Congratulations! This is your first step to becoming a HikeAddict. We love hiking, and the whole point of this blog is to share our love and passion for hiking with you. However, actually getting outside and actually doing it can be a bit intimidating. Here’s our “A Beginner’s Guide To Hiking” to help you get outside, connect with nature, and get some exercise in the process.
Where do I go?
I find this a big barrier for some people, where the heck do you start? It doesn’t have to be complicated, but you should have an idea where you’re going. Thank God for MAPS! Oh, and bring a buddy.
Here are some of our favourite beginner hikes in the Ottawa area:
Here’s also a list of our favourite hikes in Gatineau Park if you want to be a bit more adventurous: CLICK HERE!
What do I wear and what do I bring?
If you’re just starting out to see if hiking’s your “thing”, you don’t have to invest in $300 boots and merino wool (yet). Test out the trails with clothes you would wear to the gym – with a few extras.
Hiking Beginner Gear:
– Good, sturdy shoes or hiking boots
– Athletic socks
– Gym clothing or whatever you’re comfortable in (I would suggest long pants to help against bug bites/nature critters)
When it comes to clothing be sure to check the weather before you go – a raincoat is something I usually carry!
Small Backpack to Hold The Following:
– Water (at least a litre, drink the whole thing!)
– Snack (nuts are great)
– Hand sanitizer
– Bug spray or a natural repellent
– Sunscreen (apply before you go)
– Bandaids or small first aid kit
– Map (or your GPS on your phone)
Goodluck on your first adventure, and if you need anything don’t hesitate to email us at HikeAddicts@gmail.com!
With it’s stunning rock formations and Caribbean-like water, Bruce Peninsula National Park is one of the most beautiful destinations to hike to in Ontario. Plus with it’s close proximity to Toronto and Parks Canada having free entrance for Canada 150, it’s one of the most popular.
My first attempt to park to get to the Grotto was unsuccessful (full story here) on Victoria Day long weekend. Stupid on my part. Obviously people would be swarming to this place to hang out on the first long weekend of nice weather in Canada.
So I got up early on Tuesday morning (with coffee of course) and headed to the Cyprus Lake parking lot for 7am. Luckily and shockingly, there was only one other car there. A.k.a. I had this extreme tourist destination pretty much to myself.
After a quick 30 minute and well-marked hike, the trees opened up to expose the rock and bright blue colours of Georgian Bay. You first end up at Indian Head Cove, which is NEXT to the Grotto (see map below). A lot of people think this is the Grotto…. It’s not. You have to head to the left for a couple of minutes to find it through more rocks and trees.
Once I found the Grotto, I wondered “How the hell am I going to get down there?”. There was no clear or safe path down, although on previous visits I have seen people inside the cave.
Thankfully, a man named Terry who works for Parks Canada was there to point me in the direction of “The Hole”. The Hole is a safer and more direct way into the cave. It’s a tad hard to find and I had to take my backpack off to squeeze through it.
The squeeze through the claustrophobic hole was well worth it. The Grotto opens up to a mesmerizing rock formation and green/turquoise waters. Definitely one of those “I thought this only existed in magazines” moments.
You can even swim here, however I wouldn’t recommend that until July/August. Even then it can be chilly!
I finished my coffee on the rocks overlooking the bay and soaked in the beautiful morning. If there’s one road trip you should plan in Ontario it should be this one.
A week has gone by since we climbed Mount Washington and it’s given me a little time to reflect (and to be perfectly honest, finally write). It’s Sunday afternoon, approximately 10,000 degrees out so why not use this time to plunk by butt down by my window A/C, listen to Lorde’s new album on repeat and put into words what I’ve spent the past week thinking about.
1) I can’t hike slowly.
Ok, so I already kinda knew this one going into the trip. Being the girl who grew up playing every sport imaginable, I naturally have a competitive side. Not necessarily with others, but with myself. “I can totally climb this in under ___ hours” is a phrase that has repeatedly been on loop in my brain for… Ever?
Since we were such a large group on Mount Washington, Mary Anne and I decided to have one of us lead and the other stay at the back. Within the first 20 minutes of the hike there was quite a substantial distance between Mary Anne and myself. The fastest hikers were tearing up the mountain and my group was moseying, chatting and taking pics.
Let me clarify something real quick: This is not me complaining. We all hike at different speeds and like to enjoy nature in different ways but in the game plan to all stick together, this just wasn’t working. Eventually, we all met up at a beautiful bridge over a stream to reassess.
