After weeks of anticipation and planning, Amanda Ned begins a journey tomorrow, July 16 down the 1,400-kilometre length of the Fraser River.
Ned, an LSS graduate and an Aboriginal Student Support Worker at George M. Murray Elementary School, was chosen to participate in the Rivershed Society of B.C.’s Sustainable Living Leadership Program.
She will spend 25 days on the river, traveling by canoe, raft, shuttle van and on foot from the Fraser’s source near Mount Robson in the Rocky Mountains to its meeting with the Pacific Ocean at Vancouver’s Jericho Sailing Club.
Although Ned grew up in a house situated on a ledge overlooking the Fraser River at Xaxli’p, she admitted to the News she’s a “little nervous” about spending evenings camping under the stars.
“My idea of camping is to drive for 16 hours straight, put up my tent, set my alarm for six in the morning and go find a coffee shop!” she laughs.
If she’s nervous about the camping aspect of the trip, she’s eager to learn about the environment, sustainability and stewardship along the river and in the communities perched on its banks.
Her career goal is to become a teacher; she believes the Fraser River trip will be beneficial on many levels, particularly since the school system now places a greater emphasis on outdoor learning.
“When we take students on our eco-cultural programs at school, kids love them. We are taking kids outdoors more and every month we do the eco-cultural program at Split Rock Environmental and seeing kids coming back from those visits is great,” said Ned. “Giving them more environmental awareness is key and I think this will help me do that because it will give me more background and knowledge.”
She said she’s also considering writing a children’s book about this summer’s journey and will keep a journal and blog about the expedition down the Fraser.
In the first two days of the expedition, Ned and the other Sustainable Living participants will be learning to paddle a giant canoe. It will be tough physical labour, paddling the canoe for four hours straight. She’s been training for the physical demands of the trip by taking up running; her favourite route is the trail to Seton Lake.
There are also practical considerations involved in the journey – packing long underwear for the early days in the Rockies, making sure she has proper hiking boots and finding a particular kind of wool shirt that won’t get wet from the inevitable splashes and spills along the way.
She is reflective and thoughtful about the expedition.
Describing herself as someone “who’s always been with my toes in the sand on the edge of the river,” she knows this time she will be meeting the Fraser on its terms.
Ned said she’s already seeing the river in a different way.
“Knowing that I’m going on this journey absolutely makes a difference. I was in Chilliwack the other day and saw the river there. It’s a long, crazy river and has so much life and variety to it.”
She continues, “In the videos I’ve seen, it doesn’t start off brown. It’s glacier-fed water and looks more like the outlet at the Cayoosh Campsite where the creek meets the river. I can imagine pouring a cup of water onto the ground and seeing it start off clear and then becoming muckier and muddier.”
The expedition lands in Lillooet Aug. 1, leaving the river at Xwisten to avoid the treacherous Bridge River Rapids.
Amanda Ned told the News she’s been passionate about protecting the environment for many years.
“I spend time picking up garbage along the streets of Lillooet,” she relates. “Sometimes it feels like a losing battle because the next day when I drive home, I see garbage has accumulated again on the street where I just picked up garbage the day before. I’ve seen somebody throw their garbage out the car window and I have to restrain the urge to knock on their window at the next Stop sign. I have this attitude that we can still change the world and I think we need more of that.”