Exactly a year ago we were doing some car camping – after coming to the realization that I might not enjoy hiking/backpacking the way my partner does – I gave it one more try by switching gears a bit. He was resolved to the idea that I would never again accompany him on his hikes. It was a sad day, but he tried to accommodate and in an effort to keep some type of activity in common he offered to take me car camping to see if maybe I’d enjoy that better than hiking. I knew this was not something he was devoted to doing full time, but I appreciated the sentiment. So, on Labour Day Weekend of 2015 we went to La Manche Park to enjoy each other’s company. Long story short – I was one miserable creature – I failed yet again. Everything seemed to be an issue for me : the ground under the tent was slanty, it was cold, it rained quite a bit, I was chewing too much gum and that made me bloated… You name it, anything that could bother me, did – and it showed in my demeanour, I was awfully crooked the whole time. It was probably the last time I went out in the woods for any amount of time. I gave up trying because I simply did not enjoy myself and found all sorts of reasons to dislike it – it didn’t help that I was being accommodated in all sorts of ways – I just didn’t have it in me to let myself enjoy it. So I called it quits – that is, until now.
My partner had organized a backpacking trip to the Outport Trail in Terra Nova National Park for this year’s Labour Day Weekend. I knew a couple of people had signed up and as the day approached I toyed with the idea of joining in as well. Why all of a sudden I’d sign up for a 50km hike, you ask? Well, I’ve been reevaluating everything I knew about myself, my attitude and most importantly I’ve been awfully jealous of all the photos I’ve been seeing my partner bring home after each and every hike! They were simply spectacular – I didn’t realize Newfoundland scenics could be this beautiful! Every sunset and sunrise, every coastal shot made me ache with longing- my inner photographer missed the time of photo taking trips, the joy of seeing a story unfold in front of me as I reviewed pictures I’d taken that day. Taking pictures of your surroundings and then going through the processing phase to arrive at the final product is such a rewarding act. You feel like a creator of sorts.
As the day of the trip approached I expressed the idea of joining in. My partner was a tad surprised (and probably a bit sceptical ) by my sudden interest but instead of dismissing it he embraced it and offered to do a couple of shakedown hikes to prep me and when the departure day came we packed up and left for Terra Nova.
I should mention that the 50km that we were originally planning to do consisted of: 16km to the first campsite in South Broad Cove to stay overnight, the following day we were going to continue for 8km into an area that was officially closed to hikers so it would have involved a lot of bushwhacking to get through the overgrown parts (think: no board walks and having to cross various streams) – the final destination that we were trying to reach was Park Harbour. The same day we’d turn around in Park Harbour to make it back to South Broad Cove to camp again and the following day return to our cars. I will spare you the mystery right now and let you know that I chickened out when we started on the overgrown section of the trail. We crossed couple of small streams and all I could think of was “We’ll have to cross all this again…” – that thought made me uneasy. I felt very shaky every time crossing the streams – the rocks that we were using to help us cross were very slippery and I remembered the last time I slipped and fell into a stream was not very pleasant. So I pointed it out and just like that we turned around. On the way back we made it as far as Minchin’s Cove – 14km from the trail head – so a little bit back past South Broad Cove. All in all we hiked about 33km during the weekend.
The verdict is in and it’s a positive one – we are already planning the next backpacking adventure and I started reading the Appalachian Trail book my partner tried to get me to read so many times before.
I’ve learned that – like with anything in life – attitude is everything and it can make you or break you. I learned that if I accept the small discomforts of the trail (like wet feet) I am more likely to come out the other end victorious and ready for the next best thing. Same as taking the picture when the light is right – I simply decided to enjoy the beauty of the trail and the company of a loved one – and I’m glad to say that I found my happy place on the trail. The food was right if not a tad too plentiful, the weight on my back was manageable and my shoes were 100 times better than what I was used to wearing before. Not counting a couple of minor breakdowns along the way and the fact that I made everybody turn around before we reached the end, I still deem this expedition a success and one of many more to come.