Unfortunately one of the girls in our group was getting some nasty blisters and an old knee injury was acting up so we all had the conversation of whether or not she should/could continue.
Spoiler alert: She did end up continuing, summited and absolutely CRUSHED it.
At this point we shook up the groups and I decided to lead with the fast people and Mary Anne would stick back with the rest of the pack. This ended up working out great as we finished up the hike about an hour and a half quicker, which gave us time to grocery shop and prep dinner for everyone.
(Jeremy and Colin making it look easy)
2) I overestimate my physical abilities sometimes.
When Alexa (the girl I mentioned above with the blisters and knee injury) told me early on that she was struggling, my instincts were to 1) Find Moleskin and 2) Determine whether or not I could run the trail. I didn’t want her going back to the parking lot alone so I figured I could hike back down with her then run back up the mountain to catch up with the rest of the group.
About 10 minutes into hiking with the “quick group” my confidence was put back into place and I remember chuckling to myself, thinking “Girrrl, in what world?”.
3) A great way to catch your breath is to pretend you NEED to stop to get a pic.
Totally stole this one from Rachel. Genius. There were only 4 of us in our group: 2 guys and 2 girls (the guys, by the way, are fit AF and didn’t seem to struggle at ALL on the mountain) so I noticed when Rachel was starting to feel it, she’d stop for a picture. WHY HAVE I NEVER THOUGHT OF THIS? Or maybe I’ve subconsciously done it, protecting my ego. That sounds more likely.
(This is totally a “You guys go ahead, I’m just need to snag a quick shot here” photo)
4) There’s something a lot less rewarding about a summit with a parking lot and cafeteria full of people (although the coffee and Doritos were HELLA good).
This was a weird one for me.
Every mountain I’ve summited in the past has been peaceful, serene and incredibly rewarding. This one ended with a staircase that lead to the Mount Washington Summit sign, where a crowd of well dressed and non-sweaty people lined up to take their picture. I’m sorry, but DRIVING to the top of a mountain isn’t photo op worthy. Those bumper stickers that say “This car drove to the top of Mt Washington” are a little silly, if you ask me. Know what’s not silly? The bumper sticker I saw in the parking lot at the bottom that read “The person who owns this car ran up Mt Washington”.
Nope, not silly. Insane? Maybe.
(Rachel & I at the summit)
5) The last hour of the hike tends to bring the best conversation.
To be honest, this one I’ve noticed before on previous hikes but it really rang true on this trip. On the way up, we all talked mostly about the difficulty of the hike, the route and other mountain related random things.
The majority of the way down we chit-chatted about food, other trips/adventures and sore joints. In the last hour or so, the conversation turned to relationships, meditation, self help books and overall health. My jaaaam. There’s something about being completely exhausted that tears down walls and brings out the real sh*t.
I’m already looking forward to our next mountain adventure…
Location: Mount Washington, NH, USA Starting Point:Pinkham Notch Visitor Centre, Pinkham’s Grant, NH Elevation: 6,228 ft (1,917 m) Route We Took: Tuckerman Ravine to Lion Head Distance: Approx. 12 KM (one way) Time it took us: 4.5 hour ascent, 3 hour descent Level of Difficulty: OW, MY JOINTS
This was our first HikeAddicts “excursion” with a large group!
14 of us (friends and Dream Mountains alumni) carpooled to North Conway, New Hampshire on Friday, June 9th. We booked an Airbnb in a house that fit ALL of us, and split the cost of groceries for the weekend.
Tuckerman Ravine Trail is the most popular route up Mount Washington, however we had to detour at Lion Head Trail due to snow blocking Tuckerman. We soon learned this trail is uphill, all rock and unforgiving.
Naturally, the group got split up (hence only 6 of us above), however everyone DID make it in their own time and pace.
What I’m NOT going to post was the hoards of people at the top. You can actually drive up Mount Washington so when we got to the sign, there were people waiting to get their picture in heels and jeans. That means no serenity or peacefulness at the top.
What lacked in serenity was made up for by COFFEE AND DORITOS. Our group took advantage of the restaurant at the top. We chugged some coffee and crushed some snacks before our descent. However, I’m pretty sure it crossed most of our minds to pay the $30 American to take the shuttle back down.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it – this was a tough hike. All the rocks were incredibly hard on the body, and the long day was tough on the mind. However, for 3 of our friends this was the first mountain they have EVER climbed. In the car on the way back I heard phrases like “This was life-changing” and “I can’t wait to hike my next mountain”. It’s pretty cool to hear your friends fall in love with something you love just as much.
