|The top of Mt. Franey Trail|
From Peggy’s Cove, where our daughter learned not to dunk her new camera into the salt water while climbing on the rocks—too late, unfortunately—to Cape Breton Highlands, it was a Canadian camping vacation of firsts. First trip where we ate delicious, if not tiny, fillets of fresh fish for dinner. First trip where we over-hiked the children on an exhausting trail.
At Cape Breton Highlands National Park, we took a loop trail. We usually hiked loops for variety of scenery and positive proof that we’d end up in the same place after beginning, the parking lot where the van was. It’s kilometers in Canada, not miles. Like I’ve said before in my Camping with Kids blog posts, it’s very important to understand length and challenge levels before hiking a particular trail. We know this. You know this. But sometimes mistakes happen and you need to be prepared for them.
We misunderstood the Mt. Franey Trail, with its steep climbs and switchbacks clinging to the wall of the valley. In our case, the sweeping climb came first, the sharper descent came last.
We learned only afterwards that it was 7.4 km [4.6 mi], a challenging Level 4 difficulty. It took us about six hours to hike this trail as we stopped frequently for snacks and drinks.
This is the tip to remember when realizing that you’re on a lengthy trail, stop often, drink and snack often. You should always hike with lots of water and nutritious, salt replacing snacks like nuts and pretzels. We love a challenge, but time length requires replenishment.
At the close of the day after our long adventure, I attempted to congratulate the family from the comfort of our padded bunks.
“Cape Breton is called the highlands for a reason,” I started tentatively, remembering the sweeping views from the top.
The children were pretty much comatose. My husband turned his head, but I think that was all he could manage.
“Weren’t the mountain streams beautiful, tumbling from crevice to rock to plateau to pool?”
Not a sound in return.
I turned my head slightly. Yep. They were all in the camper. I tried again.
“Remember how we stuck our feet into the crystal clear stream? Gosh, it was icy-cold and bathed in sunlight. You guys climbed on the boulders.” Because it was at the beginning of the hike, but I left that part out.
I listened closely. Good. They’re still breathing.
“The sun shimmered through the sugar maple leaves creating lace patterns on the moss when we hiked through the forest.” Boy, you could tell I was tired; still a smile creased my lips at the images my mind created. “Anyway,” I finished, “Dad and I are very proud of you.”
Finally I received a response, a pelting of dirty balled up socks. Lucky them…I didn’t have the energy to get mine off.