Back at the end of April, we headed to Dinosaur Provincial Park for a couple of days. This is definitely one of those adventures that keeps you in check letting you know that not all trips are ever going to be perfect. You may have a shitty time, your life might flash before your eyes, you may run over a cute little animal, you might be scared the whole damn night and not get a wink of sleep, nearly run out of gas, and not be satisfied with the photos you took…
Well, add all of these awful experiences into one trip giving you the perfect combination of a less than ideal way to start off the adventure/camping season. I mean, who even goes tenting at the end of April anyway?!
So, what the heck even happened? Here is what went down:
I wrote about the strong call of the wild sparking the need for a backpacking trip a few blog posts back, and now just over a month later I am less than fifty days before setting foot on the trail I chose to explore.
In realizing just how fast my next backpacking trip is coming up after I had decided that I “never wanted to go backpack again” and somewhat spontaneously decided to do this trip makes me a little nervous. Was there a particular reason I felt this way, or was that just the exhaustion and battered feet speaking? Am I going to somehow f— this trip up and want to go home early? Will I get eaten by wolves or have to fight off a bear? So many ‘what if’s?!’ playing through my mind trying to psych me out.
It’s not that I don’t doubt my ability, because I don’t think the distance is going to be an issue. It’s only 11km to the campsite, on a relatively flat trail winding through rainforest and beach. I’ve done this distance in a day with enough ups and downs, stretching what should have been 11km to 18.5 km after all was said and done. I just need to learn from my last backpacking trip and not make those same mistakes again to make life on the trail a little more enjoyable.
My Dad took us out on an off-trail hiking trip one afternoon through a rich, biodiverse forest on crown land that very few people (if any) have set foot in. This place isn’t on the map as a hike, there are no trail reports, and I’d be surprised if there are any other photos of this place on the internet of than the ones below. Heck, it isn’t really even a trail! We drove down a winding gravel road with twists and turns until we arrived at our destination. There was no trailhead, and no marking of where we were going – just going to a spot based off my Dad’s memory.
We put on our packs and walked into the forest, heading north into the unknown. Hiking down wild game trails, and carving our own path when the game trails became less prominent. We crossed over fallen trees, carefully across water and muddy sections, on exploding puffballs, and ducking through dark, mossy forest making our way through wild rose bushes that grabbed onto our clothes, and poked into our skin. My hair was brushed through with evergreen branches, and I was still finding sticks in my hair hours later. One branch even made its way into the palm of my hand when I was crossing a sketchy section and used a tree to brace myself – ouch!
This was a great adventure to someplace I wasn’t able to google ahead of time (even with my pro searching skills) to research down to the very last detail (which I normally do in preparation for the majority of hikes I head out on. What can I say? I like to be prepared!) Hiking off-trail is something I rarely do anymore, but as a kid that is really all I ever did (with my parents when we used to go shed hunting, blueberry picking, to learn navigation skills, or just for a fun walk in the woods).
Off-trail hiking gives you a different perspective and experience than being on a trail, you can choose your own trail and go where the landscape catches your eye creating an adventure unique to you. It can be a bit more challenging though (walking over fallen trees for a couple hours is hard work!), there are no bridges to cross over rivers, or barriers to keep you out of danger. But it is so rewarding! You can see things you may not have been able to otherwise, the details are right in your face (don’t follow to close to the person in front of you, or they will literally be in your face as the tree branch slaps you in the forehead – I’m speaking from experience here!) And most importantly, you do need to ensure your safety and be prepared for any situation. (In this case, my Dad has been to this location before, is a great navigator, we had GPS’s, compasses, walkie-talkies and our 10 essentials in case something happened.)
Scroll down to see more photos of our hike!
* My definition of off-trail hiking is that where you head out to the backcountry and create your own hiking trail. NOT by going off a well-established trail creating a shortcut, or trampling over protected lands. Please check with your local rules and regulations before you hike off-trail.
Too often we live just for the weekend. The stoke slowly starts mid-day Wednesday and increasingly gets higher until Friday afternoon for peak stoke lasting to Sunday evening when it’s “back to reality” for the “nine to five” for the week ahead. In which we repeat over and over until our two-week vacation mid-summer, and then again on repeat year after year living our lives on autopilot until retirement.
This concept is something I cannot understand (along with the many societal exceptions we are presented with that we “must do” to go through our lives. but that is for another blog post at another time). Why do wait until the weekend to enjoy our time, why do we wait until we are retired to live our best life, when we are fully able to enjoy it now? Time is not promised to anyone and can slip away at any moment. You are given one life, and it’s up to you how you want to live it.
We need to live in the now, to fully make the most of the time we have and this is where microadventures come in to play. And if you are anything like me and need adventure more often than not, or you feel like you will be on the verge of cabin fever and a freak out if don’t get outside like yesterday – microadventures are a great way to get your “fix” in right now. You do not need to wait for your weekend, or your two or three week annual vacation to do something. You can do something as soon as you finishing reading this post (or if you want to go RIGHT NOW and read the rest later, HAVE FUN! and do let me know what you did, I am stoked for you!) or you can go tonight, or tomorrow morning.