Yes. This is in Ontario. More specifically, that crystal blue water is Georgian Bay in Bruce Peninsula National Park along the Bruce Trail.
This is my favourite spot to hike in Ontario. I remember spending time in the park as a child with my family as we would drive up to Tobermory to take the Chi-Cheemaun (ferry) over to Manitoulin Island. I more recently rediscovered the park 2 years ago with Vicky and my BFF since grade 9 Steph.
There are some places you go to and think “wow, I HAVE to come back and spend more time here”. The Bruce is one of those special places.
This trip came about last minute. I was spending a girls weekend near Barrie followed by a visit to my parents in Southwestern Ontario afterwards. I was so close to The Bruce Peninsula that I couldn’t NOT visit (it’s a solid 8-10 hour drive from Ottawa on a normal day). I looked at Airbnb and booked a private room at The Fitz Hostel in Lion’s Head (about 30mins + drive to the park).
The holiday Monday morning I left the cottage and drove to the hostel, dropped my stuff off and drove to Cyprus Lake campground to hike to The Grotto and Indian Head Cove. However when I pulled up around 2:30pm, I was told about some new timed parking (explained better here) they had implemented and I had to come back at 5pm which meant my hiking time was cut in half. Instead of waiting till 5 and wasting precious hiking time, I referred to my trusty map and drove to the Halfway Log Dump parking lot.
Let’s be real: Halfway Log Dump does not sound like an attractive place to hike. But even with cloudy skies and chillier temps it turned out to be fantastic afternoon. I had the mindset going into the hike of “we’ll see what happens and how far I get” with a turnaround time of 6pm.
With map in hand I blazed along at a quick speed making great time on the dirt trail. At one point you have the option to stay on the Bruce Trail or to follow the rocky coastline…guess which one I chose?
Like everywhere else in Ontario the water was higher than normal along the shoreline. At one point the only way I had to continue was to take my boots and socks off, pull up my leggings and go knee-deep in the freezing water to continue on. These kids followed my very bad example.
Eventually the knee-deep water turned into “you have to swim across this” water, so I headed back into the woods to find the trail again. An hour and a half in I came across the campground Stormhaven (which sounds WAY COOLER than Halfway Log Dump).
At this point I spent some time checking out the campsites and the rocky beach. I stacked some stones and set the timer 47 times to get this one picture.
I took my time heading back to my car the same way I came, and decided to get up early the next morning to explore my original plan of hiking to The Grotto.
So there’s absolutely nothing fab about socks, no matter how I work my way through this. But my hope here is that I write this post and maybe someday someone is researching hiking socks, Googles “Best socks for hiking” and stumbles across our blog. One can hope, right?
These are the socks I swear by and brought with me to hike Mount Kilimanjaro. Of course it’s a personal preference but if you’re looking for kick-a$$ socks that will keep your feet warm, dry and comfy then read on!
Not only is Wigwam fun to say, they make great socks too! Ok, that deserves an eye roll. I like how these are a little tighter around the arch of your foot and have cushioning around the heel and forefoot. Can we all just take a second to read the top review for these socks titled “The Beatles of Socks” where they’re compared to “a million of the world’s cutest puppies licking your feet”?
I only have one pair of these babies and they’re the pair that I grab as soon as they’re out of the wash. These were the first pair of hiking socks I bought when I was at SAIL; Up until then I was hiking in athletic ankle socks. How, I’ll never really know. Such a rookie move.
What I love about these socks are that they’re super light weight but are somehow (with the magic of Merino Wool) still incredibly warm.
These were an online find only a week or so before my trip to Tanzania and MAN, am I ever happy to have found them. They come in a beautiful rainbow of colours (FUN!) and also happen to be a cheap yet awesome sock. I wore these for probably 80% of my time on Killy.
Even though these are my second fave sock, there’s not much to say about them other than the fact that they’re super comfy, kept my feet warm (or cool in hotter temps) and didn’t break the bank. Two big ol’ thumbs up.
Oh, Icebreaker, you did it again. My collection is starting to look like I’m a walking ad for the company. If you don’t own anything by Icebreaker and you’re an outdoorsy person you need to drop every right this second and buy some NOW. This is an order.
