By RYAN KING
PORT AUX BASQUES — With the first official day of summer on June 21, a non-profit collaboration between the Rec House Community Youth Network (CYN) and Western Health is inviting residents to participate in a hiking challenge. In addition to enjoying the great outdoors, there will be prizes awarded, including an Apple Watch Series 3 as the grand prize.
The idea for the Community Hiking Challenge started with a conversation between Krista Loveless, Youth Early Intervention and Outreach Worker with Western Health, and Danielle Neil, Director of the Rec House CYN. The two had read how people in Harbour Grace had pulled off a scavenger hunt within their community by hiding treasure chests on hiking trails. While that did not seem practical or feasible to put in place before June 21, they did like the idea of a hiking challenge to get people in the area active and involved as a community.
“It would be easier if you could give everyone a tag that they wear on each trail, and they take a selfie or a picture with the tag visible,” explained Loveless, “And if the tag is visible in the picture with what we’ve said, then your name goes in for the prize draws.”
The interest in the challenge was more than the organizers had hoped for. They had expected 50 to 60 people to be interested, but by last week they were already up to 223 people just through social media posts.
“For the tags we initially intended to give everyone a lanyard, but we can’t buy that many lanyards. But we’ll put them on a piece of string. We anticipated 50 to 60 people, not 223,” said Loveless.
The 12 trails involved vary in difficulty, and can be found along the entirety of the Southwest Coast from the historic Rose Blanche lighthouse all the way up to South Branch. The challenge is open to everyone, with the caveat being that participating is at one’s own risk.
“There’s no age range. If you feel you have a 2-year-old that can do the trails, all the power to you. It’s up to the parent’s discretion. But something we want noted is that participation in this event is at your own risk,” stressed Loveless. “Because if you go up Starlight, or up Table Mountain, or somewhere, and break your ankle, you can’t come to Western Health or the Rec House and say I’ve hurt myself doing your challenge.”
Safety is a natural concern for anyone doing a hike, especially on the more difficult trails. With this in mind, the challenge also includes the option of participating in a hiking group.
Those seeking a companion or two to hike with can contact the organizers through Facebook, phone, or email, and they will advise once a group hike is scheduled.
“We will be having a hiking group, with several times over the summer to do some of them, like the harder trails,” said Loveless. “Like if you want to walk Starlight, then we will have designated dates to do some of the larger, harder trails.”
One challenge that the organizers did not have to face was getting people involved, because the pandemic has actually encouraged more outdoor physical activity.
“It seems that hiking and walking trails have become a very popular pastime, which is wonderful because hiking is one of the best things you can do for you. Being out in nature, and walking, it’s proven to be a very effective thing. It has become very popular, especially in our area. I don’t know about other areas, but here, it seems like hiking has,” said Loveless.
“Even in the winter, snowshoeing has really picked up around here,” observed Neil.
The challenge will continue until mid-to-late August, with an exact cut off date to be announced.
If a participant completes all 12 trails, then they are entered to win the Apple Watch Series 3, along with the other prizes. If they complete 10 trails, then they are entered into two draws for $100 Sport Check gift cards. However, if they complete less than 10 trails, they are still entered to win draws for smaller promotional prizes, like water bottles.
“Participation or the interest in this event is more than we anticipated, but there’s no cap on the registration. If 2,000 people want to do it, then they certainly can,” said Loveless.
“We are very happy with the uptake,” agreed Neil.
Both Neil and Loveless note that getting out in nature and being physically active can be a tremendous boost to both mental and physical health, which is key during the pandemic.
Details on the challenge are included in the registration package that can be picked up starting Monday, June 21. To enter, hikers can message the Rec House on Facebook, call 709-695-6901, or send an email to email@example.com.
The registration packages will be available for pickup at the Rec House CYN location at 5 Oceanview Drive in Port aux Basques, where organizers hope to have an outdoor reception area set up, weather permitting.
Participation in the contest will require signing a waiver, which will be included in the registration package. The information package will also include a list of trail locations, directions, and the tags to include in the entry photos.