Waist-deep snow, mountain ranges, and spectacular moonlit views; this is the adventure that Power To Be’s Year 3 Wilderness School Cohort embarked on this month.
On a clear February day, 7 youth, 3 staff members and a Power To Be volunteer headed out into the snow for a two-day, one-night snowshoeing adventure at Strathcona Provincial Park. The journey’s destination? Lake Helen Mackenzie, an 8-kilometre trail loop and a popular camping spot during both summer and winter. With 2 metres of snow having accumulated at Mount Washington, all park signage and indicators were long buried. The tips of maps and info signs peeking out from the snow was a true indication of how much there really was. Having travelled from the city, you could see how excited everyone was to experience so much snow.
As we headed out onto the trail, it took a bit of time to get used to the snowshoes dragging along the bottom of our boots, especially considering this was most people’s first time ever having snowshoes on. With everyone fully packed with 65L backpacks, shovels, and poles the group’s pace was impressive as we hiked over frozen lakes, and through fields and forests. It took perseverance to trudge through the snow and although it was hard work, the group’s laughter echoed through the trees. During breaks, many people took a moment to truly appreciate the setting, gazing up at the snowflakes fluttering down from the snow covered canopy above. While majority of the journey went down without a hitch, at one point our pulk sled fell off of a narrow bridge which really showcased the importance of being prepared. With all tent bags lined in garbage bags and all food and supplies stored in dry bags, everything remained dry. The benefits of being prepared presented themselves many times throughout the trip and was a great learning opportunity for everyone in the group.
We made it to Lake Helen Mackenzie with lots of time to spare. With daylight on our side, the group was eager to play in the snow and start to clear an area to set up their tents. When safety and comfort are on the line, working together is essential to be successful. The amount of teamwork I witnessed throughout the adventure was amazing: the group worked together to clear tent pads, put tents up, clean up after meals and store food, create compacted trails around camp and when one person fell behind or was struggling, the others didn’t hesitate to help out.
As daylight turned to moonlight, and with tents set up and food packed away, the group finished their last sips of hot chocolate and headed into the forest for a night hike. As the only group spending the night in the park, we had the great honour of experiencing the perfect full moon. Although we brought our headlamps, they really weren’t necessary as the white snow reflected the moonlight, lighting up everything in sight. The group took turns sharing their thoughts and feelings about the day and then individually walked down the path for a solo hike back to camp, to truly take in how magical nature can be. The group eventually headed off into their tents for the night, curled up in sleeping bags with hot water bottles and hand warmers, falling asleep in the silence of the peaceful snow.
Snow camping can be incredibly enjoyable and rewarding, but it is not an easy feat. The journey was a success because of teamwork, preparation, and positive attitudes. The next morning, we packed up and headed out again for the snowy trek back, everyone smiling with gratitude for the awesome adventure that nature had given us.