These lightweight, super soft, non-itchy, anti-blister socks are the bomb.com and well worth the slightly higher price-tag.
It’s Mental Health Week and thought it was the perfect opportunity to open up about the effects hiking has had on my mental well-being.
I can confidently say since adding hiking to my regular routine several years ago, I’m an overall happier and relaxed person. I’ve been lucky enough to have never struggled with a serious mental illness. However we all go through moments of anxiety and/or depression and each have our own methods of coping.
From the darker moments to the best moments of my life, hiking has been incredibly therapeutic for my mental and spiritual state.
It’s several things – it’s the disconnecting for those few hours a week. It’s breathing in fresh air and the smell of crisp leaves. It’s the sheer concentration of just putting one foot in front of the other. It’s the strong human connection felt among my fellow hikers without distraction of life or devices. It’s those raw euphoric moments that consume every part of you, and all you can think is “I cannot believe I’m here. I cannot believe this is real. I cannot believe I did this.”
We SEE examples of those moments all the time – on memes, Facebook, Instagram. It’s those pictures of gorgeous scenery with words like “There’s no wifi in the forest but you’ll find a better connection” typed across in a fancy font. But those are real places, ready to be seen, ready to be discovered, ready to experienced by you.
I’ve been lucky enough to have had my fair share of those “euphoric moments” – in the Rockies, Adirondacks, Gatineau Park, and most recently on Mount Kilimanjaro.
However those moments can be outweighed by the painful and tough “I think I’m actually dying” moments. In fact, the euphoric/“I think I’m actually dying” ratio was a solid 30/70 on that stupid mountain (this blog explains those moments).
But thanks to those tough lung-crushing moments, over the last few weeks since being home I’ve noticed my perspective has shifted on several aspects of life…
1) My threshold for being uncomfortable or in pain is much higher during physical exercise. The inner dialogue has changed from “you can’t do this” to “get over yourself you literally hiked a mountain 3 weeks ago”.
2) I feel more confident about my body and it’s abilities than ever before.
3) I have less time for bullshit.
4) I don’t like being around negative people, and I notice a lot sooner when I’m the one being negative.
5) I have a fire in my belly to build a community of like-minded people who want to spend time outdoors.
Oh, the joys of living 230 ft above sea level. Breathing is quite easy for most of us in Ottawa. I never realized I took advantage of oxygen until a simple task like rolling over in my sleeping bag took my breath away.
To give you perspective, the elevation of Mount Kilimanjaro is over 19,000 ft. At summit you’re breathing half as much oxygen as you are at sea level. So, what does that mean? Doing everything at high altitude is laboured, strenuous and difficult.
Altitude was the biggest unknown and also the scariest thing for a lot of us on the Dream Mountains team. You cannot train for altitude – unless you visit a place at high altitude for a long period of time, or you’re one of the African porters/guides who has summited Kilimanjaro over 400 times (no exaggeration).
Our lead guide and Dream Mountains Founder, Shawn Dawson, advised us that the following would help prevent/battle altitude sickness:
1. Drink 6+ litres of water per day
2. Don’t stress
3. Go slow
Sunday, April 2nd we started our ascent up Mount Kilimanjaro. We were 30 clean hikers excited and a tad nervous to see what the next 8 days on that giant rock would bring.
After a fun and somewhat slow first trek through the rain forest, the first night at Machame Camp (just shy of 10,000 ft) was my first taste of the affects of altitude.
I’m also going to factor the new food and water into account here – but I was up 6 times running to the little tented portable bathroom that night. When I curled up in my sleeping bag, it felt as though my stomach was rotting from the inside. I vividly remember trying not to cry too loudly so I wouldn’t wake up Vicky next to me. I remember thinking there was no way I could do the next 7 days on this stupid mountain. I wanted to go home.
The next morning I felt a bit better, told our guides in on my issue, and one of our African guides, Bruce, kept a close eye on me the rest of the day and advised me to only eat only toast and rice. Our hike was much slower that day and moving/lots of water/good company healed me.
I ended up feeling MUCH better but throughout the climb I also suffered normal side effects like headaches, fogginess, nausea, loss of appetite, and a lung-crushing feeling near the summit. The higher we went the harder it was to breathe, walk, drink and change. Bottom line: the less oxygen we had the more labouring it was to do everything.
To be fair I’d also like to point out I got off lucky – there were others who were in MUCH worse shape than I.
