Hello world, it’s me, Carly!
First, a little bit about me. I’ve loved the outdoors since I was a little kid. I was born in Alberta, Canada, but I grew up as an expat living with my family in places like Qatar, Oman, and England before moving to British Columbia, Canada for university. I enjoyed family camping trips in the dunes of the desert and on sandy beaches in the Middle East, and in high school in England I was involved with the Venture Scouts and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Overnight hikes were my element. Now, I live in Victoria BC, you can often find me day hiking, backpacking, or bike packing in and around Coastal BC.
Throughout university, my summer job was planting trees in clearcuts and burned areas all around the province. If you’re not familiar with treeplanting, it’s a physically and psychologically demanding job, but it’s very rewarding. The work involves long hours of difficult labor, climbing hills amongst the slash, and hauling hundreds of seedlings in bags strapped to your hips, with nothing but a hand shovel to plant them in the ground. It’s piecework, so you get paid based on the amount of trees you plant. The solitude, simplicity, physicality, and subculture of treeplanting honestly strikes me as bearing many similarities to long-distance hiking – which might explain why I’m attracted to both!
After graduating with a BSc, my science background and my desire to do something meaningful led me to study holistic nutrition. I’m passionate about exploring the dynamic relationships between humans and nature, and how these relationships impact the health and wellbeing of everyone and everything involved. Food and food systems are just one way humans interact with nature. Backpacking and outdoor recreation is another! This human / nature theme bubbles beneath a lot of my current interests. Including, of course, my plans to spend over a month hiking the Vancouver Island Trail, starting in July!
Where I’m Going
The Vancouver Island Trail (VIT) is a yet-to-be-completed trail that spans the entire length of Vancouver Island off the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. You may have heard of the famous West Coast Trail and its breathtaking beaches. Well, this little island may soon boast one of the longest trails in the province, reaching approx. 800km (500mi) from the Oak Bay district near the city of Victoria in the south, to the iconic Cape Scott at its northern terminus!
As the trail winds through the beautifully rugged temperate rainforest landscape, hugging long lakes, traveling up inlets, fording rivers, crossing beaches and traversing the alpine, it will pass through the traditional territories of the many Indigenous Peoples who have inhabited these lands since time immemorial . It will also pass through public lands and parks as well as the private lands of timber management companies that run logging operations all around the forested interior of the island.
The Vancouver Island Trail Association (VITA) performs trail building and maintenance activities carried out with volunteer work funded by donations. The VITA has been working hard to organize land-use agreements between the various stakeholders whose land the proposed route runs through. While most of the route is defined well enough on the ground for a thru-hike to be possible, most of the route north of Port Alberni is yet to be officially opened due to these ongoing discussions.
However, a handful of people have already successfully hiked the whole thing in one go, and thru-hikes are not prohibited even as land-use agreements are being worked out. This does mean, however, that even though it might be defined enough to hike, parts of the route are by no means well-trafficked, and may be quite difficult to navigate. The VIT is still in its infancy.
I am grateful to the VITA for their hard work in pursuing the vision of an island-spanning trail. Their vision has certainly inspired me to experience more of this beautiful place. How privileged I am to get the opportunity to do so via my favorite mode of travel – walking!
Why I’m Going
Ever since I first learned of the existence of a trail crossing the entire length of the island that I call home, I knew it was only a matter of time before I had my boots on the ground to explore it for myself.
I am the kind of person who loves a challenge, especially those of the deceptively simple kind, such as walking from point A to point B. Simple, because the goal is single-minded; there is only one way to walk across an island, and that is by – you guessed it – walking. Deceptively simple, because the uncomplicated nature of the repetitive work required to reach the goal opens up all this space to be filled with your own complexities. The simple strips you of your façade and leaves you unable to utter anything but your truth. And what lies beneath the surface might be a surprise to encounter, once you make the space for it to arise. Simple becomes a mirror for you to reflect upon your own complexities. I find meaning in the lessons that crystallize in my clashes with the deceptively simple.
I also know deeply that I feel most alive when I am outside in nature, breathing in the fresh air, and moving amongst the movement of other living creatures, big and small, plant and insect and animal. My attention turns outward and I begin to participate in the world through my sensory and motor organs, instead of spiralling into the disconnection and apathy that indoor isolation can instigate. I have fallen in love with this place, Vancouver Island, over the two years that I’ve lived here. Part of this journey is going to be about getting to know this land more intimately, throughout my own eyes and ears, and my own sweat and tears. It’s also going to be about reconnecting to the nature that is inside of me. I want to explore a new way of being that finds me squarely in the context of place, and not isolated from it. What attitudes and actions are embodied in this relationship? What values and responsibilities come with this way of being?
Lastly, aside from the challenge and the reconnection, I’m drive to do this hike because it’s the most independent and riskiest thing I’ve ever done. All my life, I’ve taken the opinions of other people very seriously into consideration when choosing my path. I don’t like to stand out or rock the boat, and I am a perfectionist and don’t like to fail. So, it is easy for me to adhere to other peoples ‘measurement of success, and adopt other peoples’ ideas of what is valuable. This hike is my biggest undertaking in terms of energy, time, and commitment that has been completely planned and defined according to no one’s values or schedule but mine. I mapped out the creation of this experience without waiting for someone else’s approval. And whatever happens out there, I will be the one calling the shots, and I will be the one responsible for the outcome. It’s thrilling and terrifying at the same time. But I’m excited to see how it all unfolds.
So that’s a little bit about Who I Am and Where I’m Going! I hope to share the magic of this trail through my blogs and perhaps convince you that a trip to Canada to visit the completed VIT should be on your bucket list. I will be diving into more detail about the history and route of the VIT in my next post.
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