Facing negative challenges and creating positive ones

With the hiking and camping season gearing up, my mind has been reminiscing of my adventures last year and day dreaming about the trips I want to take this year.

Last summer my family and I hiked to Cowan Lake in Riding Mountain National Park and spent the night in the back country. I am so proud of my family for accomplishing that amazing goal. I knew my husband and large dog would easily do well on the trip but my daughter and little dog blew my mind with their stamina and eagerness to complete the trail.

I planned the 15.6 km round trip hike because I did not want to lounge on a camp site, an activity that I associated with alcohol. I wanted to be on the trail the whole day, take our time, and arrive shortly before dinner. I wanted to have just enough energy left after filtering water to drink, setting up our tent, and eating our dinner that we would almost be ready for bed.

My mission was accomplished. After dinner we played Go Fish then all of us, dogs and packs included piled into our small tent for a couple of good night stories. Our daughter fell asleep almost immediately and my husband and I stayed up talking and playing cards. We were not too far behind with drifting off to dream land.

Our next camping trip was with my two best friends and our families. We have camped together for the last five years and it is an annual tradition that we all look forward to. Last year was different and I experienced a lot of trepidation leading up to the weekend.

I was miserable in the beginning. I was still so new to learning how to be around alcohol and much of that camping trip was spent sitting on the camp site while the kids played at the playground within eye and earshot. Sitting around was the opposite of what I needed. On the first night, I found myself crying quietly in the dark around the camp fire. I left without saying goodnight and I zipped myself up in my tent and sleeping bag and I cried myself to sleep.

On the second night my sober laugh got us a visit from Conservation Officers while we were playing Cards Against Humanity. They followed “a very loud, distinctive laugh” from three bays over to tell us to quiet down for the night. I proved to myself that I did not need alcohol to create fun.

My weekend turned out to be fine but I needed to rekindle what camping meant to me. I wanted to build on our epic family hike so I convinced my husband to change our summer plans. The two of us originally planned to hike and camp in northern Manitoba in Pisew Falls Provincial Park and instead we packed the car to the brim with supplies, our daughter, and dogs and headed west to Lake Louise and Jasper, Alberta to camp with the mountains as our back drop.

We went on multiple small hikes and visited various waterfalls in the area. It was exactly what my heart and soul needed. We were unable to camp in Jasper though because both our daughter and little dog threw-up in the tent on the second last night at Lake Louise. The soft shell and tent area at Lake Louise is protected by an electric fence so we felt safe after the tent floor was cleaned and the sleeping bag was washed at the laundromat. Our site in Jasper would have been right where the grizzly bears play. We opted for a hotel with a hot tub and pool, a close second place to sleeping under the stars.

In Jasper I discovered Tea Leaf Boutique an adorable shop that sells unique clothing, accessories, and loose leaf tea. Tea is a tool of mine for sobriety so I was beyond stoked to find Hikers Honey Ginger Rooibos tea – perfect for the back country.

My goal for the next couple of years with camping and hiking is to choose a different camp ground each time. I want to explore new sites, hike different terrain, and grow and develop my outdoor skills.

My husband and I have Mantario from the south trailhead to Caribou Lake planned for later this year. I have heard incredible things about this trail and how physically demanding it is. I am excited to give it a whirl – slow and steady. Patience is key to my journey.

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