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.
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.
One of the biggest stresses (for me) has been packing/ having the correct gear to get my ass up Kilimanjaro.
As a regular hiker, you would think I would have all the right equipment. Wrong. Hiking the Gatineau Hills or a day-hike up a mountain in the Rockies is a tad different than an 8-day trek in Africa. Until this adventure, the only experience I had was from trial and error and some internet articles.
I’ve learned an incredible amount about layers, gear and hiking in general from our Dream Mountains leaders: Shawn, Kristi and Jason (just Shawn alone has summited the highest peak on every continent – including Everest). In turn, this has made me a more knowledgeable hiker and adventurer.
There’s so much crap for Kilimanjaro so I won’t list EVERYTHING but here are some important layers any serious hiker should have in their wardrobe:
The Perfect Boots
Don’t go cheap here; You need your feet to work to get up that mountain or hill. Try on several different boots and walk around the store in them. The first hiking boots I owned would cut off the circulation in my baby toe because I bought them too small. Booooo.
Some things to look for in hiking boots:
Comfort and cushioning
Gore-Tex; you want those babies to keep your feet dry
A bit of room for when your feet swell
Ankle support for rocky terrain or if you’ve had ankle injuries in the past
The boots I currently own are from Salomon (see above)- a trusted brand with amazing products across the board.
Merino Wool and Synthetic Layers
I’ll get straight to the point- Merino wool is EXPENSIVE. Like, $100 for a shirt expensive. But once you buy a few pieces you’ll have them a long time. Yes, I even have a couple merino wool bras.
Benefits of Merino:
It’s comfortable, breathable, and most importantly for Kilimanjaro’s sake, it’s odour resistant – a.k.a. it won’t smell terrible after several days of wearing it. I have a mix of Icebreaker and Smartwool brand merino wool and a couple merino wool blends.
If you’re just doing day hikes I would say that synthetics are fine, especially since you can throw them in the washing machine when you get home.
A Buff to Look and Feel Fly
Buffs are multipurpose and awesome. You can use them as headbands, to catch the sweat, protect your neck, protect your face from wind/sun/whatever. A hiker’s must-have and the more colourful the better!
The North Face Dryzzle jacket has been one of my favourite purchases. We were told to buy a jacket with “pit zips” to give yourself some air when you’re overheated, which tends to happen with waterproof shells.
A Good Pack To Hold All Your Crap
This is the pack (in orange) I’m bringing up Kilimanjaro. Enough to hold a few layers, snacks and a few extras – perfect for day hikes! And don’t forget to get a water bladder and hose for your pack – I love a good 3L.
Some things I always carry in my pack:
A headlamp or flashlight
Small first aid kit
Non-perishable and energy boosting snacks (Larabars are my fav)
We have just under two months before leaving to hike Kilimanjaro – meaning it’s time to step up our training game. As HikeAddicts, we like to hike as much as humanly possible, but we love to cross train and enjoy other activities and sports.
When I found out I was doing this hike back in the Fall, I decided to drop all activities that either:
a) Don’t train specifically for the hike
b) I don’t LOVE
c) I may hurt myself (as a clumsy person this happens more often than not)
Here are some of the things we’re doing to get ready to hike the tallest free-standing mountain in the world.
There is one thing that our Dream Mountains leader, Shawn Dawson, INSISTS that all climbers do: stair training. Anyone who has done a big hike with Shawn previously says that stair training makes a HUGE difference.
So what is stair training? There’s a 32 story building downtown Ottawa that we walk up and down, many times. Here’s what our plan looks like: Kilimanjaro Stair Training
Stair training helps with pacing, breathing, and obviously builds muscles that you may not be touching in the gym.
There’s one thing about stair training….I don’t like it. At all. The first couple of times, I could barely walk for several days after (that’s getting better as I slow down and have adjusted my foot placement).
It’s also incredibly boring – however other Dream Mountains team mates always seem to be willing to join – having a buddy makes everything better.
