When I finally got to meet Kevin Vallely after hearing about his various exploits over the last few years, I was surprised at how understated he was! Most of the expeditioners, explorers and real pioneers I’ve had the privilege to meet through working in this industry have had somewhat of an ego, but for all the incredible achievements he has under his belt, Kevin just came across as very…Canadian. [Hopefully he takes that as the compliment it is intended as!!!]
So, it was appropriate that the talk that he gave at Deep Cove Outdoors earlier this week was about exploring one of the great Canadian rivers – the Mackenzie, but his focus was not so much on the pioneering aspect on this trip; according to stats, recent studies have found that the average child spends 35 hours a week in front of the television or computer monitor, and less than 25% of school-aged children participate in daily physical activity. Kevin’s trip set out to change those stats, for his kids anyway, and the other family that joined the Vallely’s for some of the trip too.
Most, if not all, of Kevin’s photos and videos were of the kids playing, building forts, discovering wildlife, hanging out, paddling and basically just enjoying themselves. With no screens to distract any of them, Kevin said they just got to spend time as a family. One of the more hair-raising moments that served as a microcosm of the trip was where Kevin found an affinity with a wolf that was baying somewhere close outside their tent in the middle of the night. Pulling out his shotgun, Kevin had to take a step he’d never taken before and fired warning shots to scare the wolf away. When he told a local wildlife ranger about the incident, he discovered that the wolf was doing exactly the same thing he was; being an alpha, and protecting his cubs.
It was clear that this moment was one of a number of special moments on the trip that stayed with Kevin, such as the night the group spent camping on a First Nations burial ground, when he was told he had to appease the river with tobacco, and meeting some incredible locals. Those experiences have stayed with me too, and what I find to be most inspiring. While the achievement of getting to Inuvik was huge for the family, it is the small times along the journey that make it truly memorable – a message we can all learn from, no matter how big or small our own adventure is.
Next up in the series is the phenomenal Freya Hoffmeister, talking about her circumnavigation of South America that she completed, and her circumnavigation of North America that she’s just about to start!! It’s on Thursday March 16th at the Bosa Centre for Film & Animation at Cap U, get tickets and check the info by clicking here.