Well, I divided this into quarters timewise with roughly two weeks between each post over the course of two months, but we are one hike away from being done, and that’s more than 75%! The first quarter had 4 hikes, the second quarter also had 4 hikes, and this quarter has 2 hikes plus some camping. And then…the final hike and a reflection.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this challenge has been nothing short of amazing. Having a lengthy hike on the calendar every weekend for almost 8 straight weekends is bliss. And even better than that was camping together, just the three (four) of us for the Thanksgiving weekend! All of this time unplugged in nature together, and the short-term benefits that we are already seeing, are only further affirming the lifestyle we are choosing. Honestly, we are going to need to work to keep this up after the challenge or I fear we’ll fall apart!
Recently, I’ve received a lot of questions about logistics on the trail. Nursing, diaper changing, what to bring, dressing for the weather, etc. Let me start by saying: I am learning too! Every trip into the woods is a new experience for us and we come back with more knowledge, more wisdom and more lessons learned. You can only be so prepared, but how do you prepare? I’m working on some future blog posts about hiking with cloth diapers, packing a day pack and dressing for each season, but in the meantime you can read 6 Tips for Nursing on the Trail and Camping with Cloth Diapers: Do’s & Don’ts. And please, please, PLEASE ask any question you have and I’ll attempt to answer it, share any concern you have and I’ll try to quell it, make requests for blog posts and I’ll do my best to deliver! A huge part of this blog is about helping you get outdoors with your family. Aside from my ramblings and cute photos, that’s what I’m trying to do here. And your feedback helps a lot.
Without further ado, here is a glimpse at the third quarter of our Frontenac Challenge…
We didn’t take into considering the extra traffic that would be on the roads on the Friday of a long weekend, so we rolled up to the trailhead a little later than we had anticipated, leaving us exactly enough time to get to our campsite before dark, and no margin for error. We unloaded the car as quickly as we could, loaded ourselves up and hit the trail. Within about 10 minutes of hiking, we practically stumbled over a lazy porcupine, and startled ourselves and some wild turkeys simultaneously. We had just enough daylight to pitch the tent, string up the food and collect enough firewood to start a little campfire and then darkness came. We settled in around our cozy campfire to tuck into the Quizno’s subs we’d grabbed on the way, our little bit of luxury! Then we prepared for the rain we knew was coming, changed a diaper by lamplight and snuggled deep into our sleeping bags for the night.
Saturday morning was crisp but dry; the rain had not yet started when we woke up. We took advantage of this delay, and leapt out of bed to ready our packs and ourselves for the 21-km hike on the park’s most difficult trail. The rain held off long enough for us to get into a rhythm, and then it just poured. And poured. And poured. The rain lasted a good three hours, and then it was grey and damp for another three hours. But for the final stretch, which just so happened to have an incredible lookout with a stunning view, the sun came out. We hadn’t noticed the lookout on the map and what a pleasant surprise it was to come out of the woods onto a rocky outcrop, with the sun lighting up all of the trees, blue sky all around and there we are on top of the world!
There were a lot of difficult sections on this trail where we were on our hands and feet either slowly climbing up a rocky slope, or lowering ourselves backwards down the other side. We shared the job of wearing Huckleberry in the Deuter Kid Comfort 3 we’d borrowed from a friend, since he and the pack together weighed about 40 pounds. We learned more about perseverance, communication, and asking for help. And we accepted the downpour as a happy distraction from the weight on our backs. This trail, being the longest and most difficult in the challenge, felt like a grand finale. It felt like everything we had done leading up to this was just practice, preparing us for what 9 straight hours of wet, challenging hiking would be. And we embraced it. It was so rewarding, and so incredible, and we were in awe of each other and ourselves as we returned to our campsite, smiles on our faces and another trail under our boots.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we had our first fire-cooked meal, and it consisted of twice-baked potatoes and turkey, cranberry & brie wraps. Mmmmm, delicious! With just a few slightly burnt spots, not bad for our first time! Huckleberry did a ton of romping around while we settled in and made dinner, and more romping around while we readied ourselves and our stuff for another night in the woods. We had been so focused on checking and preparing for the weather for our big hike, that neither of us had bothered to check the weather for Saturday night or Sunday, and about halfway through the night I ended up with a baby and a dog inside my sleeping bag with me, and the awkward task of attempting to close both windows in the night, while Trail Dad nearly slept through it all. Sunday morning was much cooler than we had been prepared for, so we had our first ever breakfast bonfire! What a delight! And then, since we hadn’t spent much time enjoying our site, we took our sweet time having breakfast and packing up. Our final thought as we loaded ourselves up and headed out for the final 3.5 km back to the car? “Let’s make this a Thanksgiving tradition.”
Despite the fact that Slide Lake felt like the finale, it wasn’t. But that’s okay, I’m still not ready for this challenge to be over. For our second to last hike, we were joined by Trail Dad’s father, uncle and aunt, all outdoors enthusiasts like ourselves. We hiked the 10km loop at a slower than normal pace, which was a really nice change. We chatted all things outdoors, took in the fall colours and the many deer that we saw, and had a good long lunch break at a campsite about 1km off the trail on Birch Lake. I test drove our new selfie stick from Retrak, and after the first photo that started out as a video and ended up not including Huckleberry, I think I got it mostly figured out. I’ll be posting a full review (and TWO giveaways) next month. But let’s just say that I’m geeking out a little bit and coming one of those selfie fanatics that I used to make fun of. I’m realizing that if we want any decent family photos on our hiking trips, a selfie stick is a necessary tool. And this one is pretty freaking cool! Also, we test drove our Kiddy Adventure Pack for the first time, and so far we like it! More to come on that as well.
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.