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Intro to Backpacking: Becoming Adventurous – A guest trip report!

Check out this awesome trip report from our guest and friend Lana! It’s a good one! 

By: Lana Osborne-Paradis

I’ve always been an active person. From a young age I played many sports, and in my mid-teens I discovered exercise classes and lifting weights at the gym. I was hooked, it was all I wanted to learn about or think about, and that led me to a kinesiology degree and a career in the fitness and exercise world.

But, I have never been an adventurous person. Yes, I love nature and the great outdoors, but more like ‘I went for a nice walk in the woods’ and less ‘’I’ve been in the backcountry and I haven’t showered in three days’.

Until 2021, the only time I had camped in a tent was in my parents backyard, or at a drive up campsite.

Enter, the Covid-19 pandemic. I gave birth to my second child on March 19, 2020. My husband was rehabilitating his knee after a horrific ski racing crash, and the world as we knew it came to a screeching halt. During the first year of the pandemic, I was healing from the haze of birth, a baby who wouldn’t sleep, and being trapped at home with an extroverted, injured-athlete of a husband and a temperamental three year old. It was a weird time.

Once the summer of 2021 came around, all I wanted was to get out of my house, to leave my computer behind, and to not make a snack for someone. And that is a lot to say for a home-bodied introvert.

A couple girlfriends (who were feeling similarly house-bound and child-crazed) and I began planning our escape(s). We decided to take up hiking. It was the only thing that could get us out of the house for a few hours (or even a couple nights!) and away from all the distractions of wifi and cell-service. But we didn’t know a damn thing about how to hike for longer than a few hours.

Where do we pitch our tent? How do we protect our food from bears and other hungry animals? Do we need hiking poles? How much water should we carry? What is route finding? And how do we ensure we have hot coffee when we wake up in the morning?

Enter: Backpacking 101 with Playwest Mountain Experiences – A course to teach the beginner hiker how to safely and enjoyably plan and execute an overnight, backcountry hiking trip. We paid our deposit, booked our date on the calendar and got down to business with our preparations.

Our guide, Chris, met with us on zoom to go over the basics of the gear we would need for our trip. We talked about physical preparation of which I ensured him I would spear-head for our group. After a few purchases from Mountain Equipment Co-op, spreading all our gear out on the front lawn, learning how to pack a backpack properly, and figuring out what a poo shovel was, we were ready to set out on our adventure.

We met early on a hot and sunny late June morning. The weather reports were warning of a heat wave over the weekend and we could already feel the pavement roasting at 7:30am. After a quick breakfast at the local coffee shop, Chris helped us load our large hiking packs into the back of his SUV.

We began our journey to Bear Lake with a couple hours driving on the highway and then a rough back country road. When we got to the parking lot and loaded our packs onto our backs I asked, “so how often on our hike do we need to use these hiking poles?” Everyone in the group laughed, “100% of the time!” Chris replied cheerily. Already learning lessons and we haven’t even started, I thought.

Our slog up the trail began and the sweat started to pour from our pores. Every so often we took a break to view a beautiful wildflower, or to learn about a geological structure. Chris seemed to blend humour and education so seamlessly on every nature stop.

After a steady and beautiful climb we reached our destination. My body seemed so light once I took off my pack! There were still some remnants of the winter’s snow fall. The lake was clear and crisp and the mountains stood up so tall on every side of us. We took some pictures and began to search for the best place to set up our camp.

Chris lead us as we chose a camping spot, examined the various options we had for getting fresh water, taught us how to set up the kitchen, and learned how to do a ‘bear hang’ to protect our food and other smelly items.

We spent the late afternoon swimming in the cold but refreshing lake, and sunning ourselves on our sleeping mats. When it was time for dinner, Chris called us up to the ‘kitchen’ which is the specific place we had mapped out for preparing and eating our meals. Waiting for us was a hearty and healthy glory bowl! We devoured our meals and dessert and after completing our bear hang, we went off to watch the gorgeous sunset.

A bit later at bedtime, we all snuggled up into our sleeping bags for a surprisingly comfortable sleep after a long day of sweat, swimming and sunsets. The stars spilled over the night sky like glittery gems, and the peace and quiet was just perfect.

Morning began with a slow but steady start. Chris made us hot, delicious breakfast burritos, with hot coffee and we took one more swim in the refreshing lake. To this day, the feeling of waking up outdoors to a hot coffee and a glacier fed lake swim will be at the top of my list of happiest moments.

Our second day had a longer hike planned, and I was super excited to get started. After our morning swim and breakfast we packed up our camp, filled up our water bottles and got started on the trail. The air was already feeling hot and we knew we needed to get the more exposed part of our hike completed earlier in the day.

We hiked our way up to the highest viewpoint in the surrounding area and took our backpacks off once we got to the top. It was breathtaking.

After a brief rest we continued on by scaling large boulders, walking through fields of wildflowers, and navigating some steep downhill terrain. Our second day of hiking was much longer and more remote than the first and it felt so great to have a guide with us to aid in the route-finding.

By lunch time we had made great progress on our trek, but we were hungry! It was time to set our packs down again and enjoy yet another fresh and healthy meal beside another crystal clear glacial lake. Once lunch was finished, we packed up and made our way towards our final descent of the mountains toward the parking lot.

As the sweat poured from every pore on my body, I felt the heavy weight of my pack on my back. But this was a load I was so excited to carry. It was one that allowed me to explore new places and new skills.

When we reached the car, our smiles told the whole story. Or was it the cold drinks and salty chips Chris had saved for us? We laughed and rested on the drive home, and I personally could not wait to plan my next overnighter in the backcountry.

After taking Backpacking 101, I expected to have an adventure, but I didn’t expect to be so well cared for. I didn’t expect to feel so at peace in the middle of nowhere. And I didn’t expect that adventurous would become part of my identity. And that is exactly what this Mama needed.

Over the following months, our little crew of adventurers planned and executed our own overnight backcountry hiking experience on the Howe Sound Crest Trail. And I can assure you, if it wasn’t for Backpacking 101, there would have been significantly less laughs and optimism on that trip!

 

 

Thanks Lana for such a fun trip and this report! If you are interested in booking our Playwest Backpacking 101 contact us now and take your hiking to the next level!

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