|Cabot Trail, 2014|
Back from a wonderful camping trip to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, land of the beautiful Cabot Trail. Came back just in time for tropical storm Arthur to hit the shores of Nova Scotia; wouldn't have enjoyed being in a tent while ''The wind may be strong enough to blow the tattoo off your arm'' (dixit one radio announcer).
I have been camping since I was a baby, and apart from a few ungrateful years (between the ages of 13 and 16 approx.), I have always enjoyed it. Usually, the most basic the better: a tent, some minimal sleeping gear, just enough food and clothes. Which raises an important question: why on earth do we voluntarily make ourselves miserable sleeping in the woods with no modern facilities when we would be so comfortable at home?
That is because wilderness camping can teach one a few invaluable lessons, all the while being - against all odds - highly enjoyable! Here's why.
While camping I have learned...
... well, to begin with, I have learned a whole lot about fauna and flora, about survival skills and, depending on the specific spot, about historical facts pertaining to the the region. That is always fascinating to me. From the cultural point of view, in Nova Scotia I particularly enjoy Mi'kmaq legends. This time I have also learned about the Acadian culture.
... that wilderness sojourns are the best test on relationships. As my mother has always said, ''If you want to know whether you are compatible with someone or not, put up a tent together''. It is true that everyone's profound dispositions emerge in such situations. In our case I discovered that an enthusiastic 8 year-old can get a lot more done than an eye-rolling preteen.
... that a stroll in the woods with said preteen might be the most effective way to keep the communication lines open and to enjoy each other's presence.
... that the weak link in a group isn't necessarily the youngest. Both D and I currently have battle injuries that impede our hiking abilities (ankle and knee respectively), whereas the girls are top shape.
... that one is never too old to suffer from motion sickness on serpentine roads (luckily, stopping just long enough for your stomach's contents to settle, and having a black coffee, quickly solves the problem).
|Cabot Trail, 2014|
... that true campers are afraid of nothing, not even of changing clothes or even peeing between 2 open car doors on the side of the road.
... that there will inevitably be one member of the group who will insist on either a) wearing flip flops on a hike; b) not showering for a week; or c) any other mind boggling decision.
... that one group member will be annoying at any one point in time, and that it's okay as long as ''the annoying one'' isn't the same from one day to the next.
... that I'm less brave than I thought. A combination of D showing up unexpectedly in the dark and a neighboring camper snoring loudly scared the sh*** out of me this week. (This was bear country after all.)
|Cape Breton Highlands National Park, 2014|
... that the smallest specimens of wildlife will most likely make you the most miserable. Read: black flies, horse flies and mosquitoes galore.
... that the slightest change in weather can make a whole lot of a difference. For example, the wind picking up just enough to keep insects at bay!
... that small mammals can make a hell of a noise at night, leading you to think they are much bigger than they actually are.
... that all birds don't necessarily know that 3:30 am is no time to wake up noisily.
... that the beauty of nature is sufficient to keep one entertained and fill one's heart (except for road kill - I cannot count how many dead porcupines we saw, which led me to ask myself out loud ''With so many dead porcupines on the road, you wonder how many are in the woods'', to which D replied ''Well, probably none now!'')
... that unexpected surprises await you at the end of a long road. Examples include a beautiful waterfall at the end of a hike, and a National Park hidden at the end of a side road that nobody ever takes - in which case you have to be prepared for a detailed personal guided tour, for you are the first human being that poor park employee sees in days, and you are not to deny him the pleasure of finally explaining it all!
... that a story told by a kid is way more interesting that what actually happened. A alarmed a newly met friend by saying ''We were hiking and there was a big waterfall and I fell down'', when in fact she fell from a height of about 1 meter on our way to the waterfall (and was more scared than hurt).
|Cape Breton Highlands National Park, 2014|
... that children are LESS bored when left to their own devices in the woods than at home with tons of toys. Even when driving for hours on end we never heard a complaint, and we hadn't brought any electronic device whatsoever. Here's what happens when kids experience boredom: they become creative! They invented games, composed songs, and enjoyed the scenery.
... that being sufficiently hydrated and fed, and kept at the right temperature and humidity level, is enough to keep one perfectly content.
... (following from previous) that one cannot underestimate the amount of water that will be needed on a scorching hot day, neither the amount of warm layers that will be needed on a cold night (that's where technical clothes and sleeping bags come in handy).
... that freezing Canadian ocean water is the perfect antidote to overheating on a hike by 35+ degrees Celsius.
... that chopping wood and carrying water might be the best antidote to modern life's downsides (such as superficiality, egocentricity, depression and anxiety).
... that I look perfectly fine without any cosmetics or jewelry or hair products. I even learned that I smell fine without deodorant - I had forgotten to take it but there was no consequence apparently. Food for thought.
... that if you get fir resin on your arm on the first day, it will not come off and will stick to everything no matter how much you try to clean it (on the bright side, it smells wonderful).
... that owning less and doing less does not make life uncomfortable and boring: it actually reduces stress and enables you to fully enjoy the simplest things, like looking at a campfire while thinking of... nothing at all.
... that a quiet campfire is an excellent prompt for spontaneous meditation... that is, until the neighbours' lascivious moans kind of distract you slightly.
... (nothing to do with with previous point, ahem) that doing things 50% slower makes them at least 50% better.
... that there is so much we don't need.
... that less is more.
... that traveling can take you much farther than distant places. Traveling can take you within yourself.
|Cape Breton, 2014|
What have you learned while in the wilderness?
I will go camping again soon... and I am looking for simple yet delicious camping recipes. Any suggestions?