If you have been living in the Alberni Valley for a number of years, you may have heard of the Alberni Valley Outdoor Club.
It has been around for a long time and has gone through many changes over the years. Dave Horst is one of the original members when it was started in 1970 by Brian Foam, if I have the name right. A tall skinny man with a mass of red hair, Foam was the driving force in the early years. He says that it was originally a canoe club and many trips both on the lakes and rivers in the Valley were undertaken by club members.
A couple of years later, it branched out into hiking and cross-country skiing in the Beauforts, Mount Arrowsmith and other mountains as well.
It was a very popular club. Horst remembers ski trips to Kama Ridge near Labour Day Lake where there were easily 50 members out exploring the back country. There were four sports stores in town that sold skis. After a dozen years Port Alberni was slipping into recession. There were layoffs and stores started closing.
Consequently fewer people were in the club. Members have come and gone. However, the Outdoor Club has persisted. Every few months a meeting is convened to work up the schedule for the next season. Members bring stories of the past season, and others from years ago. The time when Sheila lost a ski, the time when the coon ate Alex’s lunch, or when Jeremy got lost. Fortunately the club has a good track record in that last regard. They use two portable radios to help keep the group together; one for the front and one for the back.
The club encourages guests to come along. However, every guest is expected to sign a waiver; and must become a member if you start showing up a lot. A membership is $25 with $10 going to the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC and $7.50 for hiking insurance through the FMCBC. The rest goes to club expenses. The schedule is posted on their website (albernivalleyoutdoorclub.wordpress.com).
They like you to call the trip leader if you intend to tag along. The leader’s number is on the schedule. It’s not at all unusual to have guests from other parts of the Island along on a trip. The leader and others carry first aid kits. The leadership rotates through the membership mostly depending on who suggested the trip. There are trips for most skill, mobility and fitness levels.
Over the years the club has had to participate in a certain amount of advocacy as forest and mountain roads get debuilt, gated or deactivated leaving access to trail heads kilometers from parking. Members have worked with the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, Provincial Parks and the forest land owners to forge agreements regarding building trails and maintaining access in some key areas.
This has enabled them to spearhead a trail-building effort to build on the inventory of hikes already out there. In fact, there is a loose group of men, some of whom are in the club, who have built or are responsible for the creation of almost 50 km of trail. That is an incredible commitment of time, money and effort.
This brings me to the whole point of this article. The Alberni Valley Outdoor Club is an old, respectable, organization that does great work. But it is really in need of younger blood, with an average age of over 60. They have amazing stories and massive knowledge of the mountains and Valleys around here.
While they are pleased to see the increasing popularity of hiking, skiing, canoeing and snowshoeing, they would like to see younger people joining the club and taking part in its activities. There is a lot to learn about the outdoors from them. Also, if you are new to town, and like the outdoors it is an excellent way to meet like-minded people and learn some of the trails in the area.