Winter, 2021. I was on a Zoom call with my husband’s sister. She and her husband live in another country two time zones away, share life in a communal family household, and were then working from home. Not surprising that we rarely connect; my husband and I jumped at Nancy’s invitation to meet them for a happy-hour visit. After catching up on their merry-go-round of life, Nancy shifted the conversation to her urgency to connect on this winter day.
“I need something to plan and look forward to!”
Oh I could relate. Even during the best of life circumstances, without something exciting coming up the future looks dismal.
Nancy, dedicated in maintaining her health and fitness, was feeling ready to push her hiking passion forward a notch by adding overnight camping. I had enthused often about my love for such adventures and encouraged her, “let’s do it together. Maybe other women could join us!”.
The likelihood of reaching this goal this year with so many shifting variables was a wildly hopeful shot in the dark. But with a “why not?!!” Nancy and I jumped in. We’d dream up a plan to carry as far as possible.
Who else would we ask? Top of my list was my daughter Renee, an experienced thru hiker who showed me through the planning and possibilities of multiple day hiking. Her response was a quick yes. Yay!! Nancy checked with her sisters about joining us, being clear on details for this kind of hike: no electricity or running water; reasonable physical challenges and rewarding views; backpack priorities were sleeping bag, rain gear, minimal clothing, basic nourishing food. Weighing in on practicalities like travel, work, home responsibilities – and motivation – Nancy’s sister Ruth was a ready YES. We were a family foursome.
Where would we go? Renee is familiar with the hut and hike system where she lives in Quebec; research for Parc National du Mont-Mégantic landed us a hike-in home base cabin with four bunks, a nearby outhouse and cut wood for an outdoor fire pit and indoor stove. Perfect.
When was a big question narrowed down by work, university classes starting in September and previously-scheduled vacations. Using a blurry crystal ball we predicted forthcoming travel openings and aimed for September: this was no small detail – Nancy was flying from Minnesota, USA; Ruth from British Columbia; and me from Nova Scotia. We spun the wheel and set our hiking dates for September 10-13; committed with high hopes, a prayer, and a non-refundable cabin reservation.
We watched and waited hopefully throughout the weeks of summer, planning “as if” the hike was going to happen. Renee shared her master packing list: we collaborated on our gear needs; discussed food and water supplies; dehydrated meals; conditioned ourselves for endurance, i.e.hiking with a heavy bag of flour in our backpacks.
And what sometimes happens: three of us had physical mishaps that tried to mess with our mental endurance.
In July Nancy was buzzing around the house; snagged her right baby toe on the furniture. Crack. A nurse practitioner confirmed it was broken. Oh no!
“With several weeks to heal it just had to get better by September,” Nancy told us later.
She let it rest (a bit), protected it from getting jarred or stepped on, let it heal. Which it did.
Ruth was rear-ended in her vehicle three days before our scheduled hike. The driver at fault, a kinesiologist student, advised Ruth what signs to watch for the following day. Fortunately, she was fine.
Three weeks before the hike I was running up our open tread wooden staircase, and in a way too complicated for words, sprained my right ankle and scraped my shin.
I also said “this has to get better” but forgot the compression or icing routine until a week later when I finally went to ER for an expert’s opinion. After which, tight-fitting cycling sox and ice packs (along with a few more days treating it kindly), praying I could ‘let it go’, I was ready to hike the trails.
Interesting to me was that we hadn’t shared our mishaps with each other when they happened. I think it was a matter of not dwelling on something that can trigger fear to haunt our thoughts; don’t give it airtime to create worry for the others.
Thankfully all of us were able to board the flights we’d booked and once on the trail our mind, body and spirit worked in harmony. Sole Sister conversations on and off the trail were as refreshing and inspiring as the views that never ended.
Nancy’s desire was to do a multiple day hike. And Renee’s goal (a big thanks to her intuitive leadership) was to provide a challenge that would be a stretch, but offer the best possible experience that doesn’t push one over the edge.
Reaching those goals deserved a toast; an extra special treat we carefully accounted for in adding up the weight of our backpacks!
We – the Sole Sisters- dared to dream a scheme and were thrilled it happened. We hope to share a trail together another time, somewhere else. And I also hope this story inspires you to hold on and and nurture those sparks of desire to explore something you not only want to look forward to, but to accomplish.
I’d love to hear your dreams. Your stories. Dare to try, my friend.