“That was not part of my plans, to be involved in running a hostel,” says Anne Salter from behind a display case full of treasures from the ocean and natural world. Salter is speaking from the Port Hardy office of the North Coast Trail Hostel, the hub for explorers, adventurers and travellers alike who make their way to the end of the road here on Vancouver Island.
Anne, who runs the hostel with her husband Rob Salter, explains on this quiet Monday afternoon that the most rewarding part of her job is meeting the different people from all kinds of backgrounds and origins who enter this sprawling structure.
Between them, Anne and Rob have six children, and a love of travelling has trickled down through the clan. A 20-year-old daughter is presently working so that she can go travelling.
Salter leads the way up the stairwell to the main room of the hostel, an enormous space that in its past life was a dance hall and a dojo. Today the room is open and bright, encouraging socializing and inviting guests to relax alongside murals of bears, coast guard boats battling stormy weather, and eagles flying through the clouds around a sun, painted by local artist Mehran “Raz” Razmpoosh.
Bright rooms line a hallway that leads back out to the social room and a packed bookshelf housing five rows of DVDs, the one on highest rotation at the moment being “Blood Diamond.”
Walking back down the stairwell, Anne encounters a man she counts as one of her most interesting guests, Boulder, Colorado resident Ed Sejud. Sejud, tall and charismatic with a head of white hair, is working his way towards the impressive goal of kayaking from the North Island to Glacier Bay, Alaska.
The journey was planned for this spring, but Sejud has faced a few setbacks, including damage to his kayak sustained in a rocky cove. “Right now I’m working my way to a boat repair in Victoria,” he jokes. After some tweaking of his plans, Sejud intends to return later in the season to embark on his Alaska adventure.
Sejud echoes Anne’s point that many of the guests who pass through the doors of the North Coast Trail Hostel are fascinating individuals, as he recounts the number of biologists and scientists he has met, as well as a cartographer he chatted with just the previous evening.
Anne mentions that an anthropologist will be checking in later today. Sejud continues on with his preparations, and Anne walks out to some additional hostel housing beside the main building. At the moment a group of divers occupies the spacious building.
Anne says that although she loves her job, one of the challenges can be the hours. During the summer the ferry schedule calls for long days for the hostel owners, as the lengthy ferry ride to Prince Rupert requires guests to depart very early in the morning and arrive at the hostel late. Back outside, Anne opens the door to a cavernous ground level space that is part of the hostel’s property. Anne says that the presently-vacant area has potential for many different uses, possibly even a co-op.
The tour ends outside in the mid-afternoon sunshine, and Anne heads back inside the main office to continue running this North Island hostel with clear passion and genuine love for the area.