COVID-19 has put a damper on travel plans this summer, but Prince George and the province have encouraged ‘staycationing’ for local residents to get out and explore.
This has included visiting parks and trails within the region, but for some, the challenge can be difficult due to a lack of knowledge about the backcountry.
A new Prince George business is hoping to provide current and potential outdoor enthusiasts with that opportunity to see mountain vistas, experience overnight camping and create a community that can support each other through the pandemic.
The Adventure Bus hit the ground running in July and was created by Meghan Keir, who’s wanted to share her passion ever since the 33-year-old became a northern-capital resident seven years ago.
“A lot of people just don’t have a crew to go with or they're just not comfortable with going alone or they don’t know necessarily where to go,” the owner and main guide explained in an interview with PrinceGeorgeMatters
“So within two weeks, I’m getting a lot of response for a few of the getaways I have in store. Right now, I just want to get people out there and support Prince George in any way that we can.”
Keir says her inspiration for The Adventure Bus stemmed from her occupation as a fitness instructor, noting that during a pandemic, it can be hard to keep up with physical health.
“I want to get people active, I want to get people healthy and I want to help people find things that they can do to stay local. So I wanted to combine my love of health and fitness with the passion for the outdoors and turn it into something that instills that sense of adventure. We are so lucky to have so many of these untouched trails and mountains nearby; there’s so much to explore.”
Education is also important to Keir as she fears some residents who wish to go hiking in the backcountry during COVID-19 may not fully understand certain precautions.
“People are now flocking to hiking in the backcountry and they’re not necessarily doing it properly and SARS [Search and Rescue Services] is being out-tasked more than they ever have. People don’t have anywhere to go, they’re getting lost in the dark and are getting injured, so we’re here. We have the knowledge, we can take you, we have the gear, we know what we’re doing, so come with us, let’s do this safely and properly. We can give people confidence in showing them how we can take on the backcountry properly.”
COVID-19 is limiting the number of people The Adventure Bus can take on certain excursions given current social-distancing recommendations, but has some plans in store for the winter should some restrictions be eased or loosened.
Regardless of what happens, Keir hopes her tours can also empower local hikers and campers both mentally and emotionally.
“I want them to feel strength with themselves and I want them to get unplugged, outside and reconnect with nature,” she said, adding that anyone of any age is welcome to join.
“It can be life-changing and that’s why I fell in love with this. I was a bit of a lost soul when I was 19 and then I did the West Coast Trail, which is a seven-day backpacking trip, and it took off from there. I think people are craving that and are looking for that, and if I can take somebody out who’s never hiked before and they can get to the top of the mountain and have that, ‘Wow, I did this! I accomplished this!’ Then, if they continue to go on to adventure with their friends and family and so on, that’s always going to be my main goal.”
Some of the tours The Adventure Bus has on the docket for August include the Tabor Trails, Raven Lake and Teapot Mountain, but weekend trips to Valemount and the Kootenays are also in the works for later this year.
COVID-19 measures will be in place during all the tours.
Keir says, for now, registration is at no cost, but the company is asking for donations that are earmarked for community projects, such as the Ozalenka Cabin rebuild in McBride and the Kordyban Lodge in Prince George via Climb for Cancer.