Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Discovering the Stein Valley: a Cultural Experience

On Saturday, November 10, 2018 a small group of Discovery boys departed from the Field House, on their way to meet the rest of their class at the Lytton Pow wow. For the last three days, their peers had been exploring the Stein Valley with their guides Riley and Fred. At the pow wow, the groups were to be briefly reunited for the afternoon, before the first group went home and the second group hiked into the Stein.

The pow wow was eye-opening for the whole group. Being as privileged as we are and only experiencing First Nations culture through stories and text books, it was really interesting to see how the community came together to celebrate Remembrance day. Attending the pow wow as “outsiders” was an interesting and different experience for us. The community of Lytton was so kind and welcoming and seemed genuinely happy for us to be there. Getting a chance to talk to some of the locals at the dinner, hosted at the community hall, later that evening was great.

We found out that many of the adults and elders of the Lytton community went through the residential school system; the pain and suffering that they endured is something that I would never be able to imagine. Given this abuse, and the fact that the residential school in Lytton was also named St. George's School, it blew our minds that the members of the Lytton community were so welcoming and grateful to us for being there. One highlight of the pow wow was the “Caucasian Special”, a dance for non-First Nations attendees after which the audience judged the top 5 dancers by applause. Our very own Jeremy won the competition, however we all had a lot of fun participating in the event.

Throughout the trip, we learned about the history of the Stein and why it was such a sacred place. Whether we were starting or ending out trip, the pow wow was an incredible opportunity to experience the vibrance and generosity of the Lytton community today.

In addition to the pow wow, both groups engaged in several other rituals. The sweat lodge and the stream dunk we're some of the most mentally challenging events that we’ve participated in so far in Discovery.

The dunk required mental and physical toughness to remain in freezing water while we called our souls back to our bodies. We did this by dunking once in each of the four directions, and letting out a loud "Whoop!" in between each submersion. Riley demonstrated how to perform the dunk and the boys followed with trepidation. Almost within the instant I got in the water, my body started to seize and I began to panic. Despite this instinctual physical reaction, every member of the class accomplished the task.

The sweat lodge required a completely different type of mental strength. The sweat consisted of four rounds, each revolving around a specific theme: the first round was for appreciation and gratitude, the second for women, the third for men, and the last round was for ourselves. To mark the beginning of each round, nine 'Grandfather' rocks were placed, one by one in the pit at the centre of the lodge. We all sat in a circle around the pit. At each round, everyone participating in the sweat took their turn to share their appreciations, gratitudes, or prayers for the theme of the round. When we were finished speaking, we would end with the phrase, "All my relations." In between each speaker, Fred, our host, would brush water over the rocks with a wand of Cedar boughs, which added steam and heat to the lodge.

At the beginning of the sweat, Fred set the tone for the depth and vulnerability with which we were encouraged to share. This gave the boys an opportunity to truly express their feelings without fear. Our willingness to breach personal boundaries and share with each other what came from the heart was amazing and very powerful. As a result, we really became comfortable with each other as a group.

The exploration portion of this trip was taught through small activities and personal stories shared in between. With the help of our First Nations guide Riley and Fred our host, we were able to gain a deeper understanding of the sacred place that is the Stein Valley. Visiting places such as the historic town of Yale and Alexandria Bridge, and participating in activities like gold panning, on our way to the Stein, taught us about the history of British Columbia. Once we actually hiked into the Stein Valley, we visited a cave where Fred spent four days without food or water on a vision quest, an important rite of passage for his people. We also visited ancient pictographs and hiked the Devil's Staircase. Many of these activities related directly to personal reflections of Riley and Fred’s childhoods.

Overall, this trip worked out be a great experience for everyone. The boys learned a lot about the Lytton First Nation and about themselves, and enjoyed the good, if cold, weather.

Written by Jeremy Hua and Jack Wilken

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Paddling the Sayward Forest Canoe Loop

We woke up to the sounds of alarms disturbing what should have been a relaxed Sunday morning. However for the Discovery boys 5:45 am was just the beginning of a very long day. We were getting ready to embark on our second journey of the year, on the Sayward Forest Canoe loop. A total of 40km of flat-water canoeing, and a daunting eight kilometers of portaging, just north of Campbell River, BC.

The groups said their goodbyes and went their separate ways at Mohun Lake; one group stayed put while the other carried on to Apple Point, on Brewster Lake. For the group starting at Mohun, the goal was to do a short paddle and then complete wet exits; however, due to weather constraints the group ended up practicing rescues and bomb-proofing camp at Mohun. Little did they know that the other group escaped the torturous rescues, electing to do theirs on dry-land instead! While arriving at their campsites fairly late in the day, both groups mentally and physically prepared themselves for the damp evening ahead.

Day two involved a bit of a slow start as we packed up and readied ourselves to paddle for the first time this year. Once we got on the water, we learned some basic steering strokes like the J stroke from our guides. Both groups encountered their first of many portages and began the process of fine-tuning their efficiency both as individuals and as a group.  

As the trip progressed and our skills developed, we were able to dedicate more time to learning and enjoying ourselves at camp. On Wednesday one group surpassed their initial objective, and kept paddling the length of the open and long Campbell lake, until they eventually settled five campsites further than they had planned. That morning a mini-lesson was offered on power and steering strokes. The second-to-last day proved to be an easy paddle and only took four hours. As the day was so short, Ms. Lutes decided that her group would venture on to a nearby island campsite to take advantage of the incredible weather. Despite the boys’ initial reluctance, once they got to the island everyone swam, relaxed, and enjoyed basking in the sun. The campsite was beautiful and the group had a blast. It was the perfect end to an amazing trip!

