! We shut off the engine and just enjoyed it. It was one of those moments, like, wow."
"We knew there was a lot of Grizzlies around…"
"We were up in the Cariboo, in the southwest part. There's mountain peaks everywhere. We did a big hike at McGillivray Pass. A local guy, a cowboy, took us out. It was a huge, massive. We didn't really know what we were getting into. We were hiking up a steep ridge, I'm talking struggling, climbing over trees and roots and rocks. We got all the way down to bottom of the valley, and there was a small stream, (the) vegetation was five to six feet, everywhere. We saw fresh Grizzly tracks everywhere, and day beds, where they had been sleeping. With the trekker, I had to hike 100 metres away from the other guys. I was a little worried. If a bear had come out, I wouldn't even be able to see it in front of me with all the tall vegetation. It could have been a bit sketchy."
Paddling on... a glacier!
"We stayed up at a camp called Sky Camp, which was up on a small lake, at the Lillooet Icefield, really isolated. We flew in with a float plane. We stayed three of four nights. One of the days we flew up to a glacier lake, and captured some footage hiking along the edge of the glacier, and got some drone footage as well. We brought inflatable paddle boards and I paddled out along the icebergs on this lake. That was also unbelievable! Where else could you do that? I never thought I'd get the chance to do something like that."
I'm on the top of the world...
"One thing that was really neat was that we got airlifted and dropped off in the Selkirk Mountains. There was a black bear down there, and we had to scare it off before we could land. So we were circling in the helicopter. We hiked the whole day following all the ridges. We probably did 15, 16 kilometres that day. The views were outstanding. That hike I got to spend so much time with Cathleen, so it was special. It was one of her favourite hikes of the summer. I felt so happy to do that with her. A lot of days, it was just grinding, hiking. But this day was a gorgeous day, totally blue sky, and everyone was happy. It was euphoric. And incredible views."