Take a Hike

I’m sure you know one of those families that are so outdoorsy and stoic that it’s irritating. They’re always headed off on epic cycling trips or month-long paddling excursions. They don’t have any wimpy kids in their brood, who constantly whine, “My legs are tired. Are we almost there?”

No. Their kids completed their first triathlon at the age of 6 and can easily carry a 20-lb pack as they scale mountains.

I don’t know who these kids are, but they look impressive.

I aspire for us to be one of those families. And I’m ready to irritate you with tales of our stoicism.

For the last few years, we’ve been promising our oldest that we would do an overnight hiking trip. Soon. When you keep saying that you’ll do something “soon” for YEARS, your kids start to lose faith in your empty promises.

I thought, for some time, that we would have to wait until Lark is old enough to walk a fair distance. She’s still only 5, after all. Although she requires no sleep and probably runs a marathon every day, when it comes to going on a family walk, her legs suddenly stop working.

She is very tired, she needs a break, she needs a snack, and this is boring.

I began to realize that if this overnight trip was going to happen soon, we’d have to take my daughter out of the equation. I told her with some hesitation that the three of us would be going on a camping trip without her. But that she would be having a sleepover at her aunt’s house.

She was not remotely disappointed. “Good,” she said, “Because I hate walking.”

The past many months of international pandemicdom has made me thoughtful. What kinds of experiences do I want for our family? What can we do together that is out in nature, creates growth and pushes our collective boundaries a bit? This excursion ticked those boxes for me.

I began researching all of the gear we would need. We have a lot of camping equipment, but it’s all for “car-camping” as snooty backcountry Canadians like to say. Translated, our tent weighs a tonne and is meant to be thrown in the back of the car for drive-up camping. The purists among us only consider it camping if you walk or paddle there. Or parachute. Whatever.

Although That Big Mountain Store had some great options for gear, their prices were high for what was essentially an experiment. I found stuff elsewhere, borrowed a few things, and hit Canadian Tire.

Last Friday, we tossed some packets of ramen in our bags and hit the road.

I should mention that I ran into trouble when I began looking for a place to do this hike. Ontario’s provincial parks system has a bunch of parks with hiking trails, and backcountry reservable sites. I narrowed my search down to the ones that were not more than five hours away, and then found that – sigh – most sites were completely booked until DECEMBER.

In this post-COVID world, no one is travelling far, and everyone wants to be outdoors.

Finally, I found an available site at Frontenac Provincial Park. This park is over 5,000 hectares but is apparently “threshold wilderness.” Anywhere else in the world it would probably just be wilderness wilderness, but in Canada, you know, we have tiers of these things.

On arrival, it was a balmy 12 degrees. We had a 5 km walk to our site.

Map in hand. Ready to walk.

I was relieved to find the trail very clearly marked. It was almost impossible to get lost.

The Arkon Lake loop was about 11 km in total, and relatively flat with a few small hills.

Frontenac didn’t disappoint with fall colours.

Craig and I were both super proud of our kid for not complaining and carrying his pack with minimal rests.

Campsite 7 at Birch Lake
Food storage box to prevent a critter invasion, OR, my worst nightmare, BEARS.
Bean steaming himself on a frosty 5 degree morning.

Although it was chilly overnight, the whole experience was amazing. You know that something feels like a success when you’re already planning your next trip on the way home.

What are your next new adventures going to be?

Silence and Solitude

My house is so, so quiet.

For the first time in an age, I’m alone in a house filled with silence. Well, almost alone. My husband is “at work” upstairs. Employing quotes implies that he isn’t actually working. He is.

I cannot hear My Little Pony playing on the TV downstairs. I cannot hear my son humming repetitively under his breath while he concentrates on something. I cannot hear the sound of my daughter’s foghorn flute voice asking me for a cup of water/a snack/a show/another snack/help/a sweater/clean socks/a cookie/screentime/playtime.

I cannot hear my children because they are at school. And lo, the children did returneth to school, and the parents across the land rejoiced.

I am alone with my thoughts. Exciting as they are. Last year, I asked a friend, a stay-at-home mum to three, what she was going to do now that her kids were all in school. She thought for a minute, and then said, “I’m going to think really long thoughts.”

So I’m sitting in the dining-room, thinking long, uninterrupted thoughts.

Over the last six months, the kids and I have filled the school-less days with many, many things. Games. Outdoor time. Puzzles. Artwork. Eating. Baking. Eating the Baking. Cleaning. Making Messes. Cleaning Again.

I recognize that there is an element of good fortune in not having a proper job to try to maintain. My job for the past half year has been to manage my kids and keep them happy and occupied in the weird post-COVID world we inhabit. And to keep them away from the office door because, Shhhhhh, Daddy’s on a call!!

I say “them” but really it’s my daughter who must be shushed. There are definite advantages to having a child who is a born talker. There are disadvantages too. I’d break it down like this:

Pros: Eloquent. Expresses self. Often hilarious. Strong debating skills.

Cons: Rarely quiet. (See my post Movie Kids.) Talks over the top of people. Interrupts.

When I get irritated with her for sending my train of thought skittering off the tracks, I have to remind myself that she’s probably destined for a luminous career in law or stand-up comedy.

It’s so quiet in here that I can hear the clock ticking.

Aw, I miss them. #momlife

Burnt Marshmallow

Is the best flavour of ice cream in the world. There, I said it.

And this stuff they make at our local, Ed’s, somehow manages to capture in its frozen goodness the essence of summer campfires. Without the mosquitoes.

Forget canned beans and frozen peas. A pint or two of this is essential. For mental health. Unfortunately, like many other things in the city, essential services like ice cream stores will have to be closed for awhile.

B stands for burnt.

Have we invented a word yet for the regret we feel for the things we failed to stock up on when it all got real?