August 20, 2004 Features & Images » Feature Story

Loggers Creek, where character and careers were built 

Squamish’s John Drenka has seen a lifetime of change in the logging industry

A thick overcast blankets much of Howe Sound, obscuring the mountain peaks above the Sea to Sky Highway. Maybe it was a morning like this some 50 odd years ago when, after viewing the timber above Loggers Creek from a boat off Brunswick Beach, Angus Monk ran a skyline cable to rig logs from a spar tree down to the waterfront.

Today rusted cable curls over the bank of an old logging road above Lions Bay and snakes through spindly evergreen saplings before disappearing into the earth. Higher up the mountain, looking at the two and a half inch skyline cable twisting through the undergrowth near a logging spur, one can only wonder at the hardships of working up here.

Further up the highway in the offices of Squamish Mills Ltd., a logging company located in a light industrial area of Squamish, there are more signs of logging in the Sea to Sky corridor. A faded colour photograph of the waterfront shows grown-over clear cuts from logging that shadowed the outskirts of Squamish city limits and stretched up the flanks of Mount Garibaldi.

"Now you can’t even tell," Steve Buritt, a hauling contractor who has lived in Squamish since 1962 says, viewing the photograph.

Down the hall in a clean bright office, John Drenka, owner of Squamish Mills says, pulls a chair up to his desk.

"We’re operating but its nip and tuck," he says.

In early July, Drenka’s logging operation up near Pemberton was shut down because of the risk of fire. His crews are working again now but there’s a lot of uncertainty.

"It’s very dangerous so we’re taking all the precautions we can possibly take," Drenka says. "Our season is so damn short anyway, we gotta’ get in every day we can."

Drenka, who has lived in Squamish since 1939, has experienced most of the challenges of logging in Howe Sound. He remembers early loggers like Angus Monk, the legendary high rigger on the south coast, who ran the skyline up to the 2,500-foot elevation above Loggers Creek. Monk climbed the mountain before there were trails to look the timber over.

"He would go up there and figure out how much he could put it in the water for and then he would look at the sales prices and the stumpage prices and determine whether it was a good deal or not," Drenka says.

After two short years, Monk left Loggers Creek. Today the cable beside the road above Lions Bay is all that’s left of Monk’s early 1950s logging operation.

Starting early

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