Four years ago Katie Power had a dream. She envisioned a big log cabin-like centre somewhere along the East Coast Trail, and herself inspiring its visitors through outdoor activity, yoga, music and art.
Seated across the table from me at a downtown café, the well-travelled 26-year-old Chapel Arm native is full of vitality and optimism. Her eyes light up and her voice brims with excitement as she begins laying out the details of the dream and her journey to turn it into reality.
After completing a bachelor of science in kinesiology at Dalhousie University and teaching English in Thailand for a year, Power moved back to St. John’s and took up work as a personal trainer and a physiotherapy assistant.
“I was headed down that health science route,” she says, “but I was starting to feel that the personal training was just touching the surface of what I really knew I was meant to do, so I went to sleep (that night) and literally had the dream.”
Having already worked with youth and seniors in various roles — camp counsellor, aerobics instructor and mentor for underprivileged girls — Power felt compelled to try her hand at some new pursuits. So she became a certified yoga instructor and then added guided hiking and sea kayaking to her list of skills.
“I had been hiking and guiding and doing these activities and I realized that when I was there on the hike there’s this huge sense of accomplishment when you get up to the top,” she recalls.
“There’s a journey you go through when you’re participating in outdoor activities and it reflects things that go on in your life.”
A little bit of research led Power to discover outdoor experiential learning.
“It’s about going in and experiencing physical activities and adventures in the outdoors, and then (relating) it back to your life,” she says, “facing your fears and enduring challenges and going through journeys.”
In 2009, and with her dream evolving into the idea of starting some sort of youth outdoor recreation program somewhere near St. John’s, Power travelled to Australia to gain experience in the field.
“I said, I have to do this because if I don’t I’m not following through, and this is an opportunity, and I feel like life was guiding me in that place,” she recalls. “And the yoga really helped me to figure out how to follow my instincts and allow things to align, if you listen.”
The camps where she worked, near Byron Bay on Australia’s east coast, incorporated elements of experiential learning in their programs.
“(They) were really physical and all about team building, leadership, resilience, hiking and camping, going on sunrise hikes up mountains, and climbing and trusting and then relating it to your life,” she explains.
Putting her own touch on the programs, Power included 15-20 minutes of yoga each morning with the kids, some informal “mind-clearing sessions,” and “some passion-finding activities to talk about their dreams and goals.”
The result she says, was phenomenal.
“Every camper that I brought on these trips ended up loving it, even if they detested going there in the first place. It was so physical and at the same time relating to both the body and the mind.
“And that’s what I want ‘Alive Adventures & Discovery Camp’ to be,” she says, referring to her new multi-day youth camp that will open this summer: “adventure, yoga, centring and connecting, self-development and then the creative activities in music and art.”
Though she doesn’t yet own the log cabin from her dream, Power’s seemingly effortless balance of pragmatism and idealism is leading her closer to her goals by learning to “listen” and trust her instincts.
Through July and August she will run four- and seven-day camps for various age groups — some all-girls, some all-boys and others mixed gender — out of the Scouts facility at Burnt Cove, 30 km outside of St. John’s.
“It’s on a big field, has a big fire pit down by the water, a huge pond, and it‘s on the East Coast Trail,” she says excitedly. “There’s no electricity and no running water.”
At the four-day camps — Junior Discovery (ages 8-11), Warrior Camp (ages 12-14) and Goddess Camp for girls (ages 12-14 and 15-18) — participants will spend two nights at the cabin and engage in “yoga and yoga games, nature discovery activities, dream discovery activities, painting, high energy drumming sessions, silly games, talent shows, canoeing, raft-building, shelter-building, team challenges and activities using energy and imagination,” says Power. The third day will see the groups embark on an overnight hiking trip on the East Coast Trail.
“The little kids will camp out in La Manche Valley and their food is dropped off for them so they only have to carry a light pack,” she explains. “The older kids go eight kilometres and camp out. And on the fourth day we come back, have another drumming circle, clean everything up and celebrate what they accomplished.”
The Goddess Camps will also include “self-esteem, self-worth activities, and … a photo shoot out in nature on the girls’ last day,” says Power. “They’ve got to bring crazy clothes, big sunglasses, and so when they’re dirty on their last day we’ll do a photo shoot and make a collage of pictures for them and give it to them as a gift. So there’s going to be a few extra components and a spa component, taking care of your goddess, inside and outside.”
The Leadership Camps for the 15-18 age group will run seven days and entail two nights at the cabin, a “three-day and night camping and hiking journey along the East Coast Trail towards Ferryland,” she says, “and then we’ll get a bus back and spend one more night at the cabin for a celebration.”
Other Leadership Camp activities include “passion-finding activities, drumming, art and nature connection.”
Word of Power’s unique approach to outdoor adventure has spread and, she says, prompted requests for a women’s retreat, which she is now planning to run over two weekends in August and September.
Conversely, that same innovation, she believes, has generated some reluctance among parents.
“I’m getting awesome responses and inquiries but some people are hesitant because they don’t know what it is. It’s overnight for kids and it’s not a typical day camp or sports-based camp,” she says.
But if there’s something she wants parents to consider, it’s that very newness she feels the youth will benefit from.
“Getting away and escaping your everyday world (without) leaving the world — for kids that’s huge, to have space and time to experience, reflect and process, and plant those positive seeds, and for them to discover things on their own without their parents or teachers,” she says. “When you’re together for an amount of time with this new group of people it starts to feel like a family and they start feeling what community is.”
The drumming and passion-finding activities are of particular interest to Deanna Hann and her 11-year-old son, Kristmundur, who is registered for one of the Junior Discovery camps.
“I discussed a lot of it with him and we looked at the website,” says Hann. “What Katie’s envisioned I think would be good for a lot of kids, so they can advance to their full potential in the summertime through creativity and all the other adventures that she’s sparked the interest for.”
Considering her optimism, it’s no surprise that Power’s response to my question of whether or not she feels the camps will garner sufficient interest was, well, optimistic.
“I’ve sent little sparks through the community and I know it’s going to catch on fire,” she says with a confident smile. “I’ve been working diligently, going to schools and meeting principals and doing everything I possibly can.
“All those visions and dreams I had are coming true.”
Alive Adventures & Discovery Camp’s website is www.aliveadventures.ca.