It was hot as we started hiking the last part of the road towards Brandywine Meadows; and the kids dipped their hats in every stream we crossed. The kids were already fully engaged in a pretend game; gathering water to fill magical tanks to help save the world from evil laser robots. This was F (8) and I's first trip out without the rest of the family, but Scott was the mastermind behind the trip. The Alcoholic Traverse is a 30-something kilometer alpine traverse from Brandywine to Brew. We would not have tried to undertake it without Scott, Sandra, and their two kids, E (10) and H (7).
We quickly made it to the end of the valley, had a quick snack and filled up on water, and started up the big hill towards the ridge of Brandywine. This is were I first realized how heavy my pack actually was. I am used to carrying a pretty heavy pack, when going with the whole family, and although this pack was not quite as heavy, I felt it much more as we were moving substantially faster than our regular family speed. The uphill was also a bit of a shock to F's system, but Scott kept her going with a pole stealing game - at least until the last section before the col. Here we had our first crises of the trip. The rocks were loose and a bit challenging, we were falling behind fast, and all of a sudden things seemed unmanageable to F. She started spiraling, but we managed to regain composure relatively fast and met everyone at the col for a little break. The rest of the ridge went pretty well, although F did need to listen to a story for the last little bit to get out of her head and just hike without too many thoughts of what was to come.
We set up camp right on the ridge a short distance from the summit. There was no water, but a snow patch provided what we needed in addition to hours of entertainment for F and H. Sandra and E went to summit Brandywine, while Scott and I tried to find a flat spot to set up our tents. Turns out ridges are not particularly flat, but I did eventually manage to identify a heathery hole that worked out pretty well, and the views sure were gorgeous. One of the cool things about the Alcoholic traverse is that you can see most of the route (or at least the ridge you travel below) both from the beginning and the end of the trip. As opposed to our normal family trips, we had arrived in camp early and it was nice to be able to set up camp, cook dinner and enjoy the views with lots of time to spare before sun down.
Next morning we were out of camp around 8.30am. The continuous off-trail travel turned out to be somewhat challenging for F, especially on the downhills or on the loose rocks. We would quickly fall behind, and hiking with mom is just not distracting enough to forget about how hard it is, so it was challenging at times. The terrain was amazing though with Pyroclastic and Cayley constantly on the horizon. We had a long day ahead of us, so we all tried to help F the best we could, Scott took her backpack and H tried stayed in the back with us, so they could immerse themselves into imaginative games inspired by the eerie-looking volcanic choss mountains surrounding us. They renamed Mt. Fee "Mount Sinister Doom" and worked on plans to defeat the evil mountain.
We were unsure of our exact route around Mt. Fee. We were initially travelling along the low route west of Fee, but ended up hiking up some unnecessary moraine to have a look at the high route, but it did not look like a good route for a group of kids, so hiked back down. It ended up being a lot of traveling on loose rocks and boulders. Fenya was getting tired, so Scott, Sandra and E hiked ahead to set up camp while H and I stayed back with F. Magically the mood changed after they observed Scott knock down some boulders. H and F create a "comic strip" for their upcoming book about the incident. They reiterated the story again and again while laughing loudly all the way across the last epic boulder field.
However, when I ask F now how she recalls that day, she is remembering how the camp carrot was constantly in front of her face but she could never get there: "you told me we would camp at Mount Sinister doom, but then we had to go further to a lake, and then further to the next stream, but it wasn't that stream it was the next one, and then the next one .... I am not even exasperating (sic)".
