BY JENNIFER HARTLEY
Adventure. The kind that gives you thrills and chills is something that I think T.S. Eliot meant when he said: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
For me, there is something invigorating about doing something scary and pushing boundaries. It opens up the mind and stimulates a different way of looking at the world. I also like to think Eliot meant we should carpe diem: Live life to the fullest. Live each day as if it is your last. Victorians know how to do that well.
As I explore our city, our paradise and island, I have had two experiences so far that have fed my hunger for adventure, and I am already planning my third.
Plunging in Paradise
My biggest adrenaline adventure to date has to be when I leapt out of an aircraft at 10,000 feet, did a free fall at 200 km an hour, heart pounding fiercely in my chest, until my parachute opened.
Our fascination with jumping into the air is not new. According to the Canadian Sport Parachuting Association, it dates back to the ninth century. It continued for centuries, and in the 14th century in China, there are records of people jumping out of towers. Fifteenth-century Italian sketches of parachutes have emerged, one belonging to the brilliant inventor Leonardo da Vinci. Our chutes today still have aspects inspired by his design. (Wouldn’t it be great to bring him forward in time so he could see airplanes and jump?)
Flash forward to 1912, on March 1, when the first jump from a biplane was performed by Captain Albert Berry in the United States. The rest is history, and today, thrill seekers can skydive on Vancouver Island. Extraordinary.
In tandem is the only way to go for a first-time jumper. After a 30-minute briefing, we geared up, and I was attached to my instructor. The ride in the plane was surreal. As we rose above the ground, it dawned on me that in mere minutes I would be experiencing that beauty in an unprecedented way. I was filled with anticipation. And dread, too.
We reached our flying altitude and moved to the edge of the plane’s open door. Before I had a chance to change my mind, my instructor pulled us off and into the free fall. In an acrobatic move (well, I thought it was anyway), we somersaulted in the air and the magic began.
Here I was, falling at 200 km an hour, legs and arms spread eagle, facing the Earth, and my fear and screams were overtaken with amazement, astonishment and awe. It was the most spectacular scene around me. The ocean, the land, the greenery below and the clearest blue skies above me made me realize how magnificent the Earth is, and I wondered if this is what it feels like for an astronaut in space for the first time.
The parachute went up, we turned upright and as we glided down slowly, I had a 360-degree view of the world. Experiencing a spiritual moment, full of gratitude not only for the experience but also for the parachute functioning properly, I saw everything in a new light. I appreciated the fragility of our Earth and how precious life really is. Maybe that was the biggest gift of that adrenaline rush.
Where to take the plunge
Skydive Vancouver Island Nanoose Bay
Campbell River Skydive Centre Campbell River (also offers helicopter tandem)
Skydive Vancouver Abbotsford
Riding through the Rainforest
Walking along the Galloping Goose or the Lochside Regional Trail, I have often come across riders on horseback. To willingly sit on the back of an animal that can throw me off at will requires overcoming certain feelings of intimidation.
However, a magical ride in the rainforest seemed to make it worth the effort. I began searching for the perfect equestrian adventure near my new home and found it in Cobble Hill, just thirty minutes from downtown. Alpine Stables owner Carla Sabourin discovered the area over 20 years ago. “We fell in love with the trails around here. Back then, the terrain was pretty rough but the scenery so beautiful that we decided to create an experience for people.”
My stunning ride began on a wide, scenic (and thankfully flat) wilderness trail — a smart way to build up the confidence of nervous riders. My daughter and I also had to adjust to seeing hikers, cyclists and dogs on the path. Thankfully, the horses were used to sharing their trails. I relaxed and feeling the rhythm of my horse as he moved under me, a new sensation washed over me. I felt at one with this creature.
As we traversed the paths together, through rainforest and up windy Cobble Hill for over an hour and a half, I appreciated the horse’s strength and ability to adjust to the environment. It was exhilarating and calming all at the same time.
We passed through West Coast rainforest that included evergreens, ferns, maple trees, twisted arbutus trees and brush. The higher we went, the trees changed, adapting to the altitude. Cobble Hill climbs to just over 1,000 feet. We had an extremely knowledgeable guide who is passionate about horseback riding and the environment. She shared details on the vegetation and beautiful natural growth around us.
The narrow and winding paths that twist and turn sharply added to the thrill of the ride, but I had to keep reminding myself that my four-footed travel companion knew what he was doing. We reached the summit. On a clear day, there are breathtaking views of the Cowichan Valley, Saanich Peninsula and Gulf Islands. However, even on a foggy day like the one we had, it is stunning. We rode through the clouds.
Sadly, the way down flew by, and while I initially thought three hours might drag, it did not. The good feelings and the exhilaration of the experience linger to this day and make this adventure a thrill that lasts.
Where to saddle up
Alpine Stables offers a number of experiences, including the Summit Trail Ride.
Paradise Acres Ranch in Nanoose Bay offers multiple riding excursions. They range from one-hour to four-hour experiences.
Rockin’ and Rollin’ in the Capital
A few years ago, I saw the documentary Free Solo about a rock climber who scaled up the famous 3,000-foot vertical rock El Capitan in Yosemite National Park — without a harness. It was a dramatic feat that many have unsuccessfully tried. I was mesmerized.
Rock climbing, as it turns out, is a popular activity that has a dedicated following. Indoor rock climbing made its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, and around town, there are now three facilities. “Since I started climbing in 2013, the sport has grown substantially,” says Sabine Boisvert of BoulderHouse.
An international climber, Adrian Has of Climbing Canada, says rock climbing “has an extreme vibe to it. There is always another challenge. You learn from that achievement and you take it to the next level. It is like solving a puzzle, and people just want to do it.”
Me included. To feel that physical push and the mind/body connection that climbers talk about sounds invigorating. Has explains: “Self-confidence, mental focus, stress relief, strength and overcoming doubt. These are some of the benefits from rock climbing but that is just the start.”
While scaling up El Cap won’t be in my future, I would like to take it outdoors some day but will start the journey indoors, to learn the basics. Has says most people practice for six months to a year before taking it outside. “But some people keep it indoors. You will just have to try it.”
Where to get vertical
Rope climbing and bouldering (climbing without equipment):
Crag X Climbing Centre, downtown Victoria
Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities (CARSA), University of Victoria
The Boulders Climbing Gym, Saanichton
Bouldering only: BoulderHouse, downtown Victoria and Langford
Sold. Since all climbers love the community vibe of the sport, I am going to throw it out there and invite a YAM reader or two to join me in exploring this new adventure. You And Me.
Let’s do it.
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