Thom Henley was looking for land to open the Soaring Spirits Camp when he dreamt one night what that land would look like.
When he finally found the magnificent 175 acres along the legendary Skeena River, he realized he’d “seen” it before.
“I’m on the land that came to me in that dream!” Henley says.
Soaring Spirits International Camp & Organic Garden, located on Highway 16 (6 km. west of Kitwanga), opened in 2007, and together with Seven Sisters Mountain House B&B, form the facility base for Rediscovery International Foundation.
Every June, Henley runs the Rediscovery International Training program, a 12-day training package with four goals:
Teach camp skills necessary to running healthy and safe wilderness adventure camps
Offer hands-on instruction in sustainable living through organic gardening, composting and wind/solar renewable energy technologies
Teach natural history interpretation techniques in a wide range of settings for camp naturalists and the growing ecotourism industry
Offer immersion educational experiences in five distinct Indigenous cultures –Wet’suwet’en, Gitksan, Nisga’a, Haisla and Tsimshian.
Henley says the training program is perfect for community leaders wanting to start-up a camp, and camp staff looking to expand their horizons and hone their skills. It’s open to teachers, students, youth workers, Scout leaders or anyone with a love of the outdoors and an interest in human and natural history.
“The camp is an inspiring place to rediscover oneself, and explore other cultures and the wonders of the natural world,” Henley says. “It’s about helping people find transformation through experiencing nature, and especially about teaching young people how to influence and change the world.”
The Soaring Spirits Camp facilities are as inspired as the location, with large canvas wall tents with beautiful Northwest Coast house frontal designs. A post-and-beam dining hall, overlooking Frog Mountain is a warm and cosy site for meals featuring wild salmon, berries, mushrooms and the bounty from the camp’s large organic garden. A Council Fire site is the gathering place for evenings around the ceremonial fire where native Elders and Chiefs share legends and time-honoured teachings from the land.
What does a typical day look like running his business? “There is no typical day!” Henley exclaims. “New guests at our B&B, new kids in camp, new produce growing in the garden, new wildlife appearing on the land, new friends and old faces showing up to visit, new places to travel to and endless new experiences.
“A typical day’s a never-ending journey of opportunity,” he says, highlighting the values driving his business: honesty, integrity, family, friendship and respect for people’s cultural differences and the environment.
“There aren’t a lot of jobs that are so rewarding,” Henley says. “I am getting older, but working with youth always inspires me and keeps me feeling young at heart. I do see continuity for the foundation when I’m gone, but it takes a whole community!”
This Small Business Feature is one of a series of local business profiles from the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine.