Not one adventure is ever the same as one that came before. You can go to the same place, but the experience is always different. For this trip, our goal was to provide a family with a unique wilderness experience. To achieve this, connection and collaboration between several groups was essential and, as we discovered, enriching for everyone involved.
About a year ago I received a phone call from Ken and Carrie Garvin wondering if our organization would make use of an adaptive wheelchair called the hippocampe chair. The hippocampe chair is a three wheel, low profile chair that has been assisting our participants from the beach into the water and surf on our annual surf trips in Tofino. Luka, one of Ken and Carrie’s daughters, is a university student, published poet, book enthusiast, and summiteer of Mt Albert Edward, the sixth highest peak on Vancouver Island. Luka lives with cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair. Ken and Carrie are her primary support workers.
When I picked up the chair and met the Garvin family, my mind started thinking of how we could give back to a family whose generous donation would open opportunities for more people to access nature. Over the next little while, we discussed a few options and landed on an overnight family adventure. During this same time, owners Gayle and Erin of Robinson’s Outdoor Store and their long term staff Dave, had been expressing interest in helping out with a program. For over a decade, Robinsons has been a keystone supporter of Power To Be by providing gear and equipment for all of our programs on an annual basis. There seemed to be an opportunity here to partner on a different, more hands-on level and Robinson’s staff were excited at the opportunity. As well, a subcontractor of BC Parks, K43, who manage areas such as Forbidden Plateau and Cape Scott, were looking to team up on an experience.
Over the next seven months, we slowly started putting together a plan to successfully accomplish an overnight family experience for Luka and her parents. K43 had secured the group site at Croteau Lake in Forbidden Plateau. Having a location confirmed now gave us the opportunity to start putting together the logistics of training, support needs, food, gear, and most importantly, how we would function as a team.
On the morning of our departure, the entire team met at Raven Lodge where the trailhead to Croteau Lake started. As we always do in Power To Be, we started our trip with a circle acknowledging where we were, who we were, and what we were looking forward to. It was evident from this point that everyone was here to connect with each other, the land, and create an experience for a very deserving family.
In any group trip, it takes time to develop a rhythm of being together and working together. This can be felt particularly strongly when you go into the wilderness, with only the contents of your packs to sustain you for the trip. With many members of our group having met each other only the night before the trip, there was lots of conversation as we got to know one another’s stories and shared our hopes for the trip ahead. We soon learned that we had a particularly helpful array of skills and backgrounds within our group. With our experience in adapted outdoor activities, the Power To Be staff took the lead in navigating the TrailRider across terrain that ranged from smooth boardwalks to rocky uphills to lifting up and over fallen logs. The Robinson’s crew made sure we were well outfitted for the trip, bringing everything from comfortable cots to sleep on to strings of lights that added a touch of classy ambiance to our camping area. Backcountry cooking skills were put to good use and much appreciated by all!
We got to learn interesting details and stories of the Paradise Meadows area from the K43 staff, who had spent time in the park as rangers and had been involved in park building projects, including the hut and campground that formed our home base at Croteau Lake! Their stories brought yet another layer of connection to the beautiful landscape that we got to experience.
Through it all, it was a delight to be with Luka, Ken, and Carrie as they got to be in the wilderness together in a way that they never had before. There were lots of smiles and laughter, and it was clear that they enjoyed the opportunity to have this experience together. Getting a group of people and a pile of gear from one end of a trail to another is always quite an endeavour. The way that the groups on this trip came together with their diverse array of skills and backgrounds made the experience better than any of us had anticipated. It was a wonderful trip to be part of, and we are all looking forward to the next one!