(Raw video shows the students on their voyage)
For a dozen students of Waldorf School in the Mission, their first foray into paddling lasted five days and took them through much of the south Okanagan Valley while they paddled giant, 10-man voyageur-type canoes, much like those used by early explorers in the region.
The students, in Grades 6 through 8, recently completed the epic voyage.... which was hosted by and canoes supplied by Selah Outdoor Explorations located on Brown Road in Westbank. The trip took place last week, from Monday to Friday.
While each of the children may have been novice paddlers at the outset, by the end of the fifth day, each was like a seasoned voyageur according to Jordie Bowen, who along with his wife Laurie, own and operate Selah. Their only daughter Catherine, not a student at Waldorf, accompanied the group on the lengthy wilderness expedition.
"For some kids who haven't done much paddling, the first day is pretty rough," explained Bowen. The students were required to paddle a distance of roughly 12 kilometres each of the five days, but on day three the group was 'wind bound' at their overnight encampment at Commander Bay campground.
"We actually got wind bound there on Wednesday," explained Laurie Bowen. `We had just a big enough window of opportunity to escape and we paddled straight across the lake to Okanagan Lake Park South.
On day 1, the group camped in Todd`s RV Park, then spent some time on Rattlesnake Island on day 2 before completing that leg of the trip at Commander Bay.
After their overnight at Okanagan Lake Park, they canoed south to Penticton on Thursday before the group then were transported south to Okanagan Falls campground before concluding their trip Friday with a paddle across Vaseaux lake and a hike to the top of McIntyre Bluff.
"Òur original goal was to canoe Skaha Lake, but because we lost that day due to the wind, we trucked the canoes down to Okanagan Falls Provincial Park," said Bowen.
While learning canoe watercraft, paddling techniques and were prime objects on the agenda, the bigger picture was somewhat more philosophical according to Bowen.
"Those things are some of the aspects to it (the trip), but we wanted to learn more about the cultural and historical aspects of the valley," he explained. "The South Okanagan is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the country. They`ve got loads of different species of animals reptiles etc."
And the perspective offered by the trip is one which the kids will not likely put out of their minds for quite some time.
"Once you paddle the Valley, you never look at it the same way again," said Bowen.