The Journey is the Gift

Finding Mick Taylor’s forever place.

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PHOTOS COURTESY OF KATHLEEN O’REILLY & FAMILY

My husband, Michael (Mick) Taylor, was an avid traveller, explorer, and lover of the outdoors. He grew up in a small English town before moving to Australia where our paths crossed in Alice Springs. Two of our three amazing children were born there before we returned to Ontario. He needed to explore Canada—scouting out the best places to live—so he took off on a three-month bicycle trip from Toronto to Vancouver. With our two eldest kids in tow, I joined Mick in Vancouver and we spent the following year living on a 20-foot sailboat, exploring the endless picturesque islands, expansive waters, and narrow inlets that the BC coast has to offer. When I eventually landed a job as a teacher in the small town of Gold River, Mick immediately knew that Gold River was his forever place. This quaint town and surrounding area, on the traditional and unceded territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation, provided easy access to a landscape rich with glacier-carved mountains, pristine rivers and lakes, and the rugged Pacific coastline of Nootka Sound. He explored this area any way he could: sailboat, kayak, canoe, and foot.

First and foremost, Mick was an avid mountaineer and was never one to follow a trail. Rather, he would study maps and look for new routes to ascend various peaks in Strathcona Park. His career took second fiddle to being outdoors, and if it was sunny on a weekday he was more likely to be found climbing up a gully than at work. He rarely did these adventures alone and would often take visitors from other countries who had never camped, let alone bushwhacked their way up a mountain. His kids were always his priority, whether they were sailing through a gale or hanging off the side of a mountain. It was not just about fun—this is how he taught them important life lessons. They would sometimes complain about having to put on a frozen sock on a -20 °C morning with a full day of mountain climbing ahead, and he would remind them that each challenge is part of a journey. Discomfort cannot be avoided or endured; it must be accepted as part of any journey.

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It was never about reaching the top for Mick. If he came across a sunny alpine lake on the way up, there was a good chance he would take a lakeside nap rather than continue onwards. He’d focus on the little things, like the bird life, the local plants, and the all-encompassing sense of awe. Strathcona Park was his treasured playground and he worked with local groups to protect this area.

After 16 years of hiking, climbing, camping, and kayaking in the Gold River area, my husband died, too young, from cancer. He was not spiteful, but instead grateful for a rich, full life and experiencing time in nature. As per his request, his three children and I will spread his ashes on mountain tops in Strathcona Park and in his favourite spots on the Pacific coast. He left us with a gift: seeing the world like he did, a never-ending playground, full of adventures and life lessons. This will always be his forever place.

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