Distance: 18.5 km
Elevation gain: 675 m
Four years ago I made a comment to another hiker about finding the ruins of a few historical cabins in the Rockies. Over the course of the ensuing conversation he revealed that in the vicinity of Simpson Pass in Banff National Park there was a cabin that was in remarkably good condition. Built over a century ago by legendary Bill Peyto
, the cabin was rumored to still have a roof and be filled with a variety of historical artifacts, in stark contrast to the rotting piles of logs that most other cabins have become. Its sensitive nature means that the few wardens that know of its existence won't reveal its location and the handful of locals that have found it are similarly secretive. This of course piqued my interest!
This past week I decided it was high time to find this old cabin. I'd already read a book on Bill Peyto's life, "Ain't it Hell: Bill Peyto's Mountain Journal
", but while a very interesting read it provided little detail on the possible location of the cabin (he had many cabins, actually). There wasn't much information available on the internet either, but I did manage to find one clue that allowed me to narrow the search area to a square kilometer or so. Coupled with a bit of knowledge about the best location to build a cabin I was fairly confident I'd be able to find the place, and so we set off up the Healy Creek trail towards Simpson Pass.
As we neared the search area we turned off the trail and started some light bushwhacking. The gently rolling terrain and thick clumps of trees quickly made me realize this could be a much more difficult search than I'd anticipated, but after about 30 minutes I found an obvious clue and a careful search soon brought me to the remains of a cabin! Surprisingly, however, this was not the cabin I was searching for. This one was completely collapsed and mostly decomposed, much like every other cabin in the Rockies. Still, I'd confirmed that my cabin-hunting technique worked and after a lunch break in a nice meadow we set off again.
A short time later we found another indication that a cabin was nearby, but a careful search of the immediate area turned up nothing and we continued on. Then, just as we were getting to the edge of what I felt was prime cabin territory, I spotted Bill Peyto's cabin through the trees! It was quite obvious when I saw it and we were super excited to have found it. Most of the roof had unfortunately collapsed, but in those areas that were still protected a surprising amount of historical treasure remained. Food tins, cooking implements, animal traps, and assorted bits of hardware were the most interesting to me, and many were still on the shelves where Bill Peyto likely left them 75 years ago. It was also neat to just examine the structure of the cabin and its furniture and to imagine the skill and knowledge that went into its construction.
After a lengthy stay and tons of photos we leisurely explored the vast larch meadows and patches of forest in the area, then wandered back to the Healy Creek trail and down to the car. It was a great way to spend a day!