Tuesday, 23 April 2013

One week until the trail opens!

One week until the the West Coast Trail opens, and one week until my epic summer of hiking/anthropological fieldwork begins! 

I've started this blog to share my project, my thoughts, my photos, and my research findings with those who have participated in/or are interested in my research study on the West Coast Trail. I hope it will be a forum for discussion about the varied thoughts people have about the Trail and for continued sharing of stories, photos and memories about experiences along the infamous West Coast Trail. 

I'm a graduate student in Anthropology at the University of British Columbia and this research is for my PhD dissertation. I'm interested in nature-based tourism, hiking, and camping as cultural practices, particularly in western Canada. This research will hopefully create data for me to write my dissertation, publish academic articles, and hopefully write a book. I'm also writing reports on tourism around the West Coast Trail for Parks Canada, the Bamfield Chamber of Commerce, and the Huu-ay-aht First Nation. This study has been reviewed and approved by both Parks Canada and the Huu-ay-aht First Nation. 

What is being studied and why?

This study looks at the multiple ways people view the  West Coast Trail and its surrounding area in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Hiking and camping are a significant cultural practice in Canada, and the West Coast Trail is one of the iconic places to take part in such activities in Canada. Different people may view the West Coast trail area as a tourist destination, an iconic Canadian landscape, a place of environmental or natural resource significance, as traditional aboriginal territory, or as some or all of these at once. This study looks at how these different views of this place interact within the context of outdoor recreation and tourism. Basic research questions include: Why do people hike the trail? How is the hiking of the trail facilitated locally? Is there a difference between hikers expectations of the trail and their experiences of it? Are certain views of the trail area emphasized over others and why? If so, is this something that needs to be changed, and what sort of changes may be needed? 

This is an ethnographic study, which means that the main method used will be participant observation (watching, listening, chatting, and even participating in everyday activities with trail-trekkers, from hiking to eating a meal). For different participants, this may mean chatting casually while hiking on the trail, for others it may mean sitting down in a more formal setting for a long conversation.  The main focus of conversation and observation will be different views of the trail, the landscape and significant places it traverses, and its status as a tourism destination. This blog has been started as a means to continue conversations about the Trail, as well as start new ones. 

The West Coast Trail is opening next week for it's 2013 season May 1 until September 30. During that time I will hike and camp along the trail, hanging out with hikers and chatting about their experiences. I am based out of Bamfield at the northern end of the trail and will be spending much time in and around beautiful Pachena beach on Huu-ay-aht treaty settlement lands. Pachena is the beach in the background photo of the blog.

If you plan on hiking the trail, or have hiked the trail, I'd love to include you in my study. Send an email to wctstudy@gmail.com to learn more. 

More to come on the blog about me, the Trail's history, Trail information and statistics, the environment of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and of course gorgeous photos of the Trail. 

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