Lyda Salatian, never having camped alone, and never having biked extremely long distances, has been told by friends that her upcoming trek is a crazy thing to do.
But three years ago, some of the same people said that launching the Lower Mainland Green Team (LMGT) was also a zany idea.
It was ambitious, to be sure – week after week, coordinating volunteers to go into parks and remove invasive flora, plant native greenery and trees, and pick up litter.
What would they get in return? Fresh air, the pleasure of doing good, and perhaps home-baked cookies.
On the first day in the spring of 2011, when Salatian expected two or three volunteers, 25 showed up. Now there are 1,895 on the LMGT email list, with 200-300 regulars to rely on.
She’s got other impressive numbers, too: “We’ve removed 68,000 pounds (about seven elephants’ worth) and 850 square metres (around 4,000 bathtubs) of invasive plants,” says Salatian. “We’ve planted 6,500 native plants and trees and removed 3,700 pounds of litter.”
The new “crazy” idea is two-fold.
First is the pilot launch of the Greater Victoria Green Team on Aug. 1, which aims to follow the LMGT model in the Capital Region.
Planning has been in the works for some time, including the 2013 founding of a non-profit charity called Green Teams of Canada (GTOC) to oversee the new group, as well as the original LMGT.
(Funding for the Green Teams of Canada is provided by Pacific Parklands Foundation, The Schein Foundation, Newman’s Own, The Gosling Foundation, The Sitka Foundation and others.)
The second and more physically demanding plan will begin this Saturday (June 7), when Salatian will set out on a two- to three-week solo bike ride from Victoria to Calgary to spread the word about the Green Teams of Canada.
After she returns home (by car), she plans to hike 15 peaks in B.C. in August, aiming for 300 kilometres on foot.
“I’ve got this anything-is-possible attitude,” says the South Surrey woman and executive director of the GTOC.
Originally, the plan was to bike across Canada, but realism set in – she needs time to coordinate the launch of the Green Team in Victoria, and to hire a full-time coordinator for it.
The appeal of hiking B.C.’s mountains, a passion for Salatian, also lured her away from the cross-Canada ride.
Salatian has sought the advice of five other Canadians she found online who had taken their own long-distance bicycle treks for charity.
She’s blogged about her first experiments with a heavily loaded bike, a Marmot hydration pack, changing a tire, pitching a tent, and keeping balance when going downhill.
“(I) learned very quickly that staking the tent down in windy weather before taking a photo is a good idea,” she says.
The ride will be about 1,200 kilometres, depending on which route she takes.
Salatian is fully aware that once she gets to Hope, no matter which way she goes, it’ll be “two days of hell. It will be very, very challenging. Brutal.”
The ride will include highway sections with no shoulders, narrow tunnels, gravel flung by speeding trucks, and always one more steep hill to climb.
Salatian will carry most of her food, including packets of just-add-water camping meals.
But she’s prepared to splurge on whatever suits her fancy along the way.
“The beauty of it is that since I’ll be riding my bike for seven hours a day, I can probably eat anything I want.”
UDPATE: On June 3, Lyda Salatian, founder of the Lower Mainland Green Team, was the recipient of the Metro Vancouver YMCA Women of Distinction award in the category of Environmental Sustainability.