Backpacking in Algonquin

Healthy people have more fun!

When was the last time you did something crazy? When was the last time you slept in the woods, jump with wild frogs, or watch the stars from your tent with no one in sight? Unless you are a “grumpy old man” you must have such desires.

Back to youthful freedom

Many people secretly wish that they can return to their youthful freedom, but just as many are lacking health and vitality to follow their dreams.

It is more fun to ski than to watch others doing it on YouTube. It is more fun to ride horses than to smell the barn. It is more fun to participate in a tomato fight than to just eat that vegetables. Wouldn’t you agree?

Back then I was lifeless..

Long time ago when I had chronic fatigue syndrome, hypoglycemia and extra weight, I did not want to do anything. It was too hard to stand in a bus, let alone think that it would ever be possible to do fun things like those because they did not look like fun.

These “fun things” looked very tiring and practically impossible. How can I go to the woods if I catch colds with every draft, swell up with any mosquito bite, get bloated with any foods, and get minimal energy just to come back home from work?

I did not know it was because of my attitude

Little did I know that I was in charge of my body, but I was misled. No health care practitioner ever told me that health could get better with time. In fact, all of them only confirmed that it gets worse with age and so it did.

My body hurt and my mind ached, which in modern medicine is called depression. Doctors treated me with pills, because only pills could cure what I had.

I had lifestyle and excusitis

Fortunately for me, the pills did nothing except upsetting my stomach. When I reached the bottom I finally looked in a different direction: nutrition and lifestyle. I quickly realized that I do not have poor health, but actually two diseases I never considered before: lifestyle mismanagement and excusitis (in layman’s terms – feeling sorry for myself).

Against common health advice

After a steep learning curve and many months of exorcism for my excusitis, my state of “well-being” continuously improved as I tried different dietary and exercise approaches.

To my surprise many widely accepted as health-promoting diets failed miserably when put into practice and many types of common exercise routines caused only wear and tear without any improvement in my physical performance.

After many trials I finally managed to put a dot over an “i”: high fat, high fibre, low protein, low carbohydrate diet combined with biweekly 20-min kettlebell routine not only trimmed my last 10 lb”, but also very quickly brought boundless energy, endurance, and surprising improvement in strength.

Within two weeks of starting the training I could do four chin-ups instead of one. I felt so great that I wanted to test my limits in Algonquin Park and this is what happened:

What’s your supper like?

One sunny Tuesday we packed up our car and drove 270 km north to Algonquin Park, the largest provincial park in Ontario, Canada. We arrived at the West Gate to be greeted by a bunch of hungry mosquitoes. 1:20 pm we crossed the bridge to wilderness.

We planned to do 12km that afternoon. The trail was relatively difficult, but we made it in good time. By 5 pm we reached our destination Oak Lake. We set up the tent on a non-serviced camp small enough to accommodate only two mini tents. The view was great: blue lake water surrounded by spring-fresh green of unspoiled forest.

That evening we made some tea on our 36 g (1.3oz) titanium stove. The tea tasted awesome. Unpasteurized cheese and avocado somehow also tasted better than at home. And you thought we would unpack sandwiches.. nah, we don’t support Monsanto.

Crashed!

Tired from carrying two 35 plus pound backpacks, we crashed.

I never slept in the woods before so my senses were heightened hearing everything around: every croak, bird tweet, branch breaking, and wind moving through the leaves … I finally fell asleep.

I woke up many times in the night only to hear my heart racing expecting an attack of the wild. Something came around our campsite and was panting like a dog. My mind was racing: my knife is in my left backpack pocket. Are bears nocturnal …. I fell back asleep.

Morning was darn cold!

Waking up in the morning it was cold, with only intermittent burst of warmth from the sun hitting our tent. Dozens of mosquitos were clinging to the ventilation mesh in-between the rain-fly, waiting for their breakfast, i.e. us. The wind was high and we quickly used up all the fuel for the stove barely heating a small cup of water. No warm beverage, then. Dried apricots, venison jerkies, and cheese remnants were irrefutable.

Huslte or perish in darkness

Today we had to finish 21 km of a rather difficult trail, practically an obstacle course, which we did not fully anticipate in advance. A quick calculation was enough to figure out we had to hustle to reach the car before dusk. 21 km meant 7 hours of walking with little breaks.

While performing acrobatics on river stones and fallen branches, I praised my endurance on my high fat diet and kettlebell conditioning which brought tremendous power to my legs, shoulders and core. Without, our escapade would really not be possible. Just these two changes to my lifestyle elevated my health to endure additional fun (?) activities. No more sore throats, mosquito swells, sore muscles or fatigue. I like that!

Are we there yet?

5 hr into the hike we had enough. From then on “are we there yet?” contaminated our heads. Andi figured out he takes one full step every second. That would be …. how many steps in the next two hours? Our heads were buzzing from excess oxygen and it was difficult to make even such a simple multiplication.

Look, a beaver dam. I’ve never seen one before.” The dam flooded the area and killed the trees. The trees were no longer green, but silver gray and looked as if covered with snow or ash. The creek below was full of orange-discolored stones. Those were iron deposits.

2 km more and we should reach the car. We kept on admiring the miracles of nature so we could forget the time. Here comes the final stretch .… and the hood of the familiar navy blue car appeared from in between trees, but was this our car?

As if the car stiffened

The car seats seemed very hard and uncomfortable, leg room very small. The window crank required extra power. Trunk felt somehow much higher than when we left. We were so… (fill in your worst word here) that even rolling shoulders far exceeded our maximum pain threshold. We got the car out of the parking lot and headed south for the civilized comfort of a shower, hot coffee, a cup of home-made soup and not to forget a real bed. Ahhhh!

A private moment

You know,” I said “these challenges make you appreciate all those little conveniences you have in daily life.”

I looked outside the window chasing trees with my eyes. Suddenly I looked down. I saw my feet wiggling in dirty worn out sandals.

My calves are hurting like son of …. “, I complaint, “Yours too?” Andi smirked, “hmm, would you do it again?” he asked hesitantly. “In a heartbeat”, I replied.

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