Comox’s Suzy Venuta latest Outward Bound adventure included renowned anthropologist, ethnobotanist, author and filmmaker Wade Davis along for the trek. Photo supplied

Comox’s Suzy Venuta latest Outward Bound adventure included renowned anthropologist, ethnobotanist, author and filmmaker Wade Davis along for the trek. Photo supplied

Wade Davis struck by Comox woman’s ‘guts, courage, grit’ on trek

“She was kind of the embodiment of everything Outward Bound represents”

Wade Davis is a world-renowned anthropologist, ethnobotanist, author, filmmaker, even an Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society.

For Comox’s Suzy Venuta on her latest Outward Bound adventure, he was just another member of the team along for the hike.

This July, she was one of a dozen or so people, including Davis and his oldest daughter, trekking through Mount Assiniboine region.

“When I was introduced to him, I said to him, ‘I must be the only person here who had no idea who you are,” she laughs.

Davis, in turn, was struck by her “guts, courage, grit,” and the two became fast friends.

Daytime provided opportunities for the hikes, with meals, presentations and talks in the evening. Everyone was there for nature, and Venuta recalls the pinging sounds made by slate falling off rock faces, the many lakes to go swimming, the alpine flowers all in bloom and wildlife like marmots or a massive six-point elk.

“It was epic,” she says. “I didn’t realize how much I needed the trip.”

Nature wasn’t entirely kind though, as Venuta says she was eaten by bugs.

“I had 51 bug bites in 36 hours, and I was using bug spray,” she says. “I quit counting after that.”

For Davis, the trip was a bit of a homecoming because as a young man, he had worked in the area. He had not really been there in 49 years, but he enjoyed going back. Now 67, he had worked as a ranger for a few years, and he had also taken part in a youth program through the B.C. parks service, during which time he served as a foreman.

This time, Venuta jokes that Davis learned how to tie his boots in a different way to get better support and avoid blisters.

“I re-tied them,” she says.

The trek brought the group to the summit of Mount Cautley at almost 3,000 metres.

“We were going literally up a goat trail,” she says.

One of the most memorable events for her happened high up, but not on any mountain.

“I had my first helicopter ride. That was pretty sweet,” she says.

In a different way, the helicopter ride stood out for Davis, even though flying in one was nothing new. Being along with someone having the experience for the first time offered him the chance to experience it with fresh eyes.

“I think it makes people pay attention,” he says.

Another moment that impressed him was when Venuta led the team uphill for one of the hikes. It was important for every member to get the chance to lead. At one point, Davis noticed she had fallen back, but they decided she should be the first to bring them up, so she turned the stretch into what he describes as a “lovely stroll.” In the end, she was able to handle the hikes with the rest of them throughout the trip.

“She just made it all the time,” he says.

As one who was able to head into wild terrain when young, Davis sees these kinds of adventures as important for young people, particularly in an age when there is a lack of initiation rites in society. As well, these excursions can give them a deeper understanding of the environment.

“They’ve got to get out in it to see it,” he says. “I can’t think of a program that would do more good for society.”

At the same time, he understands the importance for an adult such as Venuta.

“She was kind of the embodiment of everything Outward Bound represents,” he says. “I really admired her.”

RELATED STORY: Suzanne Venuta will be taking part in adventure to raise funds for Outward Bound

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Venuta has used her Outward Bound adventures to raise funds for the organization in the past, and this time she was able to bring in more than $1,000 for its youth programs. She has spoken before of how she wished she’d had the chance to experience something like this through some difficult years when she was younger. Over time, her background though has pushed to become a mental health advocate.

For Venuta now, it’s a way to give back and hopefully provide an opportunity for some other young person to get out into nature.

“It gives you the challenge, and it gives you the foundation to get through the challenge,” she says.



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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The Outward Bound adventure provided some memorable terrain. Photo supplied.

The Outward Bound adventure provided some memorable terrain. Photo supplied.