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10 Reasons to Become Trailblazers for BC Marine Trails

I am what survives me. – Psychologist, Erik Erikson

When we became the first Trailblazers for BC Marine Trails, Jerry was immediately excited—and not just at the prospect of matching mid-layers colourfully embroidered with Trailblazing Trailblazers! So what is a Trailblazer exactly—what was the journey that took us there and why might you want to become one too?

What is a Trailblazer?

Trailblazers are people who care deeply about the BC coast and support the BC Marine Trails (BCMT) mission to create a network of safe, sustainable, and respectful marine trails along its whole length. Trailblazers are sometimes consulted on BCMT affairs. They agree to contribute $250 or more to BCMT and to be contacted annually to see if they would like to donate again.

Our Journey to Become Trailblazers

Our decades on the BC coast have shaped our personal identities, enriched our relationships with our family and friends, and even broadened our boys’ career and recreational options. Along the way, we’ve followed the parallel journey of BCMT and tried to assist it where possible, by donating and volunteering.

Both of us were introduced to paddling early in life by adventurous parents, and we each sought more paddling experience as adults. After a first blind date set up by friends, our second date together was a paddle around Thormanby Island. That day, we began to dream about longer trips into the wild unknown parts of our coast.

In 1996, our dreams turned into reality with a 600-km journey from Bella Bella to Tofino. Our journey was more than a pretty paddle though; it tested us in adversity, helped us find a better power balance in the relationship, and cemented our bond as a couple.

Ferry from Port Hardy to Bella Bella for our 600-km Paddle to Tofino
Paddling around the Brooks Peninsula

In 1997, we collaborated with the BC Marine Trails founder, Peter McGee, on a slideshow fundraiser for the organization. Peter spoke first, presenting his tale of strong young men conquering winds, rain, and dangerous seas on a bad-ass three-month paddle from Alaska to Vancouver. We followed as the comic counterpoint—a deskbound banker and his consultant girlfriend on a mid-career break, resolutely avoiding challenging paddling conditions after nearly dying on the third day of our journey, now seeking mainly to stroll down long sandy beaches with no one else around, sip wine at sunset with no other obligations, view wildlife in its natural setting, and perhaps—we hoped—find fresh perspectives on life or even enlightenment along the way.

Within a few years we married, had two boys, and began introducing them to kayaking through paddles on Shuswap Lake, in the Gulf Islands, and around the Bowron Lakes’ 116-km loop.

Learning to Paddle on Shuswap Lake
Paddling in the Gulf Islands
Portage on the Bowron Lakes Circuit
Paddling the Bowron Lakes

When the boys were strong enough, we introduced them to the wonders of Vancouver Island’s wild west coast.

Boys' First Trip to Kyuquot Sound

On subsequent trips to the west coast, the boys gained skills and confidence and we were able to delegate more trip planning and meal preparation to them. We taught them to read the winds, navigate in the fog, find and purify fresh water for drinking, catch fish, orchestrate plastic clean-ups on offshore islands, and practice leave-no-trace camping—all so they would be able to organize their own paddling trips one day.

Of course, we hope that our grown boys and their future families will be able to enjoy the coast in the same way that we have, and so, over the years we stepped up our annual charitable donations to BC Marine Trails.

Dawn Launch from Spring Island
Picking up Fresh Water
Enjoying the Rugged West Coast
Navigating in the Fog

We recently entered a new chapter in our lives as retired empty-nesters. While our lives may be changing, we still find new ways to enjoy the coast we love via water taxis and, for Julee, guided kayaking from comfortable base camps. With more time on his hands, Jerry joined the BC Marine Trails Board of Directors.

Our involvement with BCMT is a source of shared pride for both of us. The marine trails that once served as the backdrop to our love story are now the canvas on which we are painting our legacy—a legacy that will hopefully survive long after we’re gone.

Now in our 60s, our Paddling Adventures Continue
Enjoying the Coast as Empty-nesters

10 Reasons for You to Become a Trailblazer

1. The work of BC Marine Trails is not finished!!

BCMT’s ultimate dream is an expanded network of paddling trails safely connecting the entire coast of British Columbia, headlined by an  Inside Passage Marine Trail across BC to Alaska. BCMT has made tremendous progress over the years, but its work is not yet done. Efforts to link and protect the BC coast while working to secure social licence with First Nations will continue for many years.

A protected-for-posterity Inside Passage Marine Trail would be the stuff of legend, ranking as one of the world’s greatest outdoor adventures.*  The route was an ancient “kelp highway” used more than 14,000 years ago by the first people migrating from Asia to the Americas.** First Nations have used the route as a maritime pathway for millennia, creating a rich cultural history.  As a wilderness-n’-wildlife playground, it is unrivalled anywhere else on earth.  Realizing the dream of its preservation is something worth working collectively to achieve, and something we could all be proud of.

