This is a piece I wrote for the Catching the Spirit blog:
For obvious reasons, every time I spend a substantial amount of time in the wilderness, Catching the Spirit comes to mind. I have just returned from a long-weekend excursion to the Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail on the outskirts of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Two nights, three days and 38 kilometers of being immersed in nature later, and I feel refreshed and rejuvenated. As my three friends and I pitched our tent in a small clearing in the woods, I thought of the luscious grass beside the nature house at Burnaby Lake. As we filled our bottles with water from Frederick Lake, I thought of the pristine glacier water that flows down the Capilano River. As we told stories around the campfire, I recounted all the amazing people I have met around the campfires I’ve enjoyed with Catching the Spirit. Unfortunately however, we did not sing the “scat song” or entertain ourselves with a friendly game of mafia.
It’s amazing how a program that runs “outdoor experiences for youth” continues to prove itself as being so much more than that. Catching the Spirit comes up in my memory with so many things that I do. It felt strange almost to be camping without waking up to people singing “so glad about it”, without getting our hands dirty working in the BCIT community garden and without canoeing alongside the beaver dams of Burnaby Lake. This camping trip was however, extraordinary. From the moss-covered forest floors to the stretches of birch, oak, beech and spruce trees, the granite bluffs overlooking the many lakes to the giant boulders just asking to be mounted. Nova Scotian landscape is different from anything you’d find in a Metro Vancouver Regional Park, but it is breathtaking in it’s own unique way. I think I can attest much of my love for wilderness to this program, which has instilled a passion within me to be a friend of nature. It may have been CTS that persuaded me to buy that “Campsuds” biodegradable soap to wash my dishes in the lake with instead of polluting the lake with Cascade dish detergent.
When we were isolated from any form of civilization, hungry from the 11.7 kilometers of ground we covered that day and we realize that we had forgotten to bring our camping stove, I knew everything was going to be alright. Many of the people who have been role models and mentors to me over the course of my time peer leading at CTS taught me that every obstacle you run into can be overcome. No matter what misfortune occurs, if you attack things with a positive attitude, they are going to result in better outcomes. Although at CTS we never had to resort to eating solely cold food for an entire weekend, there were times where we had to get creative with our meal plans. Sometimes an ingredient was forgotten or we incorrectly estimated proportions and had to re-think our plans. Catching the Spirit taught me that having to change your plans when things are not working out is not the end of the world. At CTS, when we overestimated our campers’ oatmeal consumption ability, it resulted in the epic Jake vs Mason oatmeal eat-off. With my friends, forgetting to bring our stove resulted in eating oats in cold water... crunchy, and actually quite delicious.
The toughest part for me was at the end of our weekend, not concluding with a tap circle and a big red hug. I have come to the conclusion that no matter where I am in the world, no matter what my age, there will always be things that remind me of the best stewardship program I could have chose to partake in.