Yes, there’s a lot of negative crap that altitude does to your body, but it also affects your ability to be a rational normal thinking human. Being in high altitude is sort of like being drunk; everything is hilarious, having a conversation is tough, you don’t remember much and peeing a few feet from your friends doesn’t phase you.
There were countless moments of brain lapses, but one moment in particular stands out. To be honest, I’ll even blame to altitude for forgetting what day we were on.
There were a few of us sitting in the mess tent after a long day of hiking. Our teammate Paul McGuire was sitting across from me and I was wearing a Sens toque similar to this one:
There was a piece of lint on the “O” and Paul thought it looked like a “Q”, which I corrected him and said it was an “O”. He then asked me what the “O” stood for. Blank stare.
I had forgotten what the “O” in Ottawa Senators stood for.
This is just one small example of the ridiculous and delusional moments the 30 of us felt in that week.
You may be thinking “This sounds terrible, why would someone choose to put themselves through that?”.
Shawn told us there’s something called “altitude memory loss”, where after you get home you forget a lot of the tough moments. I can’t help but agree with him and think that all of the blissful and euphoric moments override the unbearable ones.
So I’m going to choose to forget that taking my pants off was the hardest thing I’ve ever done at 15,000 ft and start thinking about hiking Everest Base Camp next spring.
Coming home from a trip is always hard. Getting back into your normal routine, having the same conversations about the same topics that didn’t seem to change while you were away with the same people. Before your trip you didn’t notice it at all but something happened while you were away. Maybe a shift? Maybe a new perspective? It’s hard to pinpoint but you can feel it.
Your attention span is smaller and you find yourself drifting back to that place you just were days or weeks ago. My way of coping is with distractions; Whether it’s running, baking, reading, meeting up with a new or old friend for coffee or lunch, binge watching my favorite shows I’m behind on, driving around the city playing my music way too loud… But not really feeling the feelings because it’s too soon.
Is it dramatic of me to say that coming home from a trip is a little like mourning?
Hear me out.
I’m mourning the adventure of a lifetime. I’m mourning the wake up calls, the feeling of adrenaline that comes with the great unknown and always, ALWAYS having someone right beside me when I need to talk (or, sometimes even more importantly, not talk).
When I get caught up in these sometimes overwhelming feelings of loss and sadness though I remember how lucky I am that I can just pick up my phone and text or call one of my Dream Team members and reminisce or meet up because I know they’re going exactly what I’m going through. What we experienced together was not only incredible, it was really f*cking hard (sorry, Mom). There’s no way we didn’t all change on that mountain. We all left a piece of ourselves at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and I’m more than okay with that.
Alright, enough of that.
Coming home is also really wonderful. The feeling I had after travelling for what felt like FOREVER and seeing my family with their homemade signs standing at the train station was indescribable. I’m super lucky to have a family unit that’s incredibly close and we’re used to seeing each other at LEAST once a week so it’s not shocking that the reunion was an emotional one and a moment I’ll never forget.
The next night we had a little celebration for my sister’s 30th birthday, which was the day before, and I THINK I was there. 😉 Lots of stories and squeezes from some of my favorite people later, I passed out on the couch on my mom’s lap like I did when I was a kid and had the best nap of my life.
It has been exactly one week since the Dream Mountains team took our last steps off the beast that is Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s only been 2 days since the majority of us got back to Canada. To be honest it hasn’t been the easiest weekend adjusting back to Ottawa life (I’ve woken up twice not knowing where I am). But I figured opening up my Mac and blogging would be great therapy before heading back to work tomorrow to see my amazing work family.
It’s hard to put everything we learned on that mountain into 10 simple phrases. But after brainstorming with some Dream Team members, I present to you…
“The 10 Commandments of Hiking Kilimanjaro”
Thou shall drink no less than 6L of water per day.
Thou shall avert eyes when teammate is peeing one foot off the trail.
Thou shall blame all ailments and idiotic moments on altitude.
Speaking of which, altitude shall suck it. (yes, this is a commandment. It’s my list. Get your own.)
Thou shall resent and curse Shawn Dawson until first step off mountain.
Thou shall never eat millet (pronounced “mill-ay”) ever again.
Thou shall have a sick playlist for the tough moments.
Thou shall have toilet paper and Purell handy at all times.
Thou shall forget all the pain, agony, puking, and extreme cold of summit night.
Thou shall fondly remember the breathtaking, alien, once-in-a-lifetime views of Kilimanjaro.