There’s something about popping in your headphones and lifting weights that makes you feel alive. With hiking, you’d think the emphasis is having strong legs, but I think having a strong core and a strong balanced body is even more important.
I LOVE yoga to train for a big hike, obviously for physical benefits, but especially the whole breathing and calming your mind thing while you’re physically uncomfortable. It will come in handy at 19,000 feet when we can barely breathe and moving at a snails pace to summit.
We only get the Rideau Canal a few weeks a year to skate on, and so far have been taking full advantage of it. It’s great cardio, and great for the legs!
I’ve been doing Muay Thai (sorta like kick-boxing) once a week just to mix things up. It helps with stress relief, it’s a solid fat-burning workout, and the kicking really helps open up my TIGHT hip flexors.
Running (Vicky’s forte)
Similarly to yoga, running is great for physical and mental training. The obvious benefits being building muscle and stamina, but A LOT of it is a mind game. Working on quieting your mind on a tough run takes practice and self discipline, both of which we’ll need while conquering the beast that is Mount Kilimanjaro.
Here are just a few reasons why hiking may be for you…
A Great Workout
Some people assume hiking is just a nice leisurely walk through nature (which it can be), but we like our hikes to be calorie-burning kickass workouts. Steep trails are mother nature’s stair master, with a much better view. On average we burn around 800 calories in a 2 hour hike, plus you get the benefits of fresh air and vitamin D.
Clears Your Head
Being in nature has a way of making you feel better. Being in nature while exercising brings it to a whole new level. You can call it meditation, stress-relief, a chance to unplug – whatever you call it, you FEEL BETTER AFTER HIKING. Personally, after spending time climbing up steep inclines, jumping over streams, and running my hands along mossy rocks, the bullshit I was worrying about pre-hike matters a whole lot less.
Hiking has a weird way of opening you up and connecting you to the people you’re hiking with. Vicky and I (and countless friends) have had our deepest and most intimate conversations on top of mountains. Whether you’re looking for some bestie time, some family bonding, or perhaps getting to know that Tinder dude a little bit better, hiking can be a great experience.
Some Sweet Instagram Pics
Yes, you can be that person on social media with the best friggen pictures. There’s a pretty amazing feeling that comes with posting a pic of your latest hike thinking “LOOK AT HOW COOL NATURE IS. SEE IT. I WAS THERE”. However, we’re big believers in putting our phones in airplane mode (OR leaving our phones in the car and bringing a separate camera along) while hiking. You can upload that mountaintop selfie when you get home damnit.
Yes. This is one of our favourite things about hiking. Sure, we bring healthy snacks along with us to keep us fuelled. But food seems to taste better after you’ve spent hours outside sweating your ass off. Sometimes we even keep snacks in the car as a “job well done” for the drive home.
This might have been the easiest list to write ever – our favourite local hikes in Gatineau Park. It’s the closest and best hiking in the Ottawa vicinity, and only a quick 15 minute drive over the Quebec border from downtown.
Don’t forget to hit up one of the cute spots in Chelsea for a post-hike coffee or lunch. Our personal favourites include Chelsea Pub and Biscotti & Cie.
1. Wolf Trail/Blanchet
Starting Point:Gatineau Park, P13 Distance: 8.3 km Time it took us: 2 Hours 15 Mins Level of Difficulty: Little Tricky
This is hands down our favourite trail in Gatineau Park. It’s a good distance for a weekend morning workout, but not too grueling that you’re sore for days. It also some fantastic views while you rest and eat your snacks.
2. Luskville Falls
Starting Point: Luskville Falls Picnic Area Distance: 4.5 km Time It Took Us: 1.5 to 2.5 (depending on route) Level of Difficulty: Little Tricky
This is a good trail for burning calories. It’s a good distance, and perhaps the steepest trail in Gatineau Park. If you’re working on that booty, this is the trail for you.
This place is freaking cool. You’ll learn about the history of the Carbide Willson Ruins AND be amazed by the waterfalls running through them. You can also continue hiking past the ruins if you want a longer hike.