A hike – an ephemeral thing

As the current webmaster of the Central Okanagan Hiking Club, Devon Brooks, was one of my first choices to request a hiking interview. He did not disappoint!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you Devon, I totally agree on the hiking philosophies you have mentioned below and love your writing style.

How and where were you introduced to the outdoors?

I grew up in the Ontario countryside, but my real introduction came after we moved to greater Vancouver. It was an end-of-school hike to Golden Ears provincial park when I was 14. The teachers organized a trip to the old burma bridge along Gold Creek. It was not, as far as hikes go, all that far or that long, but the rippling, startling cold, but clear creek, the lush greens with occasional glimpses of the main peaks exhilarated me. I knew nothing of hiking but starting the next year I lured my brother and a friend to conquer mighty Golden Ears. The first trip was without water or food in blue jeans and sneakers. It took four trips before we got some bare bone common sense essentials into our routine and we made it to the top. I was already hooked, but that absolutely reeled me in and I’ve been hiking ever since.

What has been your favourite hiking or outdoor area?

This is like asking what your favourite colour is. There are so many hikes I love that it is impossible to say, but while I love a fantastic vista on a sunny day it isn’t the place it is the process. A hike to a lake, a peak, a walk in fantastic woods is an ephemeral thing. The sighting of a deer or a bear, the inquisitive poke of a Gray Jay on my hand, air that flows fresh and clean, the sweat on my brow from working, really working up that steep slope. Yes, vistas in the Rockies are more sweeping and grand than from Knox Mountain, but the beauty, the inspiration from a hike isn’t from a particular place, it’s from you.

Please share an outdoor story related to one of the above areas.

Just after I moved to Kelowna I stumbled on the Central Okanagan Hiking Club. I’d done a couple of trails in Okanagan Mountain Park, but once a week the club goes up Knox at 6 pm. I only found out about the club in October so the first time I did it it was dusk when we started, about a dozen of us. It was my first “night hike”. By the time we came down it was dark and I marveled at the effect, which I had approached with suspicion. We didn’t use flashlights, but the outdoors here is so open, that a gentle light pervades everywhere on the trail. Your eyes become accustomed. I saw deer, or at least their silhouettes and Kelowna laid out like a glittering map of lights from the top lookout.

Have you ever been lost in the wilderness? If so please describe this adventure and any lessons learned.

I’ve never been “lost”. I have lost the trail, or made wrong turns so that I had to backtrack or not reach my intended destination. When I was younger I was lucky in that the trails I did were very well marked and the guide books were precise. Later I started to realize that not getting lost depended much more on me paying attention as I walked and getting a lay of the land. Even if you haven’t done it before, if you look and study some maps and pay attention as you go, you can get a good idea of how the mountains and forests lie. If you do go wrong, you know at least where you came from even if you aren’t sure of the way forward.

Can you share any unique encounters with wild animals?

I find the hysteria that goes along with the word ‘bear’ to be disturbing and I think it keeps many people from the mountains who would otherwise love it. I have had three close encounters with bears on foot. In every case the bear, upon our unexpected appearance took one look at us and ran off the other way. I realize it is possible that I could get between a bear and her cub, but the chances are very, very small. If people knew what the risks were of them being in a serious car accident and severely injured or killed versus the chance of a bear (and much, much less – a cougar), they could stop worrying and enjoy the day.

If not previously mentioned, have you ever completed a thru-hike or multi-day backpacking trip and what nuggets of wisdom did you glean from it?

Dozens. My first big trip, age 19 was the 70-odd km West Coast Trail in which I learned just how many mistakes I could make. I had a back pack by then and reasonable hiking boots, but with the nonchalance of youth the idea I should look at weight considerations never crossed my mind. I started off with 65 lbs. I did the trip on my own as no one I knew were interested and I never thought to ask advice. The fact that cooking was alien to me induced me to carry BIG tins of stew to feed my teen-aged appetite. I over packed clothes, utensils, you name it. Some of the weight came from my small budget that didn’t allow me to buy better gear, but a lot of it was ignorance and the thought that packing for a backpack was like packing for a car trip. On the bright side I also learned that your body adjusts to nearly anything after about three days and you can shoulder aside the mental whining about discomfort and enjoy the magnificence around you despite the load.

What is your favourite outdoor website?

I don’t really have one. I use a multitude for different things but would rather do a hike or a snowshoe in winter than look at what others have done online.

What is your favourite outdoor hiking gear store?

Hmm, it is probably MEC just because of the huge size of the place and the commitment they make with some of their money to environmental issues.

If you are a website administrator please add your url here.

I’m technically the adminstrator of the COHC website (www.hikekelowna.org)

About Clayton Kessler

In addition to TracksAndTrails, I am proprietor of First Page Solutions, the home of Kelowna's Digital Marketing Agency. It is the base for my team and I to build secure websites with responsive mobile design and help entrepreneurs reach top Search Engine Rankings through SEO. I live in Kelowna, let me buy you a cup of coffee and show you what I do. Just send me a text that says, "lets beat the competition on Google" to 1 (250) 470 - 8704