My first foray into a “real” hiking-backpacking-Canadian-outdoor-experience was a disaster.
Despite all of my pre-planning, organizing, education and work in environmental sciences and field studies, the trip was a total fail.
In 1996, I was a single young woman fresh out of university, with a degree under my belt and a passion to save the environment! I was working as a Trips Coordinator for a non-profit nature conservation organization, so surely you would expect I'd know what I was doing. My boyfriend at the time said “this is your thing, but I'll come along. Let me know if you need help”. I declined all help and proceeded to menu plan, accumulate camping equipment, and purchase topographical maps of the Bruce Peninsula. We were going to hike nearly 80 km in five days with all of our equipment on our backs.
We arrived at an upscale B&B in Wiarton, enjoyed a lovely dinner and had a restful sleep in a plush bed. We enjoyed a hearty breakfast with our hosts and then hopped on the trail. And that's where the magic ended. Within an hour we'd lost the up-to-date trail markers, hit a dead end, doubled back at least twice and likely trespassed on private rural properties that we weren't supposed to.
By nightfall, I was bleeding from my shoulders, hips and heels, having acquired completely wrong sizes and styles of backpack and hiking boots. We'd not reached our first assigned camping site. Not by a long-shot. My boyfriend set up our tiny tent, pitched most of the fresh food I'd packed deep into the woods and made a couple pb & j's. I sat and sulked, overlooking a pasture of cows. We were squatters for the night.
At some point in the night I heard the cows from the pasture lowing. “Odd”, I thought and drifted back to sleep. At sunrise we emerged from the tent, with wounded shoulders and more deeply wounded pride. It was at that point we discovered quite a lot of bear scat around our tent. That wasn't cows I'd heard... it was bears! We packed up hastily, used the map to approximate an exit from the woods toward a logging road and started walking. Within an hour we'd reached the road. Within 30 minutes a pick up full of teens stopped for us. Within 20 minutes we were back in Wiarton! What had taken us a full-day of hiking was a mere 20 minute drive on a country backroad. Crushed.
I was too mortified to go back into the B&B to get our car keys, so my boyfriend did and simply said we'd had a change of heart. We got in the car, and drove to his family's cottage where we enjoyed a quiet few days sitting outside watching the water. It was still too cold for swimming, so we just dipped our toes.
My bruises and bloody spots healed. Eventually, I learned to laugh at the absurdity of it all. I could have spent these intervening years looking back and feeling defeated. Or I could decide to use these hard-earned obstacles as opportunities to do it differently next time. I chose the latter... over and over again.
Lisa has a degree in biology and environmental science as well as a 750-hour certification in Hatha Yoga, obtained from the Esther Myers Studio in Toronto. Hailing from Guelph, Ontario, she has been teaching yoga as her primary career since 2008 with focus on children, youth and family practices. Lisa's passions include wilderness camping with her family, refurbishing thrift store finds and creating healthy, environmentally friendly products