We are officially halfway through the Frontenac Challenge on the calendar, and have hiked 8 out of 11 loop trails at the point. Look at us go! But it hasn’t been easy. And even though distance-wise, the past two weeks were “easy”, we have met several other challenges that we didn’t foresee. We started late and speed-hiked on one loop, racing the sun back to the car. Trail Dad has had to do 100% of the babywearing because I’m having some nerve issues with my hips, which is devastating for me on an emotional level and difficult for him on a physical level. We have had to hike in the rain, again, but that’s not as big of a deal. And we are learning how to dress ourselves and Huckleberry in this new season, leaving at least one of us either too hot or too cold at any given time. Oh, and I have a lovely cold! All that to say, we’re being tested, and we’re finding ways to accommodate one another, make compromises, let things go, and push through.
One thing that I truly love about hiking, despite all of its challenges, is that it can often feel like a break from life. We unplug, leave our worries and to-do lists behind us, and just breathe deep, chat about life and co-exist with nature in a freeing, almost meditative way. And although it’s right back to reality when we return home, it is with a renewed sense of purpose, and an overwhelming sense of calm. And exhaustion, always exhaustion, but in a good way. However, the one thing that we can’t step away from is parenting. Huckleberry still needs us on the trail. He is such a happy little guy, and will ride in the carrier for an extended time without complaint, drifting almost seamlessly from contentedly babbling to quietly napping, and we’re lucky for that. But not that he’s mobile, we make a concerted effort to take him out of the carrier once an hour to romp around, and even if he doesn’t ask for it, I nurse him for both our sakes.
And of course there are the trailside diaper changes! But those are made fairly easy with our Lil Helpers change mat, Funky Fluff double pocket wet bag, and pinecones for entertainment! Anyway, on the topic of not getting a break from parenting, we definitely get a break from the bored whining and fussing that Huckleberry gets up to at home. He is so calm in the woods, taking it all in, ba-ba-ba-ing and pa-pa-pa-ing in singsong voices and whispers. Clicking his tongue and testing out our names. Parenting is easier in the woods, where nature can be the third parent.
Without further ado, here is a glimpse at the second quarter of our Frontenac Challenge…
Hike number five came on a Sunday after a short stay at the cottage. This meant that our routine was a little off and we didn’t start as early as we had intended. After checking the time of sunset on The Weather Network, we realized that we had just enough time to finish our hike before the sun would get below the trees. We knew we could make it back to the car in time, as we had a margin for error, but there could be no lallygagging. And we love lallygagging. So I think we took a break or two less than we needed, hardly stopped for photos, and slogged through the more challenging sections without talking. The hike was still enjoyable, but we were reminded of the importance of planning ahead and starting early. The highlight of this hike, you ask? Wearing our new Darn Tough hiking socks for the first time and having dry, odourless feet at the end of the hike into and around this 9km loop.
The short and sweet Doe Lake Loop is one of only two loops in the park that are strictly day-use trails and have no campsites on them. This trail, and Arab Gorge, are located at the park office and are the trails we have hiked the most. Although this loop is very familiar, it is fun to see it in every season. Even in the rain. There are a lot, and I mean a lot, of ups and downs on this trail, but the views along Doe Lake are beautiful, and the trees are really starting to change now. We hiked this loop after work on a Friday and it was a great way to ease into the weekend. Immediately afterwards, we hopped onto the Arab Gorge Loop…
Even shorter and sweeter, this interpretive trail takes you through several little ecosystems found in and around the Arab Gorge. Most of this hike is on boardwalk, which was a nice change and allowed us to look up instead of down. Huckleberry happily slept most of the time in the Deuter Kid Comfort III that we borrowed from a friend. Such an incredible pack! We are hoping to have one of our own to review in the coming weeks.
Hemlock Lake Loop is a lovely little 5km loop that we had to hike 7km in to access. Most people participating in the Frontenac Challenge tend to figure-8 some of these smaller loops and then not have to hike into them separately. We opted not to do that as it would make for several 20km+ hikes with a babe on our backs, and we loved the idea of hiking every weekend and not rushing the challenge. Anyway, we know all of this because we met 17 million people on the trail that day, all participating in the challenge and taking advantage of the gorgeous autumn weather. Ok, so 17 million is a slight exaggeration, but we did meet a lot of people. With an early start, perfect weather, cough drops, and Bookworm wearing the little man, we had a great hike, probably the best yet. The campsite that we had lunch at was amazing and we’ve already decided to camp there next summer for sure. And we noticed several dried up brooks and waterfalls that we will be visiting in the spring. Also, we packed our lunch in our super cute Litsie Creations reusable snack bags, and felt super eco-friendly! Sometimes I like to think we rock at this. But let’s not get bigheaded about it, my head already feels enormous with the sinus pressure building up in there.
If you are curious about the trails that we hiked, here is a map and some descriptions. For more information about the challenge, you can check out the introductory post. And to follow along on Instagram, my username is @mamanonthetrail and I’m using the hashtag #mamanfrontenac for all of the photos associated with the Frontenac Challenge.
Other Frontenac Challenge posts:
Stay tuned for the next few hikes!