Learning to Lead on Trail

Between the dates of May 16-29th, two different groups of Adventure Discipleship Program students from HCOS and BCOS took on the challenge of backpacking for 6 days in Cape Scott Provincial Park. Located on the Northern tip of Vancouver Island, Cape Scott offers incredible beach camping, diverse trail conditions and weather that can change from blissful sun to tormenting rain and wind at short notice.

Students converged on Vancouver Island from across the province, many meeting in person for the first time. After a night at a base camp working on group equipment, food packing and establishing group goals, students experienced the long drive out to the San Josef Trailhead, and began their approximate 45 km hike.

On trail, our second group encountered some unique challenges and opportunities, such as a closed first campsite due to winter storms. This resulted in the group having to change their plans from an ‘easy entry’ to the trail, to a longer hike and a tight fit at a fairly ‘buggy’ inland campsite at Fisherman’s River. Once they hit the coast, groups experienced chilly temperatures but great weather overall, and enjoyed wild camping on the beach at Nels Bight. The group was also able to hike to what is often referred to as the Northernmost tip of the Island and visit the Cape Scott Lighthouse.

It is always a great experience to see how a group of students in grades 10-12, mostly strangers, come together to take on a challenge of this nature. Group decision-making and creating trip goals that take into account the diverse needs and wants of a group can be a challenging process, but this is also great learning for all of us, as we learn to hold our personal goals loosely and look to the shared goals of the group. Servant leadership is also a skill that students practice, as they learn to care for and encourage one another on some long days on trail, gather water for the group, cook for each other and take turns leading the group.

One of the themes that become evident on a backpacking trip is ‘the things we carry.’ Whether that is literal, through examining packing lists and trying to lighten packs by removing unnecessary items, to what we carry on our journey through life, somehow, carrying a heavy pack of items we’ve chosen and some that are carried for the benefit of the group puts this in a fresh perspective. Sitting around an evening campfire, we explored Jesus’ words that his burden is light and His way easy (Matthew 11: 28-30). The things we carry in life and on trail can either be of benefit to us (that tent or some great food, for example, or responsibilities to our family and community) or weigh us down (extra clothing, that heavy hatchet, or things in life that are assigned to us, or that we choose to add to our burden).

Ultimately, our groups had a fantastic trip on trail at Cape Scott this year and were blessed with some incredible weather, people and memories.

The Adventure Discipleship Program is for students in grades 10-12. For more information on the program, please visit https://hcos.ca/travel-outreach.

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