A Camping Adventure

This week our family shared our first camping trip! It was my third time camping EVER, and the first time I’ve ever hiked into a campsite, and Torre spent his first night in a tent with great success. Originally I had booked a day off work so that Matt could go camping with friends and I would stay home with Torre, but at the last minute some people decided not to go, and I asked Matt if it would be too crazy for me to jump in last minute (and by last minute I mean at 9:30pm the night before their 6am departure time!). Matt was up for it, and so was our friend Benson, so Matt rearranged the supplies to make one backpack as light as possible so I could carry it while wearing Torre on my front, we grabbed a couple hours of sleep and hit the road bright and early.

Torre in car

How could you not be a morning person when you wake up to this smile!?

The campsite we reserved was an 8km hike from the trail head, but due to a road closure we had to leave the car at the park office and started our adventure with a “bonus hike” of about 2km. Matt set a quick pace so we could make it to our campsite before the rain that was forecast, although we stopped at a few lookouts on the way to take in the beautiful scenery.family pic at frontenac

I was amazed at the variety of terrain we covered (including a few stubborn patches of snow), and how pristine it all was. I didn’t realize how citified I’ve become until I really got out of the city.

on the trail  fog on big salmon lake

glassy lake

Not a scrap of garbage, not a single cigarette butt, not a sign of civilization except the meandering trail until we arrived at the campsite and were greeted by a picnic table, tent pad, and fire pit with grill. We were drenched with sweat but exhilarated at our accomplishment, and we even managed to get the tent set up and collect some firewood before the predicted downpour arrived.break at site 4I say we, but I mostly mean Matt and Benson. I was pretty occupied keeping Torre from walking into the lake and preventing him from eating the remains of a campfire. We didn’t manage to build a fire after the rain, but we had some delicious mint tea and hot supper thanks to Matt’s pocket rocket (not an endorsement, just a clarification – although come to think of it, it’s the reason I got a hot meal in the wilderness after a rain storm! So it is an endorsement), and while Matt and Benson played cribbage, Torre and I were ready for bed by the time it started getting dark. We both slept in warm layers including a toque for me and fleece hoodie for him, since I wasn’t able to completely encase ourselves in the sleeping bag. Throughout the night I woke up a few times and checked that Torre was warm enough (he was, although I myself was pretty cool), and I noticed that my knees ached when I straightened my legs. It made sense because we had hiked 10km carrying 30-40 lbs.

Torre woke up as early morning light filtered into the tent, and Matt confessed that he had hardly slept at all since his sleeping bag wasn’t warm enough. He was glad I slept though, and he had also been checking Torre’s temperature throughout the night. Benson emerged from his sleeping bag cocoon and braved the frigid morning to work on a fire. It was to no avail, with damp wood and really gusty winds that stirred up flames to burn kindling but didn’t last long enough to catch any actual logs on fire. We huffed and puffed but ultimately decided we’d rather just have breakfast and have something warm in our bellies rather than smoke in our eyes from fighting to make fire. The forecast had been for a warm sunny day, but the morning stayed cool and cloudy, so after breakfast we broke camp (there’s that royal we again – by this point Torre was dozing in the carrier because he got cold too quickly wandering around camp, so Matt packed both our bags and Benson washed my breakfast mug).  chilly morning

There was a really cool lookout just up the trail from our site, so Matt went up to it before we headed out and said it was amazing. I’d definitely love to climb up there myself if we return to this park, but I was not up for it on this morning.

matt on ledge 1

We knew what a long hike we had ahead of us, and I knew I would slow us down compared to the pace we had hiked in the day before. Both knees were stiff and sore, my hips and shoulders were tender from overlapping straps (backpack and baby carrier), and I was not as well hydrated as the first day – I was drinking lots of water but also nursing frequently, eating salty backpacking food, and did I mention the 10km hike? Matt and Benson took as much weight as possible, but the real hurdle for me was the terrain – up and down through hill and dale, climbing over rocks and navigating tree roots brought me to the point of agony. I actually prayed out loud, “Dear Lord, Creator, sustain me and hold my knees intact, even as you hold the universe intact.” This hike out was on par with childbirth in terms of pain, and I mustered up all the coping skills I used in my labour with Torre. It probably helped to have him strapped to my body as a physical reminder that I’ve surpassed my limits before and survived. Although if he hadn’t been strapped to my body there would have been 23 less pounds of impact with every step I took. Matt and Benson were extremely supportive and patient and never complained about my groanings, prayers and songs. I couldn’t move quickly enough to get out of breath, so I talked/sang/prayed myself through kilometre after kilometre. sitting before lunchMatt cooking lunchWe had lunch on the trail, chowing down calories and lightening the food pack as much as we could in our last meal out in the wilderness. We stopped when I needed breaks, and we watched eagerly for all the landmarks in reverse order: the last lookout, the portage trail head, the huge dead tree, the beaver dam, first stream we crossed, the gravel road that would lead us to the park office. Even in pain that brought me to tears, I didn’t regret coming on the trip. I felt bad that Matt and Benson were worried about me, and I was truly in agony, but I was glad to be part of the adventure, not sitting at home. I said prayers for people I know with chronic pain or with physical limitations that mean they’ll never hike out into the woods for a camping trip. I thought about Jesus getting sore feet and sunburnt lips. I loved seeing wildlife – a beaver spied on us eating lunch, chipmunks chased each other beside the trail, a snake rustled through dry grass, and I saw a deer bounding on the far side of a lake. I thanked God that my boots didn’t leak, even when they were submerged in muck.

And somehow, eventually, we made it back to the car. The sun was low in the sky; the dog curled up on the floor and didn’t move even as he ended up under a pile of clothes, the outer layers we finally didn’t need to keep out the cold wind.

Matt and I decided we won’t try any more camping with kids out of season because we were both stressed with how easily Torre got cold. We’d love to do more day hikes though, and now that I’ve experienced it for myself I understand why Matt loves backpacking (and why he’s so tired when he gets home)! I’m still hobbling around, but it seems to be stiff muscles, not anything being actually damaged. I realized that working out in my living room is better than nothing, but I want my body to be strong in practical ways too, to be able to balance and jump and bend and lift out in the world, not just counting reps.

There’s a spinoff to these thoughts, but this post is long enough! Feel free to comment – what is your favourite thing about getting out in nature? Or do you prefer concrete floors and toilets that flush 😉 Also, feel free to pat me on the back for being such a trooper!

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Susan 25-04-2014, 23:46

This sounds like so much fun! I’m so glad you got to go, and I’m glad you enjoyed so many fabulous nature moments – those are all the things I love about being out in the woods. As for the agony, I don’t push myself that hard (lol), so all the discomfort I feel is completely worth the life that gets breathed into my spirit! And I’m very glad your boots didn’t leak – lol!

alyssa 28-04-2014, 12:56

This trip convinced me of the value in good quality hiking boots. I was considering wearing runners, but fortunately it was raining as we left so I knew the trails would be muddy. Another bonus of wearing those boots is that Torre slept in my pink fuzzy socks as leg warmers! 🙂

Spiritualizing My Sore Knees » Moving With God 01-05-2014, 06:33

[…] has been a week since our epic hiking adventure, and I am still hobbling around with sore knees. There is no swelling, and I don’t have too […]


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