“Come hike with us,” invites Shuswap Trail Alliance organizer Joan Mitchell, who has walked every trail on the program that includes fascinating hikes and a great meal topped off by an evening of music.
“I love meeting new people and really find it exciting to introduce them to the beautiful Shuswap, just to let them see what opportunities there are to get out and enjoy nature,” says Mitchell.
Described by Shuswap Trail Alliance executive director Phil McIntyre-Paul as an “uber volunteer,” Mitchell says she became involved with the alliance after hearing McIntyre-Paul speak.
“I told John Coffey I can’t dig rocks and he said ‘then you can be secretary,’” she says, noting she was secretary for a year, chair for several years and is now treasurer. “I love the people I work with, they’re so neat and everyone is so focused on being healthy and doing neat things.”
For Mitchell, who was born in Salmon Arm, the Routes and Blues program is also an opportunity to introduce hikers to the rich local history along the trails, which are chosen by her according to the communities Roots and Blues Festival organizers select to host the dinners and concerts.
And, whenever possible, she ensures the history includes a First Nations component.
“This is their land, this is where they live and we’ve all come here,” she says, applauding First Nations strong beliefs in preserving nature and being one with the land. “I think it’s important that we all should be together.”
Three of this year’s interpretive hikes have wrapped up, but there are still opportunities to get out on the festival trails.
On Friday, Aug. 8, hikers are invited to meet at 2 p.m. at the Tourist Information Centre at Belvedere Park in Enderby for an easy two-kilometre hike.
The hike had to be moved from Kingfisher to Enderby because of the mess caused when Cook Creek broke its banks in the spring.
But Mitchell is excited about the alternative, a hike with local historian Bob Cowan and Randy Williams, a Splatsin elder, to explore the historic Shuswap River and the community of Enderby.
One of Mitchell’s personal favourites is the Albas Falls hike, which takes place Saturday, Aug. 9 at 10 a.m.
Local resident and historian Frank Ryley will lead what is described as a moderate to difficult, three-kilometre hike.
“It just has to be one of the most spectacular waterfall systems,” says Mitchell, noting old logging artifacts remain in the area. “Frank will talk about what it was like to log up there.”
On Sunday, Aug. 10 at 10 a.m., hikers are invited to join Mitchell on the Trail Alliance’s newest trail – a moderate six-km walk uphill through a mixed forest to a great lookout over the lake to Copper Island.
Walking fans have an opportunity to explore Salmon Arm’s foreshore at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13 at the Salmon Arm Nature Bay Interpretive Centre at Marine Park for a self-guided tour.
The hikes are free, but all donations to the Shuswap Trail Alliance are gratefully accepted, says Mitchell, noting donations of $20 or more will get a receipt.
Roots and Blues marketing manager Scott Crocker is an enthusiastic fan of the Routes and Blues program that is in its fourth year and growing in popularity.
“I think people love it; the communities love it, it pulls the community together,” he says, noting the program is supported mostly by Shuswap residents, but is beginning to grow the tourist interest.
“We’re working with good synergy – it’s good for the Trail Alliance, it’s good for the communities and it’s good for Roots and Blues.”
So good, that Crocker says a Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) grant came with ties – that the Routes and Blues program be included in all festival advertising.
“It’s had a lot of attention from TOTA… they saw it as an economic generator,” says Crocker, noting communities are wanting to get on a list to play future hosts to the program.
For information on directions to the location of the hikes, the community meals and the concerts, visit www.routesandblues.ca.