Adventure offers chance to practice skills for trips shared with participants

The group sat on the rocky bluff, staring out at the turbulent waters of the incoming tide below us. The surroundings were spectacular; Tapaltos Beach stretching out far to our right, with our camp set up right in the middle. It had been a long day, full of unexpected challenges that we got through as a team—but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Every year, the Power To Be program team completes Spring Training, an opportunity to build skills and team connections in preparation for the summer program season. This year we hiked and camped, honing our skills for the overnight trips we would share with participants.

The adventure started in Bamfield, where we met up with the Vancouver based-program team. We were welcomed onto the land by Wish Key, a member of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations. He graciously gave us a tour of their government offices and recently constructed Big House, both of which follow the Huu-ay-aht motto “ancient spirit, modern mind.” The Huu-ay-aht are one of few Nations who have signed a modern treaty with the Canadian Government for governance over their people and their land. We learned a lot about how to move towards reconciliation, and we all left feeling inspired to carry that responsibility forward.

From there we set up our Base Camp at Pachena Bay Campground (in the pouring rain), the launching point for our hike the next day. The rain subsided by the time we began our hike through the Cape Beale Headlands, sharing the trail before parting ways at the trail junction with one group hiking to Tapaltos Beach, and the other group (my own) hiking to Keeha Beach.

Calling the trail muddy would be an understatement. There were logs to climb over, leaning branches to shimmy under, and mud so deep at times it came up over our knees. To many, that probably doesn’t sound like fun, but our team filled it with laughs and conversation, and it made it one of the most fun hikes I’ve ever been on. We spent the afternoon leading workshops and developing the skills we would need for upcoming programs. We practised first aid, fire building, water purification, weather reporting, stove maintenance, and tarp set ups (to name a few skills). Our emphasis of the week was on learning, and that was an objective that we met both on purpose and by accident.

When we woke up Wednesday morning, one of our team members was feeling really sick. We made a judgement call, and after each taking some of the weight from her pack to lighten her load we hiked back to the trail junction. From there, we assessed the situation and two team members made the hike with her back to Pachena Bay so she could rest while the group continued the hike to the Cape Beale Lighthouse.

The rest of us hiked to Tapaltos, where we found the packs of the other team waiting for them to return from the lighthouse. We took the opportunity to turn the wait into learning moments, focusing on how to hang a bear cache, and how to use bear bangers and bear spray to deter animal encounters. When the other group appeared from down the beach, we spent a half hour together laughing and chatting before they loaded up and hiked to Keeha for the night.

We were able to get word from our three exited friends that our patient was feeling much better, and that while she would stay at Pachena for the rest of the trip, the two that hiked out with her would hike into Tapaltos to join us for our chance to hike to the lighthouse on Thursday.

That was when we found the Sea Arches. These beautiful, natural gaps in the rock face, where water came rushing through as the tide rose and fell. We climbed up to the top of the rocky bluff where the arches were located, and spent some time reflecting on our trip and our day. We all went to bed that night feeling refreshed, calm, and ready to take on whatever challenges came our way.

Those challenges didn’t come however. Thursday morning our group was up and out to the Cape Beale Lighthouse, one of the only human-operated lighthouses left on the West Coast. We learned from the lighthouse keeper there, and took in the amazing panoramic views before heading back to Tapaltos to get our packs and hike back to Pachena.

We spent our last night in the field together as one team, both hiking teams arriving back at Pachena Bay within a few hours of each other. We had dinner together, and one last group lesson around the campfire before turning in for the final night in our tents.

Skill development to support program is the biggest piece of Spring Training, but the trip was a lot more than that. It was a chance to put ourselves in the shoes of our participants, as we hiked a trail that many Wilderness School youth had hiked before us (read their story). It was an opportunity to use our skills to help a member of the team, and support our shared learning. It was trip where each and every one of us had a purpose and a shared goal. We got to really be a team and enjoy the beauty of this place together, because after all, everyone belongs in nature.

 – Story shared by Em Mcfarland, program facilitator

Get Out There - Adventure Recommendations

Cape Beale Headlands

Located near Bamfield, this rugged section of shoreline is home to the historic Cape Beale lighthouse. Cape Beale Headlands provide a chance for visitors to sample the same terrain as the 75 km West Coast Trail. These challenging hikes wind through temperate rainforest to spectacular west coast beaches. Learn more.