Change is in the air, and not only because it is the end of another exciting hiking season. In many ways, this past summer has been our best season yet. It was also our last season – but hopefully not the end of inn-to-inn hiking on Vancouver Island!
In this newsletter, I would like to share with you the reasons for these changes – both, the business considerations and Marion’s personal reasons – and tell you what’s happening with inn-to-inn hiking on Canada’s West Coast!
It was our best season yet because Mother Nature was especially kind to our hikers. We were treated to whales, both orcas and humpbacks, playing off the rocks in East Sooke Park. Otters entertained us on the Juan de Fuca trail, owls watched us on our forest trails and eagles soared overhead on clear days.
This was also a very hard summer in British Columbia. Many areas in the interior of the province suffered terribly from seemingly never-ending wildfires; thousands were evacuated from their homes. While the coastal area was spared the fires, even here, the sky was dark and heavy with smoke and ash for weeks. Our hikers were troopers, realizing that we were lucky to be able to be outdoors. They enjoyed their hikes regardless. Not only is there is so much to see, hear, smell all along the trails, the camaraderie and companionship among hikers is a memorable experience in itself.
Now what’s that about Trek & Treats closing shop?
The Tours and the Business
Over the past five years, Trek & Treats developed and offered self-guided, inn-to-inn hiking tours and multi-sport tours on Vancouver Island. The popularity of our tours doubled each year. Even without marketing efforts, we received more requests than we could accommodate. Then why discontinue the business?
Over the same time-period, tourism fully recovered from the earlier downturn in the economy. As ever more visitor arrive on Vancouver Island, accommodations fill up and it has become difficult for us to reliably ascertain nights at the inns for our guests. We added more options, expanded the route, encouraged more cycling to gain flexibility along the route, and still, the accommodations kept filling up.
Concurrently, some inns closed, as small businesses sometimes do, but no new ones opened. Smaller inns and B&B’s are being replaced by vacation rentals and airbnb listings. While these are a preferred option for many travelers, they are not a viable option for a tour company. We are not alone; tour operators in Canada and abroad are facing similar challenges at this busy time.
Even in that environment, Trek & Treats could be sold and operated quite successfully, though on a small scale. However, the annual permitting, licensing and insurance costs, together with an up-front outlay prescribed under British Columbia law – notably a $15,000 cash security required to comply with the BC Consumer Protection Act – make selling a small business difficult, and buying one a risky proposition.
The Salish Shores Inn-to-Inn Hike continues…
In 2017, Freewheeling offered, and Trek & Treats supported our inn-to-inn tours. I dare say, our guests were very happy with their experience. We also continued to guide Freewheeling’s week-long hiking tours on Vancouver Island, which we had developed together over the past four years.
At this time, I am hopeful that Freewheeling will decide to offer the inn-to-inn tours as part of their ongoing program, along with other hiking and/or cycling options on Vancouver Island. Please let them know early if you are interested!
You can also plan a 3-day inn-to-inn hike on yourself, using our tried-and-proven maps and descriptions.
On a Personal Note…
Those of you who walked our trails or worked with Trek & Treats locally know that the inn-to-inn tours were my brainchild and have been my baby for some years. These past five years have been a rewarding, fun, interesting and often challenging experience. I have always stressed that the best thing about operating tours are the people I meet, the friendships that are formed, the learning from each other and the shared enjoyment of nature. This also extends to the many people I worked with locally, our amazing innkeepers and my helpers during the summer, Alison and Julie. By and by, my husband Rob got more involved in Trek & Treats and he shares my sentiments: it’s all about being in nature and the great people we have met!
Our lives have changed gradually. After twelve happy years as partners, Rob and I tied the knot one year ago. It seems that getting married set off an avalanche of change – or maybe it was the other way around: getting married was just a part of ongoing change. Those of you who have met me know that horses and riding play a central part in my live, and that I have always been drawn to the beautiful grasslands and horse-country in BC’s interior. For the past year, my horse has been living on a horse-ranch near Kamloops, BC. Between hiking tours, I have spent as much time as possible ‘up there’ myself, living in my little camper on a not-so-little ranch in very-big-sky country.
Along the way, Rob and I fell in love with the eastern-most area in BC’s interior: the Columbia Valley, or Rocky Mountain Trench. As of this fall, we are the new owners of a small rural property not far from Invermere, BC. Little by little, we hope to build a nest there for ourselves and a barn for the animals that are close to my heart. As a bonus (or perhaps the impetus?), our craziest and dearest friend will be our neighbour, and our ever-enterprising daughter and her gung-ho partner along with other dear family members are not far away.
And I am not ruling out a continuation of Trek & Treats in new environs…so don’t be surprised if one day, you see another newsletter in your inbox or a new post on this site!