Naomi Seal’s enthusiasm is persuasive and a little contagious.
She talked her friend Megan Brecknell, along with Megan’s boyfriend, Keith Towers, and Megan’s mother, Denise Reimer, to go on a four-day wilderness hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park.
Although Megan, Keith and Denise all enjoy the outdoors, this wilderness hike, with its physical and mental challenges, was a new experience. For Naomi, it’s more than a passion.
“Ever since we could walk, we were hiking. My brother and I would go crying,” she says laughing. “It was my parents making me do something I didn’t want to do, but I’m grateful now. Now I’m obsessed with it.”
She grew up doing hikes all around B.C. and Alberta and she did her first solo hike two years ago.
“I did three nights at Yoho National Park. There was a bear outside my tent on the first night. I was thinking about the time my dad punched a bear in the nose when the bear put his face against the tent. The bear took a swipe at the tent and ripped it and then went away.”
And if dealing with the threat of a bear wasn’t enough on her first solo adventure, she also had unexpected weather conditions.
“I checked with the weather bureau and they said, ‘No chance of snow.’ I woke up to a winter wonderland. I sat there in denial wondering if I should pack up and go home; but I felt like had something to prove so I kept going. There were some really trying moments… I didn’t have anyone to rely on. At the end I cried; I was so proud and so exhausted.”
Fast forward to July 2018. This is a hike Naomi has done but the others knew they were in for their own personal challenges.
“I have a fear of heights,” says Megan. “When we got to one peak I looked over the ledge and I started crying. I was there by myself.”
Denise (who was interviewed by email) says she has done a lot of things that have pushed her out of her comfort zone but this was beyond anything she has ever done because it, “required such physical and mental stamina over a period of four days, 47 kilometres and 5,000 feet of elevation gain.”
Two years ago, Denise had open heart surgery to replace a genetically defective aortic valve. She was intrigued to see if the little metal implant would stand up to the test.
On the first day they hiked into Garibaldi Lake, and the second day they made it to Black Tusk. On third day, Panorama Ridge and, on the fourth day, they hiked down.
Keith is active in the rock climbing community but he says this had a totally different feel.
“It’s more exposed, there were no trees and it was dirt slope. If you’re not used to it, it can be intimidating,” says Keith.
“I love the view,” says Megan. “I don’t know how to describe the feeling of accomplishment when I got there. My mom was at a lower level and I kept going and then I stopped. Keith and Naomi went up the chimney.”
(The chimney refers to a certain rock formation that resembles a chimney on Black Tusk).
While Megan was enjoying her accomplishment, Denise was engulfed in other feelings.
“On our hike up Black Tusk I reached the first ledge and I decided, when I made eye contact with the pilot who was flying a small plane near us, that I was as high was I was willing to go… Megan continued on up to meet up with Keith and Naomi. I pretended to be very brave and encouraged her as she continued on up while I sat and watched. I realized in that moment there was nothing I could do to protect her and that my girl was on her way. Talk about a moment of letting go… at 5,000 feet. I turned and looked down at the view and cried. I sat with all the love I had for her coursing through my body. This is a moment I will never forget. I will admit when they returned I have never felt such relief.”
All of them agree that wilderness hiking has given them valuable life-lessons.
“I’m less busy and enjoy the scenery,” says Megan. “I try to do that in my life now. When you’re there with the woods and the water, it slows you down.”
Keith says when you’re out in the wilderness you let go of your ego and become very much more part of the surroundings.
“You’re more focused on the environment and you’re hyper-focused on what you’re doing.”
“It makes me realize that less is more,” says Naomi. “We get to caught up in what our society deems should make us happy. I feel we get caught up in materialism. When I go hiking, less is more and you don’t need much in life to make you happy.”
“We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth,” says Denise. “Don’t waste a minute, get out there and take it in.”