Exploring Nature’s Jungle Gym

Bear Hug woke me up just before ten on Saturday morning to let me know he had made coffee. I felt a combination of rested yet still not feeling well. Our original plan for the weekend was to hike and camp as a family on Epinette Trail in Spruce Woods Provincial Park but my body had other plans.

We went to Atmosphere later in the day on Saturday to begin looking for a new hiking backpack for Bear Hug to carry on the Sunshine Coast Trail. He has two travel backpacks that have been around Europe and have worked OK for weekend overnights. They are quite heavy at about seven pounds and the structure of the frame and suspension are not intended for long wear and heavy loads.

He also wants a backpack that has a hydration sleeve and port, which travel backpacks do not have. It was amusing to see six pounds of water (3 L) in the brain of his backpack and the top heaviness of the pack wobbling back and forth.

We looked at the Osprey Aether AG 70L and the Osprey Xenith 75L. The store was busy with shoppers and the backpacks had a security tag on the hip belts so we were not able to make adjustments to try on for fit. We are still unsure how many liters we want the backpack to be. I say “we” because I love researching gear and even though he will carry the bag, it is a purchase that we will make together.

We need to keep in mind that between both of us, we will carry the majority of food and water for our daughter for at least another five years. Bear Hug also eats a low carbohydrate diet and with the common backpacking meals of rice, pasta, and dehydrated potatoes not on his list, I wonder if his food choices will take up more space?

I felt well-rested when I woke up on Sunday morning so I rejigged our packed overnight backpacks into what we would need for a day hike. We headed to Hunt Lake Trail after making a stop at Starbucks for coffee. It was Blue Jay and Bear Hugs first time on Hunt Lake.

I will be completely honest and say that bringing Blue Jay to the rugged hiking grounds of Hunt Lake with 100 foot drops above West Hawk Lake made my heart skip many beats and I felt overwhelmed. It was not until we stopped for lunch that I felt more at ease. Not falling off a cliff is kind of a big deal and Blue Jay has a history of funny-walking. She was right in her zone though when it came to climbing natures jungle gym of sharp jagged rock. She has always been a climber.

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Her maturity level has blossomed and she is able to regulate herself without always needing direction from us. I did not have to talk to her about not skipping, dancing, or jumping and she did her best to stay careful. She clearly understood the seriousness of hiking a challenging trail and heeded the dangers that we told her about.

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We stopped for lunch at roughly 4 km in and I made all of us a simple chicken soup with Harvest Foodworks freeze dried chicken and two chicken bouillon cubes. Hot soup hit the spot on what was a gorgeous crisp autumn day. I have kale in my fridge and I intended to make chips for our weekend hike and to put in the soup but the kale didn’t make it into my dehydrator or even into my pack on Sunday morning.

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Bear Hug and I have decided that Blue Jay will no longer drink hot chocolate while hiking and especially not while we are spending 10 – 15 days on Sunshine Coast Trail. The spike in sugar makes her hyper and annoying but what is even more concerning is that her mood drastically changes during the sugar crash. She has brain fog, feels fatigued, has difficulty concentrating, and picks fights and talks back. She is fine with no longer having hot chocolate while hiking and will choose her own herbal and no-caffeine fruit based loose-leaf teas. *Phew, that was an easy conversation and solution!*

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Our GPS tracked our hike at just over 8 km. The roots and rocks were slick from recent rain fall and we moved slower in the slippery areas. Knowing that Sunshine Coast Trail will be similar in terrain with wet roots and rocks, we need to be realistic about planning our daily kilometers. I think given the opportunity to go further on Hunt Lake, Blue Jay could have done a solid 10 km hike on Sunday.

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When it comes to planning the days on Sunshine Coast, I want to physically challenge ourselves yet keep morale at the forefront of everything we do. Mind over body and embracing the suck will only go so far for a nine year old and I do not want our family hike to become a negative experience. A zero day in town at a hotel, with water-slides or at least a pool will be a welcomed morale booster as well as hammock-time when we get to camp.

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Training to hike in the mountains is a little tricky when you live on the prairies. I can hike 20 km in a day on the trails where I live but when I attempted to replicate that on the Appalachian Trail, the mountains and humidity were unforgiving and we decided to lower our daily distance. It was also really nice to be able to take a longer lunch break and to have a few hours of sunlight left to read in my hammock once we got to camp.

I love doing physically hard things with my daughter and to see confidence, strength, and a wild love of nature flourish in her. The world needs girls to be brave. I love that my family is working towards the goal to hike on the Sunshine Coast Trail. It gives us all a little something that we need.

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