Nootka Island Trip Report (with photos)

My hat is off to you, Mattias Morrison and Alexis - the amazing guides of Zao Outdoor Ministries. Your level of professionalism and care for our group of HCOS Adventure Discipleship students on the Nootka Trail was fantastic. It was a huge honour to hike with you, and have you guide and encourage us on trail, and in our journey of Faith. Thank you for an epic week!
— James Nelson, high school teacher

After a lot of prayer, planning, and wonderful work by many people, our inaugural wilderness trip got off the ground!  We welcomed students from Heritage Christian Online School to our basecamp in Campbell River. The school values experiential education and opportunities for worship in creation, and they have brought us on board with their newly formed Adventure Discipleship Program for grades 10-12, which is a blend of applied skills, bible, leadership, and P.E. We spent the first afternoon getting to know one another and we went over equipment, and had a chance to check in with campers about their goals and expectations for our Nootka Island adventure.  Notably, a student was hoping for "rain" and "wildlife sightings". He was not disappointed! 

Our first morning saw us have some quick breakfast and drive to Tahsis, where we met our wonderful water taxi operator, Scott, from Tahtsa Dive Adventures.  They used their new landing craft, Shorebird, to land us rainjacket-clad hikers at Tongue Point, near the northern tip of Nootka Island.  No surprise, it was pretty rainy, yet we spotted dozens of sea otters floating amongst kelp beds.  From this point forward, we were on the trail!

I really didn’t want to go on this trip, in fact I was so stressed about it that I was sick the morning before. But I can’t believe how much fun I had, and I am a total city girl! None of the people who know me believe that I did a 6.5 day hike! It was a really great experience
— camper on Nootka Trail trip

Over the next couple days we encountered some typical wet-coast rain and wind, and our group was challenged by these conditions, the new experiences, and VERY rough trial obstacles.  I couldn't have been any prouder, watching students resolve to help one another, literally carrying each others' burdens on their backs.  We had to dig deep and ask the important question: who or what am I depending on?

In the evenings Alexis, our guide intern, and I would supervise gourmet hot meals prepared by students in our "kitchen" right on the beach.  Camp life on a backpacking trip is a welcome reward after slushing through mud and pea-gravel. Our group enjoyed hot drinks and driftwood fires in the evening when James, Alexis and I facilitated fireside discussion and opened the Word.  Shoreline air, a stunning sunset over the vast pacific, glowing embers of the warm fire and laughter among friends . . . all after a day of simple wilderness travel, distracted only by some tiptoeing Sandpipers . . . these moments are when we are able to feel God's presence and delight in what he has made. Finding our place with him, resting in his abundant, pursuing love and rejoicing in hope. Hearts are primed to hear and experience the Gospel.

Reflecting on some of the conversations and moments we had during these times together reminds me why wilderness ministry is important. For instance, reading the account of Jesus calming the storm in the midst of a, well, storm, highlights the incredible power of Jesus. "Who is this, that even the wind and waves obey him?" 

Midway through this hike the weather improved and we began to see the campers become more confident. More oriented to their new environment and the natural rhythms of this incredible coast.  We saw even more wildlife, our days on the trail became shorter, and we had more time for exploring some cultural history and archeological sites.  Before long, we had covered over 35Km and ended up in Friendly Cove where we met some village locals and the light station staff.  Eventually we were picked up and returned to the developed environment, doritos and all.

I couldn't be more proud of our campers, Alexis and James.  Our whole group was blessed throughout this trip and we are so very thankful. What a way to launch out into this exciting area of camp ministry. We encourage you to stick around for the ride!