For years, a friend of mine had been talking to me about Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. As a teen, she went on an expedition to the park with her high school and the experience had a huge impact on her life. Her time at Strathcona helped her develop an inherent sense of confidence and self-sufficiency that she has carried with her since then. So, she and I decided to send our 14-year old sons on an adventure with the WYLD (Wilderness Youth Leadership Development) program at Strathcona Park.
Our boys chose the 8-day Backcountry Beginnings program, which focused on teamwork, problem-solving, communication and leadership skills. Daily adventures included rock climbing and high ropes at the park’s lodge. They did ambitious amounts of sea and lake kayaking and went on beautiful hikes through mountains and valleys. They learned about tracking animals, cooking their own meals, sleeping under the stars, and respecting and valuing their environment by leaving it as they found it.
In Jared’s words, “I got a genuine sense of nature, some more friends, a sense of leadership … and saw what it was like to live out in the wild for a week.”
The governing philosophy at Strathcona is based on six values:
- More with less
- Challenge by choice
- Living on the edge
- Generosity of spirit
- Happy warrior
I know Jared internalized these values. When he came home he was enthusiastic, energetic, confident, kind and dreaming about his next adventure.
Our boys couldn’t stop talking about the people they met, the challenges they overcame and the “magical” places they had visited.
Strathcona has something for everyone – hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, yoga, camping, zip lining, high ropes, and swimming in the lake and relaxing while surrounded by pristine nature. Nearby, Campbell River boasts as the Salmon fishing capital of the world.
While the boys said their final goodbyes to new friends, Darren and I walked around the lodge and surrounding cabins. Perched aside a gorgeous lake, the accommodations are cozy and the setting is stunning.
The food at the lodge, described as “fresh, local, nutritious and approachable” looked delicious, and Jared agrees that it tasted great. The rustic vibe reminded me of a ski lodge at mealtime – lot’s of hungry people, all charged to get up and go. It is definitely a place worth exploring.
When I asked Jared’s friend if he would describe his experience as “life altering” I received a simple, but thoughtful reply. “Yes, yes I would.” Music to this mother’s ears.