Microadventures are a great way to mix up the monotony of your week. If you are thinking that you simply “cannot” make time in your week for an adventure – maybe your priorities are not in the right place and you need to do some evaluating. You can spend less time in the kitchen, get out from in front of the TV and off the sofa, stop mindlessly scrolling through social media (check your screentime data on your phone to see how much time you are wasting). The laundry and dishes can wait. (My parents are probably freaking about the last statement and my endless pile of laundry I just brought over to their place.)
I am terrible at math, each persons situation is different, and the hours will vary – but let’s use this as an example: There are 168 hours in the week. You probably work 40 hours a week. Add an hour of commute time each way and an hour to get ready each day before work – you are only at 55 hours of time spent for the “nine to five”. This leaves you with 113 hours left to do whatever you would like in that time. Sure you have to sleep (56 hours if you sleep 8 hours a night) so you are now at 57 hours left to do what you want for the week. You could essentially drive across Canada (non-stop) in that time.
Think about that for a second…
Five thousand, five hundred and fifteen kilometers (or 3427 miles) of diverse landscape that you could experience in that time.
Now just imagine what you can do during this time (or even part of this time) experiencing microadventures close to home?!
Pretty unbelievable, right?
TABLE OF CONTENTS
WHAT IS A MICROADVENTURE?
A microadventure is a simple, inexpensive, quick adventure close to your homebase. Alastair Humphreys explains it best (and it’s a coffee reference, so of course I am going to love it), that microadventures are “Like a shot of espresso. You get the taste. You get the effect. Maximum impact in the short, condensed burst of adventure.”
They don’t need to be a big grand adventure, and it doesn’t really need much planning. It can be as simple as a walk in your neighbourhood park, an early morning paddle, or even an evening mountain summit. Microadventures will look different for everyone, someone living in a city hundreds of kilometers from the mountains won’t be able to do a sunrise summit, and someone who does live in the mountains won’t get the urban experience. Do what you can, where you are – sans FOMO. Just getting outdoors to connect to nature to take in as much adventure as you can, and challenging yourself to break routine, step out of your comfort zone and create your own unique adventures.
HOW TO PLAN A MICROADVENTURE?
The hardest part is always starting, so start small. You don’t need to add an adventure into your life every single day, so do what you can and go from there, once you have decided what day(s)/time(s) fit your schedule, and what type of microadventure you want to do – “book” them into your calendar. Depending on the type of adventure you may not need much, but do be safe when you go. Check out my 10 Essentials Checklist to ensure you are well-equipped for any situation.
10 IDEAS FOR MICROADVENTURES
Here are a list of ten ideas for your microadventures. This list is by no means a complete list as the possibility for adventure is endless, but is rather a starting point for you to be inspired to create your own. Get out there, adventure awaits!
1. WALK IN THE PARK
A simple microadventure that doesn’t take much planning. Head to the park in your neighbourhood, or be really adventurous and choose a park (or trail) in your area that you haven’t yet explored! (Or complete a trail in the opposite direction than you previously have for a familiar, but brand new experience).
2. BIKE RIDE THROUGH YOUR CITY OR TOWN
Choose to go to work, for a coffee date, head to the weekend market, or to pick up some groceries for dinner by bike rather than driving. You might explore parts of the city you might not have been in previously, and you might find new gems in your neighbourhood.
3. CAMPING TRIP
Yes, you heard me right. Head out right after work and come back in for work the next day. The campsite will be less busy/noisy – so you can get a restful sleep away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Pure bliss.
4. SUPPER AT THE LAKE
Not quite up to camping during the week? Day-use areas have picnic benches and fire pits, bring a quick and easy meal (hot dogs anyone?!) and bask in that beautiful evening light as the sun sets. Don’t forget the s’mores! (Please only have a fire when/where permitted, check for local fire bans before lighting a fire and fully extinguish your fire before leaving your location)
5. EARLY MORNING PADDLE
There is nothing quite like getting in an early morning paddle in just as the sun starts to rise. The water is calm, the air is crisp and the world is quiet and it is so peaceful.
6. WATCH THE SUN RISE FROM THE HIGHEST POINT YOU CAN GET TO
Head out before sunrise and hike to the highest point you can get to whether it is a large hill, a mountain, the top of a tall parkade and watch the sunrise. Bring coffee!
7. EVENING FISHING TRIP
There is nothing quite as relaxing as fishing. Head out to the river, local fish pond, closest lake and spend the evening trying to catch tomorrows dinner. (Please obey local fishing regulations)
8. PICK A RANDOM SPOT ON THE MAP
Open up a map of your city, or of your general adventure location, close your eyes and pick a random spot and go. Decide how you would like to get there (walk, bike, skateboard, boat, etc) and make an adventure out of it.
9. SUNSET SUMMIT
Similar to #6 where you watched the sunrise from the highest point, head out to the highest point and watch the sunset and the stars peek out of the night sky. Don’t forget your headlamp on your way back down!
