Berg Lake is a rite of passage for Valemount Elementary School students. The legendary trip, now in its 40th year, is completed every spring, with horror stories and happy campers alike. But what makes the Berg Lake trip so memorable for so many kids?

To Gr 7 students the Berg Lake trip symbolizes the final hurdle before they make the change from elementary school to high school and one of the first steps to adulthood. But this isn’t the only reason the trip is important to them. I talked to some of the students about to go on the trip this year and they all gave me different answers why they were (or weren’t) excited to go.

When I talked to Vivian Kenkel she showed lots of enthusiasm and excitement about going on the trip. The lore from classes before her had given her lots of excitement and hope about what the Berg Lake experience would be like. Kenkel thought that going on the 40th anniversary made it even more special as it is a milestone. She wasn’t nervous about the trip because of all the training that the students have to go through. The trip had a deeper meaning to her that surprised even me.

“The Berg Lake trip is the first step towards growing up. It is a taste of the real world without your family there for support. The trip teaches you self reliance and forces you to not depend on others.”

Kenkel hopes that her trip will go well and believes that there won’t be any problems with her classmates.

I was curious what students that had already been on the trip thought about it. I asked some students that had already been on the trip what it was like for them.

Nash Karas, a Gr. 10 student in Valemount Secondary School remembers the trip fondly. To him, going up to Berg Lake symbolized the end of Elementary School. It was one of his favorite experiences from Elementary School because the experience was so perfect in terms of weather and enjoyment.

Jocelyn Brady, another VSS student in Gr. 8 thought the Berg Lake trip was great experience. Her main advice to students going up was to be patient with their classmates. “If things get tough just smile and try to have a good time because you are always going to remember how you felt – might as well be happy.”

When I went up to Berg Lake in 2010 it was everything I had hoped for and more. We planned for months, training and learning now things about how to survive if any of us got lost. As well as learning about first aid and survival skills, we had to go through vigorous training. This included walking around the school field too many times to count and learning to pack and set up a tent. For me, training included learning how to stuff a sleeping bag into a tiny bag.

With that said, all the hard work and preparation we had spent getting ready for our final trip, was worth it, and in the end, the hardest part of the whole journey was the first 20 minutes of self doubt. “Am I going to be able to do this?” “This is the last chance you have to back out!” or “What if something goes wrong at the top?” were some of the thoughts that were going through my head within the first kilometer. But once we got past the first and most difficult lag of the journey those negative thoughts cleared and the enjoyment kicked in. With perfect sunny weather lasting the whole week, we were the first class to ever have no rain. The hikes were long, and the packs heavy, but the companionship and the accomplishment after a long day of hiking far outweighed the sore shoulders and stinky feet.

Lots of kids have had the Berg Lake experience, but not many people know what it is like from a teacher’s perspective. Karen Doughty, a veteran teacher and the backbone of many Berg Lake trips gave me her perspective of what it was like, going up every year with different classes. This year will be Doughty’s 14th time going up with her class and she has been up numerous other times without them.

Every class that goes on the trip has something special about it. They all have different experiences with ups and downs. This year is the 40th anniversary of the trip. I was curious what it was like on the trip 40 years ago. Doughty told me how the trip had started. In 1973 teachers had the idea that camping would be a fun way to finish off the school year. They brought the kids to Mount Robson Park and eventually up the Berg Lake Trail – little did they know how much of a tradition they had started.

The Berg Lake Trip is a fantastic trip. Hikers of all ages can enjoy the spectacular views and the unspoiled nature. Whether you have never been up or just want to make another trek up the trail, the Berg Lake Trail is always a different experience every time you hike it. This is what makes the Berg Lake Trail such a great experience and tradition for all grade seven students at Valemount Elementary. I hope that the Berg Lake trip will continue as a tradition for grade seven students for years to come.

Photos and story by: John Kenkel