by Derek Grant
At the time I organised this field trip, I was in my third year of teaching, and my second year as a member of the Britannia Secondary School’s Social Studies Department. Vancouver teachers were being encouraged to see the world outside their classrooms as offering rich opportunities for learning. A four-day field trip through southwestern British Columbia to explore its geography, history, and economy seemed a perfect fit. A bus tour was the obvious choice, with overnight stops at provincial campsites along the way the cheapest option. Several other matters had to be taken into account:
- Many of the students would have little or no camping experience, or camping gear.
- Adult supervisors would be needed to ensure the safety of the students.
- Safe transportation and good meal planning and preparation were essential.
- The itinerary would have to include activities of high interest to students.
For camping gear, I surveyed the students to determine what equipment they had available. Based on what I found, I organised the students into ‘tent’ groups, and purchased a couple of inexpensive tents for those groups without tents. As to those who lacked camping experience, they would have to acquire those skills while on the go.
As for supervisors, I teamed up with a fellow teacher, Jo Blackmore, who was an experienced camper. I also recruited Dave Tingey, a longtime friend who had just returned from several months of travel in Europe. (Dave went on to a long teaching career with the Burnaby School District.) Finally, I turned to my wife, Sandra for help. She agreed to come along, but this meant that our two-year-old son, Jason also joined the tour.
I contacted Greyhound to arrange for a bus and driver for the four days. As one might expect, this was our largest expense item by far. Meals would be communal, and would be provided for and organised by the supervisors.
I also organised the itinerary and arranged the tours we would do during the trip. Then, a couple of weeks before the field trip happened, a friend of mine and I drove the entire route in one day. That was a bit of a marathon, but it did reassure me that the field trip was doable.
The morning of our departure, one of my fears was realised. It was raining heavily. Our first stop was near Mission, at a small dairy farm owned by Jo Blackmore’s father. He conducted an excellent tour despite the rain. It was still raining when we stopped by Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park, and I began to worry that rainfall was going to ruin our trip. However, by the time we reached our next stop – Hell’s Gate in the Fraser Canyon – the rain had stopped. We arrived at our first camp site, Goldpan Provincial Park on the Thompson River, under sunny skies. The weather remained favourable for the rest of the field trip.
Fraser Canyon, Thompson River
First Campsite – Goldpan Provincial Park on the Thompson River
Tours of local industries near Merritt highlighted this day. First up, a tour of a saw mill operation, followed by a visit to a large copper mine north of town. The tours exceeded my expectations – they were entertaining, informative, and very well organised. Then we were off to our Monck Park campsite. Late in the evening, a small emergency occurred, when one of our students burned his hands when he grabbed a lit gas lantern by its very hot glass globe. This meant a trip to the Nicola Valley Hospital. Our bus was not available, so I recruited help from someone camping nearby to drive me and the injured student to and from the hospital.
Sleepy campers on the morning bus ride from the Goldpan campsite to Merritt
Tour of the Sawmill near Merritt
Tour of the Copper Mine north of Merritt
The highlight of Day Three was our visit to Douglas Lake Ranch, about an hour’s bus drive from our Monck Park campsite. Douglas Lake Ranch is huge. At the time of our visit, the ranch was owned by Charles ‘Chunky’ Woodward, of Woodward’s Department Stores, and was 145,000 acres in size. We were given a tour of the ranch headquarters and horse stables at Douglas Lake, and stopped by a cow pen, where we were swarmed by clouds of mosquitoes. We then returned to Merritt, where the students were given a couple of hours to explore the town. Finally, we returned to the Monck Lake campsite for our final night on the road.
Morning at Monck Park campsite
Douglas Lake Ranch
Sunday morning, we travelled south to Lightning Lake in Manning Park. Following lunch, several students rented canoes for an hour’s paddle on the lake. Finally, before heading home, we bussed up the steep, winding mountain road leading to Blackwall Peak, and hiked the short Dry Ridge Trail to a lookout with spectacular views.
Last morning at Monck Park campsite
Manning Park highlights
During the following two years, I organised similar field trips. On the last trip, our bus was involved in a head-on collision with a road maintenance vehicle parked on a bridge spanning a gorge. There were no injuries and the damage to the bus was superficial, but this was a sharp reminder of the potential for things going horribly wrong during an extended field trip. I decided it was time to move on to less risky adventures.