Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Reflections from the West Coast Trail

Last week a group of 8 athletes from Calgary hiked the West Coast Trail. The collective was as diverse a group of people as I've seen on a destination; from ages 25 to 55, big differences in fitness level, and from an engineer to a divorce lawyer to an infant special care nurse and the list goes on...

What impressed me (other than the epic scenery and our luck - 5 days, no rain during shoulder season) was the perseverance and perspective shown by the group amidst the inevitable adversity everyone faced. Even our training coaches who had hiked the trail before found themselves outside their comfort zone and had to dig deep at times.

5 questions on the West Coast Trail helped summarize people's respective take-aways;

1) What were your top take-aways or moments on the trip?
- finishing day 1 alive
- seeing a bald eagle feed on a seal carcass
- diving into waterfall plunge pools
- walking along the tidal shelf and seeing all the marine life
- getting to know new friends
- learning of how people can push themselves so hard and get so tired, but still manage to go a little farther to finish
- seeing how different personalities can work together, help each other out, and be so kind to one another under rough circumstances
- The sense of accomplishment at the end
- Camaraderie with the group
- the awesome beauty that is right here at home in Canada even though we pay money to find it in other parts of the world
- and of course all the laughs

2) What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
- I Learnt to be stronger (or at least act it) in order to put other minds at ease and help them to keep going
- I also learnt that anyone can do something if they have the mental toughness to do it.
- I learned the truth of 'mind over matter' - something I've always believed in but never had to put into play until the night of day two of the hike
- respect for life: my own, the marine life, the delicate nature of our natural resources, and wanting to embrace life more on a daily basis with those important to me - pay these lessons forward

3) What did you find most challenging?
- the last part (the hiking on the beach sand) of day two of the hike.
- Crossing the rocks at every stream!
- When having a frustrating
moment, knowing that I still had XXX km to go, but then I'd soon find "my happy place" and be loving life again
- It was a real roller coaster ride of emotions - happy, frustrated, elated, tired, happy....
- it was more mentally tough than it was physically

4) How would you rate this experience compared to other fitness destinations you've done?
- Its hard to compare to other destinations. It was such a special trek with special group of people that I don't think you can compare it to any other
- It was a fantastic trip 10/10!
- Very High
- I have done some hiking abroad and it is always an incredible experience, but it is refreshing to know that we have world renowned, challenging hikes here in Canada!
- The only part that is missing from other hikes I have done is the cultural experience of being in another country
- right up there, one of the coolest places I've been

5) Would you recommend others hike the west coast trail?
- Absolutely, but I doubt if others with have such marvelous weather, so I'd be careful not to mention the 'no rain' bit.
- Of course, if you like backpacking and beautiful scenery it is a must! Can't wait for next year!
- Yes, I would
- Absolutely!

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