Esther Wang’s misadventure in Golden Ears Provincial Park in Maple Ridge had the happiest possible ending – the 16-year-old Langley girl is safe and back home.
It’s also a story that serves as one of the warnings we always need here in B.C., about how our beautiful wilderness can also be a place of danger.
Wang lagged briefly behind her group and then took a wrong turn – mistakes that anyone could easily make.
Those small errors led to 54 hours lost in the park, until she found her way back to a trail and made her way to a parking lot, where her parents were waiting for results of the search.
Wang had a lot of people pulling for her, and many actively searching, with multiple search and rescue teams from across the province assisting Ridge Meadows Search & Rescue, and BC Emergency Health Services assessing Wang once she was safe.
This isn’t a story about not going into the backcountry. It’s a story about how people have to respect the inherent danger of the wilderness every time they venture out of our relatively controlled urban and suburban environment.
For the vast majority of people, a visit to one of our large provincial or national parks will go perfectly fine. A hike or a swim, maybe a little birding and, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot some wildlife from a safe distance. More ambitious folks can take to B.C.’s backcountry for everything from mountaineering and ice climbing to canoeing, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing.
At their best, these activities connect us with the land we are lucky enough to live on. But things always go better when we keep in the back of our minds the knowledge that the wilderness is not on our side. It’s not trying to hurt us, but the natural world is unforgiving. It doesn’t care about us, and if we slip up, it won’t help.
Search and rescue crews do an invaluable service every year rescuing lost and stranded hikers, skiers, and boaters across this province – many of whom have gotten into trouble just an hour or two from busy roads, suburban homes, and fast food restaurants.
Unfortunately, they are relatively few in number, they have limited resources, and no matter how competent and dedicated they are, they still don’t have superpowers.