No Great Whites in the Great White North

An Australian student’s take on her time in the Canadian wilderness

Snowshoers pack their gear to a cabin near McConnel Lake as part of the TRUSU Adventure U Outdoor Club’s weekend trek. (Gabriel Rivett-Carnac/Submitted)

Snowshoers pack their gear to a cabin near McConnel Lake as part of the TRUSU Adventure U Outdoor Club’s weekend trek. (Gabriel Rivett-Carnac/Submitted)

Having been in Canada for a little over a month now, it has become apparent that I do not live up to the standards of the stereotypical Aussie travelling the land of maple syrup.

No, I didn’t come here to snowboard, I’m not really that adventurous, I don’t really know who Crocodile Dundee is and no, I haven’t seen a Great White Shark before. I was disappointed in myself that I wasn’t able to fulfill the expectations of my new Canadian friends.

In an endeavour to alleviate the crushing weight of my own mediocrity, I signed up for the most adventurous activity I could find, with the least chance of breaking any bones.

I would be snowshoeing with the TRU Adventure U Outdoor Club.

We were to spend a night in the B.C. wilderness, battling the elements and snowshoeing through harsh terrain. Actually, we’d only be staying in cabins about 2 kilometres from a main road, but I digress.

Ready to get off the beaten track, I packed my bags with only the bare essentials and some normal essentials like a phone charger because surely there would be electricity in the wilderness. How else would I be able to keep my phone alive to upload photos onto Instagram and make all my friends jealous?

(Gabriel Rivett-Carnac/Submitted)

(Gabriel Rivett-Carnac/Submitted)

We set out early Saturday morning, making the half-hour journey to McConnell Lake via bus. I was feeling a little tender from the beers consumed the previous night, but nevertheless Adventure Studies teacher Craig Campbell drove with exceptional skill and I only had myself to blame for any queasiness felt.

Upon arrival at the lake we were all given snowshoes and with our rucksacks on our backs and toboggans dragging behind us we set out across the frozen lake to the cabin.

At this point, I was reminiscing on daytime movies I watched as a child, where the kids are playing on the lake when the ice gives way beneath them and they are dragged by the current to their impending death. Fortunately, I’ve just seen one too many movies and we all made it across unscathed. Though I did see my life flash before my eyes at one point when my foot found the layer of water beneath the snow.

The cabins were everything I had ever dreamed of – small, wooden, snow-covered and fairytale-like – everything I’d thought of when dreaming of Canadian cabins. The leaders started a toasty fire in the old stove with fishing magazines from the 1970s. No joke. There were advertisements in there for “7-Up, the man’s mixer.” What a time to be alive.

In order to become better acquainted with our new comrades, we played the traditional introductory games and soon enough we were all getting along like a cabin on fire.

After filling our bellies with lunch, half of the group put their snowshoes back on to go exploring, while the other half stayed back to play cards. Being the queen of the wilderness that I was by this point, I decided to keep warm and stay in. Plus, someone had to stir the giant pot of jambalaya that was to be our dinner. What greater responsibility could there be than making sure our only source of nourishment did not burn on the bottom?

In the afternoon we made our way back to the lake for a lesson in avalanche rescue. Having never seen snow before arriving in Kamloops and coming from somewhere that is basically flat and mostly covered in red dirt, standing on a frozen lake learning how to dig your friend out of an avalanche is a surreal experience. Or maybe that was just all the blood rushing to my brain trying to keep it warm. Either way, with the guidance of our ever-wise wilderness expert and leader Pate Neumann, I am pretty much ready to climb Everest now.

The rest of the evening was spent sharing travel stories, warming our toes, learning how to chop wood and my personal highlight: building a campfire and making s’mores. No, I have never eaten a s’more before. Yes, it was everything I dreamed of and more. Soon enough it was time for bed. It was going to be a cozy night, with 12 of us sleeping side by side on wooden bunk beds with only our sleeping bags and foam pads to sleep on.

Surprisingly, I awoke the next morning well-rested and ready to take on any avalanches that may come my way. I realized I should probably do some actual snowshoeing since I had told pretty much anyone who would listen that I was going snowshoeing, so I strapped myself in and followed Pate into the forest with the rest of the gang.

It turns out snowshoeing can be kind of difficult.

I was sweating in no time. I had no idea where we were and was focusing on not falling into air holes, but luckily for me, Pate guided us along, sharing survival tips and fun facts about the forest along the way. We even found what I thought were bear footprints in the snow. They were rabbit footprints. I’m Australian, okay!

Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to the beloved cabins and head back to the big smoke. I was already reminiscing on the weekend, and talking about it like it was the good old days. We packed up our bags and loaded the toboggans to make the return journey back to the bus. Tired and cold, but filled with bounding enthusiasm we drove back to Thompson Rivers, making plans to go again as soon as possible.

No, I still haven’t seen a Great White shark but I can dig you out of an avalanche, so take that Crocodile Dundee, you unadventurous bastard.