10. CREATE YOUR OWN MICROADVENTURE
Make an adventure unique to you. Do you drive to work? Why not wake up earlier and take the scenic route by bike? Hike between two personal important locations. Venture through your neighbourhood in a totally different way than you normally do. There are no limits on what constitutes as a microadventure. Get out there, and explore!
If you are feeling extra spontaneous, write down all the adventures you are willing go on, fold them up and put them in a jar. When the day comes (or the day before so you are at least prepared) pick one of the adventures out of the jar and go. No putting the adventure back, or saying no. Just go.
BUT WHAT IF IT’S RAINING / COLD / SNOWING OUT THERE?!
Back in the 1930s The Mountaineers, a climbing and outdoor club in Seattle put together a list of gear called the 10 Essentials to help people be prepared for emergency situations in the outdoors. This list has been modified since to include 10 types of gear rather than individual items and should be tailored to your specific adventure. A multi-day backpacking trip is going to require more than an hour long hike close to home, and a kayak or bike trip may need additional gear not listed so please use this list as a guideline rather than a complete list.
Bringing the 10 Essentials is something that should be second nature to any adventurer. Most adventures won’t need the use of every item, but if something went wrong you will definitely be thankful that you were carrying these items!
Not only is it important to have these with you, but it is also important to know how to use the items in the event that you do need them. Learn how to read a map, use your compass and GPS, your bear spray, splint a broken bone, etc. Your outdoor gear store (like MEC or REI) is a great place to ask for some advice, and they occasionally have some events/courses if you do need some training (or they will know where to direct you to one) Learning First Aid is also a great skill, as well as any adventure-specific training you may need (like Avalanche Safety Training). These items and skills can be a lifesaver should you or your adventure partner sustain an injury, get lost and need to camp out in the wilderness overnight, or should a natural disaster occur.
Whether or not you call it chasing sunrise, dawn patrol, or just too damn early; a sunrise adventure is always so rewarding! Driving on quiet roads, the stillness of the morning just before the sun rises over the horizon, an empty parking lot with no one around but you and the people you want to be with, maybe the lucky sight of wildlife, and of course the sunrise.
However, it is the actual getting up and out of bed when your alarm is nagging at you at way-too-early o’clock that is usually the hardest part no matter your good intentions; and no matter how much you want to get out there at a decent time to get a good start on your days adventures, there is part of you that just wants to be laying in bed on your day off until the early afternoon and make it a sunset trip. I totally get that!
To clear that groggy, just-woken up brain of yours so you can get out there and enjoy a full day of adventure, here are four tips on how to make getting up for a sunrise trip easier (and three reasons why you should give it a solid attempt to get out there for sunrise).
I have had my KEEN Pyrenees* hiking boots for over a year now and figured I had enough mileage on diverse terrain with them to write up a review.
When I was looking for a new pair of boots I knew that I wanted something supportive and versatile. I hike on a bunch of different trails ranging from the prairie grasslands and rocky mountains of Alberta to the coastal rainforests and beaches of British Columbia and everything in-between. I wanted something that could withstand full days of hiking without wanting to throw my boots off the side of a mountain and my North Face Hedgehog Fastpack Hiking Shoeswere just not cutting it anymore.
Every adventure that I embark on will always start with a cup of coffee as I drive to our destination. But if you want to get into technicalities of what is in my cup, it is either going to be a vanilla latte or a caramel macchiato. I don’t usually enjoy coffee without copious amounts of milk so the coffee usually stops there as travelling with a tiny carton of milk has disaster written all over it. No one wants to deal with spilled milk in their vehicle, or risk it spoiling. I’ve tried powdered milk – it’s just not the same, and settling for a cup of gas station “cappuccino” is always full of regret. (Yes, even at 3:00 AM with 21 hours of driving down and three hours to go…)
Cue Kuju Coffee, a pocket pour over coffee founded by two Eagle Scout brothers who were tired of watered-down, bland instant coffee who set out to create an ethically-sourced, single-serve pour over that is not only lightweight and easy to pack, but is easy to use and full of flavour! All you need is hot water, your favourite camp mug or Hydro Flask and you are set for some tasty coffee wherever your adventures take you.
This is probably my favourite wildlife photo I’ve ever taken, and on one of my favourite road trips! I had pulled over at a rest stop along the highway to take a break after driving through some sketchy winter conditions through a high mountain pass when this beautiful raven sitting on a signpost in front of my Jeep caught my eye. I knew if I stood on-top of one of the rocks a few feet away I could maybe get up high enough to take a decent photo of it. I quietly got out of my vehicle, grabbed my camera out of the back seat, shutting the door ever so gently and walking slowly to my vantage point not to frighten it.
I didn’t start taking photos right away, I just watched it do its thing looking off into the snowy, mountainous landscape before snapping a few shots (as I usually do when taking photos). I want to enjoy living in the moment before seeing life behind my lens. Doing this will typically make me miss a shot, but in my opinion life is about living, not living to get “the shot”. (I’ve been there before) So if the shot happens, I am obviously going to be stoked and if not it’s really no big deal. It’s the experiences that I am having that matter the most.