Ok, so this post is actually about NOT getting lost.
Mainly all this warm spring weather has inspired me to do a post about getting out into nature. Go for a hike alone or with friends. Experience nature in a first person sense. Not just through posters, photographs, artwork or watching the Discovery channel.
It's about the sights and smells of the woods.
About following a trail...just to see what's around the next bend.
It's the feel of the wind through a field.
It's about the thrill of finding a big patch of something edible!
A raspberry bramble. A bright green bush of garlic mustard or lamb's quarter. A crab apple tree.
Is that mutant glasswort?!?
It's about seeing nature as art. Structural. A tall rock formation.
It's about stopping to smell the fragrant mosses.
It's about sneaking up on something!
Like finding the evidence of animals in action...
It's about things that make you do a double take!
Or just plain creeps you out...
I recently picked up the 2012 edition of the Frontenac Provincial Park info guide.
Inside it mentioned what you should take in your backpack when you go on a hike, which I thought was particularily useful! I'll mention the details below:
-Compass (even if you're carrying a GPS)
-extra food & high energy snacks
-first aid kit
-headlamp or flashlight
-whistle (3 blasts is a standard distress call)
-large orange plastic bag (good visable colour for attracting attention and can keep items warm and dry)
-waterproof matches or a lighter
-fire starter (aka small sticks, bark, pine cones, newspaper)
Although this may seem like an excessive list for an afternoon's hike or walk, these items may just come in handy in the event of an unplanned detour or delay.
I remember years ago, we were invited to hike in to someone's campsite in Frontenac Park. My wee son Owen not quite 2 yrs old at the time and I had no idea if he could sustain the energy for a hike of more than 1 hr. As a family we had gone on many walks since Owen was born, but he was usually in a stroller for most of it. I knew Owen had lots of energy...so I was willing to give it a shot.
I decided to test out if we could do it on a prior weekend. Noah came along too. He was probably only 8 yrs old at the time and had been playfully dragged along on many a hike through the Park. When Noah was younger we started off with the shortest trail first and then worked our way up to the 2 hrs trails.
I figured since this was Owen's first hike through the park, we'd better take the short one. Seeing as how Noah had already done the short trail a couple of times, we'd make it interesting...by doing the trail in reverse! I brought my trusty backpack, which held all sorts of important things, like water bottles and snacks, along with a toilet paper roll, plastic bags, park map and insect spray. We all had sturdy boots and hats on.
We first started strolling out on our trek, heading towards the "end" of the trail.
I quickly remembered why hikes were frustrating with children of a certain age...
My pockets were all full of every rock and pinecone Owen could reach. Noah had to be perpetually reminded that it would be in his best interest to stay on the trail.
We didn't make it very far and all three of us were ready for a snack break. That's when I knew this trip was doomed. I had grabbed the backpack without checking it. It had been seriously depleted from taking it along on the last fishing trip. Normally I was a lot better at checking on these things, but it was a momentary lapse. To make matters worse, it became apparent we had taken the wrong trail completely and I didn't know where we were. We ended up at a parking lot I'd never seen in the park. Sigh...I decided that the smartest thing to do was to follow the tar & gravel road that led away from the parking lot and hope that a vehicle of some description passed us by and took pity on us. What finally worked on Owen was to get him to chase his big brother Noah ahead on the road. It wasn't long before that plan backfired and Owen was too tired to walk anymore at all. I had to carry Owen for the last hour and a half.
After 3 hours, we were tired and exhausted but at least we had made it back to the main parking lot. It was a bad experience, but I was completely to blame. You have to pick your battles. Frontenac Park is so wonderful for hiking, but even on the shortest trail you can't manage a stroller. If you can't wear your child, then wait until they can manage rocky terrain on their own. Many trails in Frontenac Park look like the trail below...
And ALWAYS make sure you have enough snacks and water in case of an emergency. I trusted that I had been to the Park enough times to know where I was going and clearly shouldn't have been in charge of the map.
All of that being said, hiking and walking in the woods is one of my most favorite activities. It's just so important to be prepared for the unexpected. (And if you hike with children, make sure you bring another adult with you to share in the carrying.)
I try to get a hike in whenever the weather and time permits.
P.S. Owen (now almost 5 yrs old) loves hikes, as long as he has a hiking stick with him.
And Noah learned to stay on the trail, after finding out what the rash caused by Poison Ivy looks like.