I love cities. I admire places such as Hong Kong and New York for their pace, skyscrapers and for how urban they are. Last Saturday, sitting in the back of my parents’ car as the buildings of Victoria faded away with each kilometre, I did not realize all of what I was getting myself into. I was off to a two-day camping trip at Camp Barnard with other Middle School students as part of our Middle School Explorers class, to hike the north shore of Sooke.
Approaching the campsite I looked up and saw the mountain we were going to climb: Mount Bluff – a 2,238-foot-tall mountain with numerous rough patches and falling rocks. After setting my pack down in the wooden cabin, I waited for my teammates while collecting wood. After everyone arrived we set off towards the mountain not knowing what to expect.
We battled fallen trees, slippery rocks and scraped knees, and after a few hours we made it to the top of the mountain, and what a view that was! On one side was the Juan de Fuca Strait; and on the other side is what Sooke is known for: utter wilderness. At the top, Mr. DeMerchant taught the group how to find geocaches and what to do when you find one. After we found two geocaches, we made lunch – chicken quesadillas using nothing more than an empty tin can and some methyl hydrate.
I was one of only two Grade 8s on the trip, so I quickly became friends with the Grade 7s and 6s. After many laughs and quesadillas we made our way back down the mountain, trying not slip. When we reached the bottom we played games for hours and learned how to safely start a fire until it was time for dinner. Meals included mashed potatoes, corn and instant noodles. After dinner we were ready to go to our next activity: a real Scout campfire!
When we arrived, we were welcomed by a large group of boy scouts with open arms. Some of the group performed skits. All of the skits were really funny and entertaining. The Grade 6s invited me to join their skit and it turned out well and was a lot of fun. After the last skits we left the scouts and returned to our campsite, where we played more games, had another campfire and listened to scary stories while roasting marshmallows. Then it was time to call it a night. I stayed up and sat beside the fire finishing science homework, and when I was done I went to bed.
In the morning I woke up to snoring in my cabin so I quickly got up! After a delicious breakfast of waffles and whipping cream, my friend and I lay down on the ground for an hour looking at the unpolluted blue sky thinking and talking about what was waiting for us back home. Eventually it was time for our group to leave.
I learned many things on the trip from being taught how to tie a simplistic knot, to making new friends, to appreciating nature. In the end, our group turned into something more than just a squad – it turned into a family. We helped each other out in times of need, we stuck together during tense moments and always had a superb time, and that is what I learned most from my trip to Camp Barnard: the importance of friendship.
Thanks to Mr. DeMerchant, Mr. Jackson and Mrs. Lloyd for making the trip so fun, and for helping us all to appreciate the beauty of nature and the outdoors.
See more photos from the Middle School Explorers trip to Camp Barnard at the SMUS Photo Gallery.