Often life’s lessons come to us without an individual leading the way. So was the case from June 24-28, when 11 students from the WL campus of Lake City Secondary ventured out to Murtle Lake in Wells Gray Provincial Park.
Lessons began before the trip as students gathered gear and then had to figure out how to get five days worth of food and gear into one backpack. For some this was second nature, for others this was a first time endeavour. A new experience for members of the group was the two and a half kilometre portage from the parking lot to the lake with a full pack. With the assistance of canoe carts, this was handled with determination and grace.
Although many of these students had been meeting weekly throughout the year their different grade levels kept them from really getting to know each other. It didn’t take long, while out in the wilderness, away from the hustle of daily life, for the students to start to build new friendships. Within hours stories and laughter were being shared within the group. As the trip progressed food and accommodations were also being shared. The group looked after each other.
Days three and four presented their own challenges. On Wednesday the group headed out for a 7.5 km hike straight up approximately 1,000 meters to the alpine. Did the students notice the massive trees and dense underbrush as they started up the trail or the smaller trees and thinner underbrush as they entered the sub-alpine region … maybe. Did they notice the variety of the alpine plants? Probably not. Did they feel the struggle and fatigue as they climbed higher … definitely. Upon reaching the top and looking out over the mountain tops to the lake below for a breathtaking view of the natural beauty around them they wholeheartedly agreed that the work to get to the top was worth the reward. Sitting on a rock shelf with snow behind them and the vista in front, students awed at the incredible beauty that lay before them.
For this group of teens, the trip down the 7.5 km was much less strenuous with a surprise encounter of, in one experienced student’s words, “… the biggest and healthiest black bear I’ve ever seen.” In a collective group, the students made noise and hollered at the bear to get a move on. The bear took a look to see what the racket was about and then continued eating. Some more noise and the bear slowly moved off, stopping to munch as it headed into the bush. We were in its habitat and the bear was willing to share its space. Reaffirmed lesson … wildlife is to be respected and admired with a good dose of caution.
Back at camp the nightly routine of a campfire, freeze-dried food for all but one trio who had the group anticipating what each meal would bring, never disappointing.
More stories and laughter followed each evening around the campfire. We quickly learned that some in the group followed the: “early to bed, early to rise,” mantra, while others were night owls and enjoyed the ability to sleep the morning away.
On Thursday, Mother Nature decided to give the group another test of sorts … it rained the whole day long. Not to be deterred, one group packed a lunch and their fishing rods and headed farther up the north arm. Although the fishing was disappointing and the group was soaked upon their return, there were smiles all around with a card game soon in progress. The other half of the group had opted to partake in some camaraderie around the campfire and later an afternoon nap (the night owls). Although the rain was continuous throughout the day this group found the positive in being in the outdoors with a great group of individuals. They didn’t miss a beat.
Several students voiced, “the trip was amazing because I had the opportunity to make new friends, and I learned that the work to climb to the top was well worth the effort. The hike was amazing.”
For those who were not experienced paddlers, they should be commended for their determination to improve their skills, very noticeable improvement from beginning to end. Whether it be getting the group going, knowing their way around loading and unloading canoes, or general outdoor knowledge, there were role models all around. As well, a thank you to the entertainment crew as we paddled. Beautiful voices, male and female, to match the beautiful scenery.
Did the group learn as much about the various ecosystems they travelled through as their teacher had planned, again, probably not. However, they did learn that anything worth having is worth working for, that putting yourself out there to build relationships is rewarding and of course the reinforcement that we are so very fortunate to live in a corner of one of the most spectacular countries on the planet. All agreed that we’d like to do our part to keep it that way.
As one of our senior students summed it up, “An open mind, curiosity, determination, a sense of adventure, great company, and a good rain jacket are all you need to get the most out of any experience, whether it be a week canoeing or life.”
Thank you to Scout Island Nature Centre, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin, and the Williams Lake Log Haulers Association for their support in helping to make the trip possible for all interested students.