A group of Sun Peaks teens recently completed a truly epic bike packing trip.
While the 280-kilometre journey would have been gnarly under any circumstances, the trip was made all that much harder by the extremely hot weather they encountered. It was over 35 C each day, with the thermometer cracking 40 C on the group’s last day (on which they managed to cycle for almost 80 kilometres).
“The riding would have probably been totally fine if it weren’t for the heat,” reflected James Cannon, who is will be in Grade 12 next year. “We were travelling eight hours a day in that heat. So yes, it was pretty brutal.”
Four friends—all of whom are part of the First Sun Peaks Scouts Ventures troop—completed the journey: Cannon, Mathew Zandstra, Toren Harris and Tyler Dickson. The teens were supported by two parents: Glen Harris and Colin Cannon, who drove ahead and assisted with logistics in the later stages of the journey, which lasted from June 23 to27.
The trip is a requirement of the Duke of Edinburgh Award program, a distinction that recognizes adolescents and young adults for completing a series of self-improvement exercises.
The teens are vying for the bronze designation of the award, which also requires volunteer hours, as well as time dedicated to improving one’s physical health, and some sort of skill.
According to the Duke of Edinburgh criteria, adventures must be self-propelled and organized by participants. So the students took the lead in developing the overall trip idea and its itinerary.
The students followed the famed Kettle Valley Railroad trail. They started in Princeton, road to Osprey Lake, then on to Penticton and up to Chute Lake. The group then continued through the famed Myra Canyon outside of Kelowna. The last leg was from Arlington Lake to Rock Creek.
Matthew Zandstra said he enjoyed the opportunity to take the bull by the horns and organize a major adventure.
“It’s actually quite a big [trip],” he said, noting the length and logistics. “So there was a major feeling of accomplishment once we finished.”
Zanstra added that overall, the Duke of Edinburgh program has been rewarding, as it gives one something to work towards.
“It’s an honour to be able to say you’ve completed it,” he said. “There’s a lot of work that’s put into it. “
The participants trained for the journey, but they were not anticipating the extreme heat. Asked if any of them thought about giving up, James Cannon said that while it might have been joked about, they were never going to let that happen.
“We had somewhere we had to get to, and you couldn’t just stop,” he said.
With bikes weighing over 50 lbs in those first couple days when strapped with camping gear, Toren Harris faced an especially challenging ride, as he was on an older bike that just wasn’t up to snuff.
“All the bearings were bad, and the breaks were always on. It had really skinny tires that would sink into the ground,” he said.
Luckily, he was ultimately able to convince his dad to lend him his.
“With my next bike I was going 10 km/h faster,” said Harris.
Dickson added the group relied on “lots of water and lots of breaks” to deal with the brutal heat. He said that while he wouldn’t exactly have called it “fun” at the time, looking back it was “a bunch of fun.”
“I think everyone should do [a similar trip]. It’s a great thing,” said Dickson.
Given the challenging conditions, Glenn Harris said he was impressed all the Scouts made it through, adding it would have been “more than justified” to call it quits after the first few days.
“They decided to just keep on pushing through and make it,” he said. “So I thought that was really impressive, that they didn’t decide, ‘Oh, let’s just sit here at the lake instead and drive to the next place.'”
Scout leader Colin Cannon said what stood out to them was the camaraderie of the four who took part.
“Of all their efforts they’ve done over the years…This one really tested them, and showed what they’re made out of, which is some pretty fine stuff,” he said.
“They were like typical Sun Peaks kids, it was “Go big or go home.”
The Sun Peaks Scouts are currently looking for volunteers to continue on programming. If interested, you can reach Colin Cannon at [email protected]