We arrived at camp around 6pm. I quickly set up the tent and started a pot of pasta so big that I quickly started missed Christian. I am not used to the responsibility of finishing all the food; I was seriously full. Just as the light was starting to diminish the second group arrived. They had left from Brandywine that morning with 5 adults and 2 kids aged 10 and 7. I said a quick hi, but retreated to the tent soon thereafter. While I was getting the last things ready F joined the Nelson's tent for a round of classic Stan Roger's songs. She really enjoyed it and she was not the only one, soon all the kids were gathered around listening and singing. I decided to check the forecast before going to bed. It now called for rain overnight as oppose to later in the day Sunday. F and I were in a hand-me-down tent, that we had tested under the hose in the garden earlier in the week. It clearly leaked. We had attempted a fix of the seems, but as I set it up earlier that evening the waterproof coating had drizzled down on the inner tent like a pre-school art piece with too much glitter. Luckily I had brought a tarp as well in anticipation of such problems, but despite of my careful tarp setup, a rectangle is just fundamentally the wrong shape for a fly, so I didn't sleep much. The wind blew the tarp around, creating a cacophony of flapping and vibrating. I considered taking it down again, but eventually it did start raining and the tapping of the rain somehow made the flapping more bearable.
The windy and rainy conditions made it hard to get out of bed in the morning, but as always the anticipation was worse than the reality. Once the morning pee had been dealt with and the raingear properly installed even the kids were happy. Soon enough all 5 kids left camp, with Scott & Sandra, singing the happy song - with the very memorable lyrics: "happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy". They quickly disappeared into the misty whiteout. Just below the col the rest of the adults caught up; just as it was time to ascend a sketchy pile of rocks. It was somewhat stressful getting everyone up safely, while keeping everyone below clear of potentially falling rocks. A few kids felt the tension and got some sketch goggles on, but everyone made it up safely. The adults in the front tried to located the best way to the ridge towards Keg and Brew, but with the low visibility it was challenging at times. F and I, like the previous days, were at the back of the pack. The whiteout was pretty thick and at one point F and I could not keep up with the group and all of a sudden found ourselves alone in the mist. We continued for a bit, but I quickly realized we must have lost their track. I got out the inreach, took a bearing towards the ridge, and realized that we were way off - in fact 132 degrees off. We traversed downwards back towards the ridge and quickly heard Lena calling from us from above. We were both happy to see everyone, but particularly F - she was worried about having only her mom to do the navigating.
The rest of the hike was uneventful but gruelling. The wind was stiff and the rain cold. Every once in a while you would hear a kid complain or whimper, but mostly they just hiked quietly. We would stop occasionally to make sure everyone was there and to stuff a bar or a piece of chocolate into the kids, but as Sandra said: "Things will only get better when we get to the hut and whenever we stop things are actively getting worse." And although there was some tough times ultimately all the kids understood that Sandra was correct.
Interlude: Period Shenanigans
Shortly after leaving the car on the first day I discovered that my period had started. During the pre-trip packing I had looked at my menstrual cup, but thought to myself, that it was definitely not that time a month yet, so I left it. So here I was on the first day of a four day trip and no period supplies. Luckily I hadn't used my Kula cloth yet, so I converted it to reusable pad by clipping it around my underwear. This worked quite well for the first two days, but by the second night flow had picked up and I needed something more. Sandra offered me a few abdominal dressing pads from the first aid kit. I was initially quite pleased with their performance, but on the third day I discovered why the adhesive on the back of the pad is essential - especially when hiking. The pad slowly worked its way back and up my bum where it now soaked up all the rainwater running down my back while the blood soaked my underwear and pants. Sharing this delightful fact with the group I discovered that although none of the females on the trip had any period supplies - Tim did. At Brew hut he supplied me with a small handful of small pads, that I estimate might have spent most of a decade in his first aid kit, and although the adhesive was not as it used to be, it sure was better than none.
There had been trials and tribulations, but even more triumphs and thrills.
River of Golden Dreams
Triple M Triathlon - Misty, McBride, Mamquam
Recent tips and thought
Boxy: Our kid hauling bike
Putting skis on a bike
Making a low DIN tech binding
What is in our backpacks?
The bike canoe trailer
Making kids crampons
Digging a snowcave
Make a kid towing harness