2. You love the BC coast.

British Columbia’s marine trails occupy a unique niche in the global paddling scene, being the largest network of water trails in the world, with the most wilderness and wildlife. Where else in the world can you paddle for weeks in the wild amongst sea otters, sea lions, orca, migrating grey whales, giant octopus, salmon, bears, wolves, and an immense variety of bird species? Exploring this big, bold, beautiful coast makes us realize our insignificance and our importance at the same time.

3. You support BCMT’s mission and want to back that support with action.

BCMT’s mission is “to work with First Nations and other stakeholders to build and protect a public network of marine trails, allowing safe recreational navigation of the BC Coast with minimal impact on the environment”.

Over the years, BCMT has:

  • built a powerful online map and trip planning resource showing important details on over a thousand sites used by small boaters,
  • developed a Coast Guard-approved Safety Mandate for safe contiguous marine trails,
  • developed a widely accepted Marine Trails Code of Conduct to guide the public on leave-no-trace principles in the marine environment,
  • pulled together many clean-up and stewardship events each year, and
  • become a leader in citizen-based reconciliation with First Nations, and a model for other outdoor recreation organizations seeking a social licence to traverse traditional tribal lands.

Any popular movement aimed at enduring change knows that wanting change isn’t enough. You also have to show up, get your hands dirty, and actually do something. Whether its marine trails, climate change or something else, the most helpful thing you can do is to “find your own frontline”—the place where you can have an impact—today. If you’re in a paddling club reach out to others. If you like beach clean-ups, sign up for one. Our frontline is donating as Trailblazers to BCMT and volunteering with the organization. It can be your frontline as well.

4. You want to support BCMT because it’s currently the ONLY public advocate for marine trails.

Many organizations support land-based wilderness preservation and outdoor recreation in Canada (e.g., Outdoor Recreational Council of BC, Sierra Club, CPAWs, BC Parks Foundation, Trans Canada Trail, etc.). BCMT is the only organization speaking for marine trails. By becoming a Trailblazer, you give BCMT a stronger voice as it works with multiple levels of government, First Nations, business partners, kayak clubs, and other outdoor organizations to improve safe public access to the BC coast. The $35 annual fee members pay to BCMT represents a basic level of support to fund BCMT’s online trip planning tools. Additional contributions provided by Trailblazers and other donors are essential to ensure BCMT has an effective public voice advocating for marine trails.

5. You want to ensure future paddlers have the same chance as you to know and love our coast.

Some paddling routes have very few safe pull-outs, with alternate landing sites spaced dangerously far apart. If even a single critical camping site is lost through changing land use or changing ownership, a whole contiguous marine trail can become unsafe or impassable. With more and more people drawn to outdoor recreation each year, we wish boaters could disperse across more camping sites, certainly not fewer!! Supporting BCMT gives people more opportunities to experience BC’s gorgeous wild places and will ultimately lead the public to value these wild places more and help ensure their preservation.

6. You know that giving feels good.

Psychologists have consistently found that giving money away to a cause you believe in, a friend, or even a stranger, makes a greater contribution to your personal happiness than spending the same amount of money on yourself! By becoming a BCMT Trailblazer, you will stand together with an extended family of supporters bound by a shared love for open water and wild places.

 7. You enjoy keeping happy memories near.

Your deepening involvement with BCMT will help keep you connected to all the reasons that you became a member in the first place! May those memories lighten your heart and bring a smile to your face.

8. You appreciate that stable funding from Trailblazers helps BCMT be more effective.

Trailblazers with BCMT provide a stable source of funding and help the organization better accomplish its objectives.

 9. It’s easy!

Just sign up at this link, donate $250, and you too can become a Trailblazer.

 10. You’ll get a tax receipt.

Your annual donation to BCMT is fully tax deductible.

*You can read first-hand accounts of the inside passage journey in Susan Conrad’s Inside: One Woman’s Journey Through the Inside Passage, in Greg Rasmussen and Peter McGee’s Kayaking in Paradise: Journeys from Alaska Through the Inside Passage, in Kenneth Brower’s The Starship and the Canoe, and in David Norwell’s A Complex Coast: A Kayak Journey from Vancouver Island to Alaska. Paddling across this vast wilderness is one of the greatest outdoor adventures on planet earth, easily on par with hiking the Appalachian Trail as described in Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, the Pacific Crest Trail in Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, and England’s South West Coast Path in Raynor Wynn’s The Salt Path.

**The Smithsonian Magazine

Dreaming of an Inside Passage Marine Trail
Leave a Lasting Legacy—Become a Trailblazer!!

Jerry & Julee Kaye

Jerry and Julee have been exploring the coast of British Columbia by kayak and sailboat for over 40 years. They live in Vancouver. Their children are now experienced sailors and kayak adventurers in their own right.