Living on the doorstep of the West Country, the potential to make exciting experiences is almost limitless.
With a bounty of rivers, lakes, waterfalls, forests and mountains, the great outdoors located in our immediate reach cater to all kinds of recreational opportunities — camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, rafting, horseback riding and off-roading.
Although my other half Maila and I have for a few years slowly but surely been building up a humble collection of gear to forge ahead on a hike-out camping trip, we only just recently obtained the last few crucial items needed before we could venture forth and put our abilities to the test.
Having acquired everything we needed — sturdy packs, a light tent, sleeping bags and inflatable mats, water bladders that allow a user to hydrate along the trail, a small portable burner to boil water, as well as other gear such as flashlights, small knife and of course bear spray — the time had finally come.
But inexperienced as we are, the last thing we wanted to do was bite off more than we could chew with a daunting undertaking that could leave us stranded, or worse.
So rather than committing to an overly arduous mountain expedition, we decided to take a more modest approach and settled on a day hike we had done previously without the packs and camping gear for an overnight stay.
Driving out west of Sundre along the Coal Camp Road, we parked at the Eagle Lake staging area not far from Ya Ha Tinda. Reaching the lake itself took less than an hour without taking breaks, except for a few photos along the way. Deciding to hike along to the far side of the lake added almost another hour.
And despite the long weekend, we barely came across anyone else — a couple of groups on horseback and another small group that was also hiking.
Searching for a suitable spot to settle for the night, we eventually stumbled upon a nifty camping nook tucked behind some trees and bushes near the shore that others had clearly set up in the past, and we were glad to use an improvised yet well-made firepit. After a few attempts, we even managed to start a fire using flint and steel, which was a first for us.
Another first was trying out a Meal, Ready to Eat — or MRE as they’re more commonly known. Produced by the U.S. military for soldiers on the field, civilian versions that are used for emergency preparedness as well are also available. A heating pack in a plastic sleeve reacts with as little as 60 millilitres of water to thoroughly heat prepared food in less than 15 minutes. While certainly no replacement for a home cooked gourmet meal, we were both nevertheless impressed by how easily our bean and chicken stew meals went down. And the MREs even come with other fixings like crackers, cookies and trail mix.
As we sat back to enjoy our cozy campsite, all we could hear was the whistling of the wind through the leaves and over the lake. The otherwise peacefully serene atmosphere was temporarily marred only by a few ATV riders, who apparently neglected to notice the “no motorized vehicles permitted” sign.
But despite the disturbingly jarring roar of off-highway vehicles, our excursion was otherwise entirely enjoyable. We packed up the following morning and managed to return to the staging area without issue.
And now that we know our legs won’t quickly collapse or that our backs won’t instantly give out, we’re already looking forward to next time attempting an even longer trek — after all, countless experiences await in the West Country.
As famously said by Ellie in Disney Pixar’s box office hit Up, “Adventure is out there!”