Friends of Switzer complete Hanington Hut

Masha Scheele photo

Masha Scheele

The Hanington warming hut is a new addition along the Joachim Valley Trail since this spring.

The Friends of Switzer Park Cooperating Association came forward with the idea to build a little cabin along the trail for people to enjoy and use for warmth in the winter as they cross country ski the trails.

Friends of Switzer is a volunteer organization who dedicate their time to improving and supporting the park. 

Projects include developing and clearing trails, hosting special events, supporting environmental education, grooming ski trails, and this year they raised money for a warming hut.

“I came up with the design based on what their wishes were and I added a bit more flare to it, because I thought it was a real nice opportunity to be building in such a unique spot,” said Mark Deagle, local contractor and log builder.

Concrete was put into the ground in October 2019 before the frost settled in for the winter, and using the cross country ski trails in the spring, the building was brought to its final destination in pieces.

“It was quite dramatic because we went in with a couple of trailers, it was quite a load,” Deagle explained.

The trailers didn’t do so well and sunk in the snow but with the help of a skid steer they were able to move the pieces through the valley.

Deagle added that the ski track was beneficial due to the packed down snow creating a solid surface.

The floor, stairs, and walls of the hut were then reassembled in its spot and the roof was added to finish off the project.

Some mighty ruts were left in the snow after the whole project was finished, but with a quick groom by the Friends of Switzer, the trail looked as good as new.

Submitted Photo. Hanington Hut under construction.

The hut was named in memory of Jacqueline Hanington, a long time resident and one of the original members of Friends of Switzer.

“She was pretty passionate about Switzer Park and was just a member of the Friends of Switzer, and they just seemed like a hardworking bunch, that whole crew,” Deagle commented.

Hanington passed away around the time they were raising funds for the hut, explained Derrek Swain of the Friends of Switzer.

A dedication plaque to Hanington is placed in the hut and more information boards will be put up inside the hut in respect to other early members of the Friends of Switzer.

As the hut was being constructed, it caused a bit of a buzz, and it will continue to do so with that kind of destination, Deagle continued.It was refreshing to see how many people were coming out to see the area.

“That was a seldom used trail, anything that is going to benefit people getting into the outdoors is a good thing and so I believed in the program,” Deagle said.

Starting near the Jarvis Lake campground, the trail leads past an indigenous burial ground and eventually branches off into different directions.

“A lot of the area from here to Grande Cache is actually pretty historic and there’s a lot of areas in the Joachim valley and other areas in Switzer Park that are sacred to the indigenous peoples,’’ said Swain.

Following the trail past the turnoff to the Athabasca Lookout will lead hikers towards an abandoned airplane.

“The airplane was brought in there for practice for the army or airforce,” Swain added.

The airplane along the Joachim Valley trail

Just before the airplane is a path that branches towards the mountains on the right side.

Once down that path, hikers walk into a wide open space with a great view of the mountains and the Hanington hut to their left.

The Friends of Switzer are waiting on a wood burning stove right now, which should soon be installed as the finishing touch to the hut.