By Rubi Katz
Every year, the students of WPGA either look forward to or dread the mandatory outdoor education trips. From gorgeous Strathcona to frigid Manning Park, these adventures contribute to the WPGA experience we all love. If you have enjoyed yourself for even 5 minutes of these excursions, and are in grade nine or ten, here is why you should apply for Wilderness Pursuits.
Wilderness Pursuits is one of the most unique and best (in my biased opinion) programs at WPGA. In a typical year, this year-long program takes you on five to six multi-day adventures in a variety of modes of travel like hiking, cross country skis or kayaks. You also go on day trips and take part in certification programs where you get certified in wilderness first aid and rock climb belaying. You will learn skills ranging from fire-making to rope-tying to leadership from being group leader for a day. However, it is so much more than just the trips. The bonds and friendships that spawn from each adventure, in and out of the classroom, are filled with memories, laughter, and big smiles.
Despite COVID, Wilderness Pursuits has still been able to run this year. The current cohort goes on off-campus adventures weekly and day trips every 3 weeks. This year, the WPers have been able to partake in some new activities such as mountain biking. Some of the core WP events have still been able to happen such as the cross country ski trips and avalanche safety course—both of these were more fun than you could possibly imagine.
Something unexpected is always bound to happen on every trip, such as when Will’s beloved trail mix was eaten by mice within the first hour of our first trip in the Stein Valley or when I dropped our pot down the river before our first meal together. When out in the wilderness these hiccups feel like the end of the world. But as soon as you step on the bus to drive home all these unanticipated events turn into jokes only your WP group will understand and laugh at. The most rewarding part of every trip is getting to a viewpoint, where in WP you will learn to yell BAM (beauty appreciation moment). The journeys to the campsites are filled with conversations on the most random topics with the people you are least closest to. At the campsites, we play a lot of camouflage (I would say we are camouflage pros now) and make campfires when allowed. We even got to bring marshmallows to roast and eat alongside hot chocolate. My most memorable part of all WP trips was every night after the debrief of the day and planning for the next, we would gather around in a circle and look up at the stars. This was then followed with a scary story and finally a big group hug and goodnight. To see more, here is a video I made of our trip to the Sunshine Coast Trail (this was pre-COVID).
You have now read all the amazing things about WP but as we all know, nothing can be this perfect. If you are interested in WP (or if you are here to find out what you missed out on) I am sure you want to know about some of the downsides and not so picturesque moments. Chances are you won’t have all the right gear on the first trip, which will create some frustrations for you. The most common occurrences: not enough stuff sacks, a sleeping mat that is not nearly as close to the comfort of your home mattress, and clothes that get wet. Inevitably, you will be seen at your worst. You will be traveling for an entire day, with stops of sitting on the ground, sleeping in a tent and repeating for several days. To add to it, you will not have a shower the entire trip. But you are all in the same boat and you will come home to the most amazing feeling of stepping in the shower and watching all the dirt run off your skin. Thankfully, my group only experienced this once, but waking up to the rain is the worst. Your tent will be soaked on the outside and maybe inside, which can cause all of your stuff to become damp or drenched. Getting out of your warm sleeping bag into the rain and packing up the sopping tent is far from fun. The final thing I think is worth knowing is the food is definitely not five-star, at least on your first trip. Our final meal on our first trip was burritos made from instant rice and dried beans… I think that says it all.
Nevertheless, all of these negatives are fully overtaken by all the positives. While the burritos may not have been the easiest food to digest, we made some delicious quesadillas the next day. You will all be looking your worst and the photos only make you look funnier. As someone who did not last very long in the cold of Manning or the short hike at Camp Evans Lake, I would 100% recommend everyone consider Wilderness Pursuits. If you have any questions about WP feel free to come up to me or anyone else who has been in WP, anytime!
Please note this is just my experience, yours will without a doubt be completely different and amazing!