Onesies and Winter Camping: Or, How I fell in Love with Backpacking

I was born into a family of hikers. My grandfather helped found the East Coast Trail, a 300-kilometer hiking trail in Newfoundland. My parents brought my older sister when she was only six months old to hike Le Tour du Mont Blanc. Although they had to face the disapproving comments of the French about hiking with such a young baby, they finished the trek carrying my sister in a sling for ten days. Sadly, I am not as cool, and cannot claim like my sister to have hiked the tour du Mont Blanc as a newborn.

I grew up going on day hikes with my family. Like most children, I wasn’t always happy to be forced to go on eight-hour hikes. Once dragged out of the house, I did always end up by enjoying myself. Hiking meant picking blueberries and learning flower names from my grandma. She would give me ten cents every time I adequately identified a flower. In the winter we would go cross-country skiing, which I liked to call “walking on sticks.” My mom quickly discovered the magic trick to keep my sisters and me going though: a stash of sour lemon candies and a bag of birdseed to feed the chickadees.

I also grew up going to a canoe-camping sleep-away camp called Minogami.

I went to Minogami for several summers straight. At first when I was eight years old the canoe trips were only a couple of days long, but by the time I was 15 years old, the canoe trips lasted 25 days. For 25 days straight I canoed alongside of nine other girls, through rapids, reservoirs, and lakes across Quebec. I have countless magical memories from these trips. From jumping off bridges, to losing a canoe in a rapid, to laying on sandy beaches at night staring at the infinite starry sky.

Canoe-camping trips were a big part of my early teen years

As I grew older, and no longer went to summer camp, I started to miss the outdoors.

A few of my friends also felt the same way, which is why we decided to organize a hiking trip. Only problem? It was the middle of winter. Rather than waiting till the snow defrosted we decided to go on a snowshoe trip. Even though we ran out of toilet paper halfway through our trip, we had a great time. We started a tradition of going winter camping every year. We also started a tradition of always bringing our onesies along these trips. And so, every night as other hikers would pull out their sensible polar fleeces, we would whip out an array of brightly colored onesies.

The first backpacking trip I organized myself was a weeklong snowshoe trip with three of my friends.

When I was 18 years old, I decided to hike the East Coast Trail with one of my best friends, Stephanie.

Before I left my mom doubted our abilities, saying that we would get lost and fall off one of Newfoundland’s famous cliffs. It’s during this hike that I discovered the miracle of blazes. No need to know how to use a compass and map. It was just like following the yellow brick road. I learned a lot about backpacking during this trip. Such as it is not necessary to carry a two-pound foldout chair or three raincoats. I also discovered trail magic. People opening their homes and hearts to us, giving us rides and food. Even though I worked for Disney, I stand strongly with my belief that trails are the “most magical place on earth,” and this is due in great part to the kindness of others.

The East Coast Trail: My first thru-hike.

The following summer I thru-hiked the Long Trail with another one of my best friends, Myriam.

The Long Trail was more physically challenging then the East Coast Trail (even though I was no longer carrying a two-pound chair). After a week of hiking in the rain, I remember lying in the middle of the trail with Myriam, both of us refusing to get up for a good hour. It’s during this thru-hike that I infamously called my mom, telling her to never let me hike the Appalachian Trail.

Taken just after finishing my thru-hike of the Long Trail.

The Appalachian Trail will be the longest and hardest thru-hike that I will have attempted so far. During my thru-hike, I might call my mom and tell her to never let me hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Knowing myself, though, I will probably somehow still find myself two years from now on the border of Mexico, about to begin my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike.

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