It was the views that cinched the trip for Tanner Banman. The views, and the smell of rain mixed with pure mountain air that made Go Wild! an experience like no other.
Tanner was one of 13 youth that ventured on a six-day backcountry wilderness adventure this summer to Top of the World Provincial Park with Wildsight’s Go Wild! Program; students came from across the Columbia Basin including Creston, Slocan, Riondel, Nelson, Kimberley, Revelstoke, and Golden.
Go Wild! teaches the wilderness skills needed to safely plan and enjoy trips in our mountains. Participants worked as a team to plan and follow a challenging backcountry mountain loop trek. They were also responsible for all aspects of camp life, including cooking, bear-safe food storage, group management, and no-trace wilderness travel. They even cleaned up a trashed backcountry alpine camp in the park, removing garbage and abandoned gear left by previous travellers. Along the way, this year’s participants explored historic sites, natural history and wildlife as they traversed the provincial park.
“We got to discover firsthand some of the incredible Ktunaxa history of this part of the world, the old camp sites, hunting pits and caches, and tool-making workshops all over the Coyote Plateau,” shares Dave Quinn, Go Wild! coordinator. “We also encountered incredibly rich fossil beds, full of stone corals, worm tracks, ammonites, and other fossilized sea life, as well as signs of the rich wildlife found in the park, with goat, sheep, elk, grizzly, and wolf tracks in the remaining summer snow patches, as well as bumping into a few mule deer.”
On the final day, as the team was preparing to head down the trail from Top of the World Provincial Park, they witnessed something rare and beautiful: a mother moose swam across Fish Lake, her calf on her back. The team watched in awe as she bobbed her head up and down while making her way, ripples casting across the still glacial water as she swam.
Tanner says it didn’t take long to learn the ropes of backpacking under the guidance of trip leaders and the support of the other teens. The bruises from the heavy pack on day one faded by day three, the participants quickly got to know each other, and the views were amazing each and every day.
“On one of our hikes, we hiked to a mountain peak and the view we got was amazing; we got to see like 10 different mountain ridges going as far as the eye could see,” says Tanner. “It really was top of the world.”
Experience ranges on trips like this, from students that have hardly stepped out their door to seasoned hikers. While Tanner had done plenty of day hikes but no overnight excursions before, Elias Lussier had done plenty of backcountry trips with his family. But going without his parents forced Elias to be more proactive and responsible in safe backcountry camping, such as making sure the toothpaste was stored in the bear-proof cache. He also loved getting to backpack with a group of people his own age who supported and encouraged each other along the way.
“I didn’t really know what to expect and was hoping it would go well. It was nerve wracking at first, but after a couple days of getting to know all the people, it was a super supportive environment and we got into a rhythm,” says Elias.
The program was co-led by Dave Quinn and Leah Evans, both ACMG hiking guides.
“Heart is totally full. Holding onto one of the best guiding trips I’ve ever been on,” reflects trip leader Leah Evans. “These youth hiked 65 km, summited peaks, visited alpine lakes, found fossils, watched wildlife and learned about ecosystems. These youth are inspiring us all to reconnect with the wild within ourselves.”