Because the other group decided to stay on a peninsula 5km from the bus, they didn’t have the easiest last morning. It poured from the moment boys emerged from their tents until they got to the bus. Once there, they loaded the boats and crowded on to the bus where their iced tea had been waiting. They had a-little bit of a rough ride over to the other group, but as they turned the corner they saw them dancing on the road. They loaded up their gear and everyone headed for the ferry. All in all the trip ended perfectly with the reunification of the Discovery squad, and great excitement for the weekend ahead.

Written by Ben Burke and Jacob Merkur

A Very Wet Traverse

It was the morning of September 12th, and the Discovery boys of 2018-2019 were heading out on their first multi-day trip. The mood during the three-hour bus ride to Pemberton was tired but excited. We would be hiking the Owl-Tenquille Traverse, a trail that goes through three different types of terrain, forest, sub-alpine and alpine. A few hours of excited chatter and a couple bathroom breaks later the bus rolled down the bumpy road toward the first group’s drop off point. After the two groups said their goodbyes and group 1 collected their things, the bus roared away to the other side of the traverse.

The weather on the first day was very pleasant and everybody enjoyed their hike. Once group 1 got established at their first campsite on the shores of Fowl Lake it started hailing. They cooked warm dinners huddled under tarps which tasted amazing. The hail quickly turned to rain and once evening meeting had finished, they tucked into their sleeping bags and let the sound of rain on their tents soothe them to sleep. As for group 2, they had a much harder day of hiking. They began to chip away at the 8.5 km distance planned for that day under the warmth of the afternoon sun. But soon the rain rolled in and the 1500m incline became a difficult challenge. They trudged on through the muddy trails until they reached Tenquille lake and the warm hut that greeted them. Quickly, sleeping mats were laid out while meals were cooked. The night ended with a quick meeting and then it was off to bed. Everyone was relieved to get into their sleeping bags after a hard day of hiking.

Day two came quickly and brought with it some more challenging weather. Group 1 woke up to heavy rain, quickly grabbed their packs and made for the tarp some hundred yards away. Not long into eating breakfast the rain stopped, the temperature dropped, and the snow began. Group 1 packed up camp and began their trek in the cold. They were hoping to reach Ogre Lake, about 10 kilometers from Upper Fowl Lake. The journey involved creek crossings, bushwhacking, boulder hoping and of course snack breaks. At the halfway mark, Group 1 came to a steep and rocky mountain pass but decided not to attempt it due to an injury.

Even though they could not get to their desired destination they found a fantastic campsite in a valley surrounded by pristine cliffs. As tents and tarps were being set up Aidan Horne noticed the backs of fish breaking the surface of the water and put together his portable fishing rod which he had brought. When he approached the shoreline, he spotted rainbow trout just feet off the bank and caught a small one on his second cast. He had many other bites that afternoon and caught another which he and his partner Max ate for dinner.

As for group 2, the second day was rough. As the boys begrudgingly left the warmth of the cabin it began to snow. Before they knew it, there was a fresh coat of snow on the trail and temperatures had dropped to near 0. The group hiked across the fluffy white trail, stopping every hour or so to refuel on snacks. Somewhere along the trail spirits began falter but as the boys talked about basketball, music and movies they were motivated to keep on going. Near the end of the day, a significant obstacle appeared –Dead Duck Wall. Finally, after a long, rocky descent the boys made it to One Duck lake. They set up their tents and tarps, and soon began making dinner. With full bellies and evening meeting adjourned everyone hurried off to bed. Although the sleeping bags were warm, nothing was able to protect them from the cold that would invade their tent that night.

On Day 3, group 1 got word from their instructors that they would be staying where they were for the day. Aidan immediately readied his rod. Many members of the group caught fish that day with the best performance coming from Jacob who hooked four fish on his first four casts. Every food group had fresh trout to go with their dinner that night! That afternoon, most of the group went on a day-hike up a ridge near camp. The end result was a beautiful view from a mountain-top where they could see their surroundings for miles.

Group 2 woke up that day to frost. As the group cooked breakfast, more snow fell and the weather grew colder. Their destination wasn't very far but it would be tough due to the snow. After a few hours of hiking, group 2 stopped on top of a ridge for lunch before continuing their hike. With a reprieve from the snow and Scooby Snacks, the boys successfully made it to Ogre Lake. That night they were able to thaw out in front of a much-appreciated fire.

On the morning of day 4, the decision was made to head back the way group 1 had come as they could not make it through the rocky pass standing between them and the rest of the traverse. Once again, gear was stowed in bags and soon they were on the move. Heavy rain pelted them as they made their way to Chain Lakes. Everyone was soaked and cold by the time the group got to the sign indicating the turn off to their destination. Another decision was made to push on to a public campground to facilitate the following day’s logistics. The evening saw the group relaxing while dinner was made and engaging in conversation regarding the challenge they had all faced over the last few days.     

For group 2, the next morning came quickly and the boys continued their routine of taking down tents and making breakfast. Today would be a much longer day, and somewhere along the trail spirits once again began to dip and so the group stopped for lunch. There is no denying that it was a miserable day. Colton and Jack chipped away at a jar of frozen nutella with knives and Anvith indulged in wet salami. They were uncomfortable but somehow they found a way to laugh at it.

The next day, group 2 wasted no time getting on the trail; they were all excited to be going home. Once they made it to the trail head, Doc Web was there to pick them up. The boys were excited to meet up with group 1 and the two groups compared field notes. Back at school, clean up ensued and then they were dismissed. That night, everyone enjoyed a deep and well-deserved sleep in their own beds. They were home.

Written by Aidan Horne and Colton Sammut

Discovering the Stein Valley: a Cultural Experience

On Saturday, November 10, 2018 a small group of Discovery boys departed from the Field House, on their way to meet the rest of their class...