Monday, March 3, 2014

Lessons Learned to Live By

Even on a cold day the postcard setting of Capstick Cape Breton was comforting.
NOTE: This is a version of a column I had published in the Kings County Record recently.  Maybe sometime soon I'll get to printing the entire journal entry here.  The trip was full of life lessons and I absorbed some great stuff that I haven't forgotten.  Obviously I haven't provided all the lessons here but I hope I have presented an entertaining view of some of what we learned.

A few years ago now, well maybe over a decade ago, I guess, I spent a long weekend trekking through Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  That trip resulted in many great memories of some fantastic winter scenery.  That’s right, winter scenery.  My buddy Pete and I left his home in Antigonish to spend three winter nights touring the Park.  I could go on and on about the trip and the adventurous spirit that we set out with.  Heck the drive back to Antigonish after our trip was an adventure in itself that would require more space than I have here.  The biggest thing that I took away from that memorable venture however, Pete and I wrote down a list of lessons learned.  I was flipping through some journals and albums the other day and found this list of lessons. 

In all Pete and I wrote down 21 lessons.  I laughed as I noted the first lesson we had written down.  “Instant potatoes, Ready Made Bacon, Lipton’s Soupworks are all very tasty.”  When winter camping, most food even bad food tastes great.  That is likely the lesson here.  Lesson 9 also referred to food but in a different manner.  Pete packed in some maple syrup and didn’t pack it in a bag and in the cold weather it broke open inside his pack.  Luckily, in the winter time, bears hibernate otherwise we could have been dinner.
Pancake ice on the shores near Ingonish.

Number 10 on the list might be appropriate considering the weather we’re having now.  “Remember to get weather forecasts before hike, but don’t let weather change your plans just your preparation.”  We had crazy weather as it went from 4°C to -14°C within an hour as we climbed out of our tents on the first morning.  Everything changed to ice in minutes.  While it was difficult it also added to our adventure and we adapted well.  I also liked the way we worded that lesson.

One lesson I still haven’t learned made number 7 on our list “Always scout out area very well before erecting tent, place in area of less wind perhaps, don’t jump the gun.”  This lesson came from our first night as we pitched our tent on the first tent platform at Fishing Cove and later, after supper, we found a much better tent location. I still though let my trail weariness steer me astray on this one.  Now that I have re-read my list maybe next time I’ll remember.

My feet are usually warm, and I’m not bothered that much by cold feet.  Pete however claims lucky lesson 13.  “Socks, socks, and more socks, = happiness in winter.”  I agree fully with this lesson, and find it very important to have dry socks when you crawl into your winterized tent for the night.  Warm feet result in a better sleep when you’re winter camping, and sleep is good no matter what season you’re camping in.

Small fishing piers dotted the coast lines and added color to the winter scene.
Number 19 on the list refers back to our drive home and states “Don’t be scared to be spontaneous.”  We took a back road and we didn’t even mind getting lost.  It resulted in Pete taking his first trip on a cable ferry and it was Cape Breton so the scenery was spectacular.  

There were numerous other lessons we took from our trip but I have highlighted some of the key ones here.  We originally wrote the lessons by candle light while sitting in a warming hut along the Cleyburn Valley Trail on the east side of the Park.  As I write this my mind wanders back to that evening as we sat next to the warm fire.  My whisperlite stove is brewing tea and Pete and I simply smile.  I think I need to go camping soon.
Rugged coastlines dominated the Highlands and we wished we had more time to explore.

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