So we just got back from Prince Albert National Park today. We had planned to hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin. We got up early on Saturday, navigated a nasty Kingsmere Drive to the trailhead (it’s under heavy construction) and then started out.
The biggest question I had during the build up to this was how was Oliver going to hold up on the hike and with a pack. His pack fit him well, only had his sleeping bag, some clothes and his headlamp and knife in it but 40 kilometers over two days is really hard for anyone let alone an 8 year old.
He started out fine but even at the first campground, he was struggling. As we pushed on we passed kilometer six and he had tears running down his eyes and was saying, “I’m okay Dad, I’m okay.” He wasn’t. His feet were killing him. He had hikers on but it wasn’t working.
I have read all sorts of articles on REI and MEC about pushing kids too hard. It turns a hike into a forced march and makes them hate doing this. Since hiking is Oliver’s favorite thing in the world right now, I didn’t want to do this too him.
I suggested the idea to him and he seemed so relieved. Then he came and said, “I’m tough enough to keep going.” I just said that this looked like a good place to camp (and it was). Of course we had two tents and it
was a one tent campground but I was willing to explain my decision to any Parks Canada warden who came by says it has a two tent campground. We may or may not have been using that campsite but I’m not sure. When we got it, it just looked like a picnic area and a one tent campground but I’ll defer to Parks Canada on this one.
Oliver took off his hikers and put on his Dawgs but even then could barely walk he was in so much pain. He got better as the night went on but he had given it all he had.
Around 8:00 p.m., a light drizzle gave away to an impressive storm. Mark had a rain poncho on so he got the food up on the bear platform (anti bear platform?) and made sure no food was close to our tents. We had cooked well away from them but by the fact that you have to do that makes you realize how deep you are into bear country.
The storm continued for most of the night. The winds came up and we started to hear the trees snap during the night. Parks Canada does a really good job of thinning out the trees near your campground so there are no “widow makers” near but hearing those trees snap in the middle of the night is a terrifying sound especially when they are so close.
At 4:10 a.m., I heard an animal near by. Our tents have gazebos and were shut up for the night. Wendy and I have the Mountain Hardware Drifter 2 person tent which has two entrances. I had found a baseball sized branch and had put it outside my side of the tent earlier just in case. I had grabbed my headlamp and was ready to go check it out but it just sniffed around what sounded like the firepit (which we hadn’t used for this very reason) and kept on walking. There were bear tracks on the trail area this morning. It worked out the best for both of us. For me I didn’t have to get muddy and for the bear, he didn’t get his butt kicked.
We had a big breakfast, cleaned up our campground, and started the hike back to the Ford Flex. We took the Leave No Trace philosophy seriously. We packed out the garbage from the campground. Before we left Mark and I restacked the firewood and replenished the wood we used the night before. The campground was a mess before we got there with several large areas burned for bonfires by the beach (really people) and we did our best to clean some of that up as well.
Oliver was good until the last 750 metres and then he was in pain and crying. I had Wendy and Mark go ahead and open up the car and get him and I an ice cold Gatorade. Just as we came out of the trailhead Mark came running up and took Oliver’s pack and gave him and I cold drink.
We met a teen girl who was solo hiking to Grey Owl’s the day before. I had chatted with her dad as she left and she had made the hike and left early in the morning to get back early to meet her dad. She was chilling out at the trail head when we got back so Wendy took a cold drink down to her who seemed really happy with it. She was also surprised that Oliver had hiked as far as he did. That picked up his spirits and he left feeling in a good mood. The encouraging words of a mom, dad, and brother mean one thing but a compliment from a girl he only met hours before, well that is next level.
From there it was into Waskesiu to get some Doritos and then the long ride home.
Next year we will try to make it to Sandy Bay.
I can pretty demanding of the boys but as I have always told them, all I want to see is there best effort at things. Oliver put in a huge effort. He told me that, “I didn’t have enough left in the tank.” which is a great use of a sports cliche but I said back to him, “At eight years old, your tank may not have been big enough and that is okay.”