Sunshine is the Best Medicine

Monday, May 20, 2019 - By: Sarah R, Mackenzie ‘20; Photo by Dan Norman

Rivers to paddle, cliffs to climb, and mountains to hike were all on the agenda of the ambitious ODP group this past week. Outdoor Pursuits is a unique Brnetwood sport featuring an array of diverse activities and outdoor survival skills. Particularly with the wave of beautiful sunny weather we have received lately, the past week has been an amazing opportunity to explore some of the natural beauty around us while also pushing our physical and mental limits! 

Once a week for the past term, ODP has loaded up our kayaks, helmets, life jackets and paddles and headed to the Cowichan River for thrilling and beautiful whitewater kayaking experiences. And what better way to begin a paddling session than to launch off the top of the Skutz Falls fish ladder in our kayaks, to drop about 20 ft into the frothing river below? After this adrenaline-inducing and refreshing beginning, we paddled downstream to our next rapid. According to Eme L, Hope ‘19 “The river is the embodiment of throwing yourself into the unknown; it’s scary, dangerous, and thrilling. And I think that’s my favourite part, knowing that I can’t control the river: all I can do is go with the flow.” 

Ideal for practicing and perfecting various skills including stroke techniques, kayak rolls, or T-rescues, the calm sections also offer time to appreciate the breathtaking beauty of Marie Canyon, only accessible from the river. After catching surf on smaller waves, we paddled around the bend to the first big section of whitewater, and navigated it smoothly. Many practice runs had been completed in previous weeks. Although the dropping water levels had slightly decreased the power of the currents, new rocks and hazards were exposed, demanding that we be ever-vigilant even on familiar lines. Splashing through the other big rapids including Double Whammy, Bernie’s, S-Bend, and Last Drop (which three members of the group ran successfully for the first time this season!), the evening sun shone on another rewarding day of whitewater paddling. 

Another of ODP’s favourite sport afternoon pastimes is hiking. We have climbed many mountains and circumnavigated beautiful lakes, and our most recent hike led us up local Mt Baldy. With an elevation of 208m, the flat top of this mountain offers stunning panoramic views of the Gulf Islands, Shawnigan Lake, and the surrounding scenery. 

Tucked into a 45ft deep ravine on the south shore of the Nanaimo river, the cliffs of Dark Side offered an incredible site for two long afternoons of outdoor rock climbing this past week. This classic Vancouver Island climbing destination is perhaps one of the most breathtaking examples of impressive geological formation I have ever seen. Enormous boulders tower out of the carved channel that is the crystalline river, and the hike in to the climbing site is peppered with increasingly large crevices, from ones that were easy to step over to eventually the wide one which we clambered down into to climb the sides of. 

With spunky names like “Sausage Factory”, “Too Much Boogie” and “Nine Ways to Sunday”, the varying climbs at Dark Side offer a challenge for climbers of all abilities. With various styles of climbs also available, we got to experiment with different techniques depending on whether we were tackling a slab route, a long crack climb, or anything else! Not ever ones to pass up an opportunity to be in the water, we discovered the perfect way to cool down after a long day of climbing; a quick dip into the clear Nanaimo river was just as fun and refreshing as anticipated! 

Aatya U, Allard ‘19 reflects that “The opportunity to be able to get off campus and go to a breathtaking place where we can have fun with friends and do what we enjoy is something I am so grateful to have as a sport. It doesn’t feel like mandatory physical activity.” Thank you to Ms Bell, Mr Norman, Mr Norman Jr, and everyone else who puts their time and energy towards the ODP program and all the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that it offers every single day! 

Sarah R, Mackenzie ‘20

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