Elk Island Challenge

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Update - Six-year-old triumphs!

DSCN3615 She did it! On Sunday, August 28, 2005, Freya completed the eleventh trail. What an amazing feat!
  • Trails completed: 11
  • Distance completed: 91.2 km
  • Pledges received: $1313.38!
Make a pledge or send Freya a congratulatory comment below!

What's Freya's next challenge? Grade one!

Trail 11 of 11 complete! We're done!

Freya looks confident as we set out on the final trail from the Tawayik Lake picnic area.

It was a warm sunny day.

This is the gate that we will triumphantly return to in roughly two hours.

Full of pride and facing what we now consider a short walk of 4.6 km, Freya is full of smiles... but one last adventure lies ahead.

Another hiker pasted us on her return journey and warned us of a bison ahead on the trail. Soon enough, we found him walking ahead of us in the same direction that we were going. We followed along at a safe distance for a while until the trail forked. Fortunately, he chose the path off to the Shirley Lake trailhead allowing us to continue on our planned course.

Freya took this picture of a beautiful Elk Island park pond.

Now, with three quarters of the trail behind us, Freya starts to get a bit excited.

Freya took this nice picture of her trusty pack-bearer and story teller. Note the manuscript of the Saga of the Volsungs tucked under my arm. We read heavily from this text on many trails to pass the time.

We are getting close now, and there is a camera man awaiting us just ahead. I don't have any photos of the the celebration that soon ensued, but I will post them when I get them from others. What an amazing girl!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Trail 10 of 11 complete

On August 22, 2005, Freya completed the Shirley Lake Trail. It was a hot and sunny day, but we still had to where long pants to keep the mosquitoes at bay.

Freya prepares for her penultimate trek at the Shirley Lake Trailhead.

Freya pauses by a trail marker in her gleaming yellow rubber boots. We had more comfortable footwear on hand, but the trail was damp from rains earlier in the week.

The hardy hikers took luncheon in the abandoned Oster Lake campground. There was no evidence that the campground had been fully booked the previous day.

Freya rests in a spot of shade next to some wildflowers and mushroom. Around her neck, you can see the binoculars that were presented to her the night before by park staff in recognition of Freya's contribution to promoting the park.

At the trailhead, the support crew celebrates the return of the hikers!

Freya emits a primal scream at the completion of the last lengthy trail of her challenge. Only the 4.6 km Simmons Trail remains.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Freya will be at the Friday night interpretive program

Freya will be giving a brief presentation at the Astotin Lake Interpretive Centre this Friday night at 8:00 pm. Come out to hear some of her favorite memories or to ask her questions.

Freya navigates some "soft" terrain

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Trail 9 of 11 complete!

We pack quite a lot of gear for longer trails like the Tawayik Lake Trail. Lots of food, a first aid kit, a knife, a change of socks, rain gear, insect repellent, and close to 3 liters of water. On this trip, Freya carried 2 kg of water in a camel pack and dad carried about 10 kg of assorted trappings pictured here.

Here is Freya at the Tawayik Lake trailhead ready to set out. Just before this photo was taken, we watched a lone bison wander down the trail we were about to take, so we proceeded with caution.

After abut 800 m of walking, we found the bull that had started out ahead of us. He had decided to sit down in the middle of the trail. He seemed to have no intention of moving so we bushwhacked through the 1.5 m tall underbrush on the left side of the trail. Freya could not see further than the bush in front of her!

After almost emerging from the underbrush right on top of this wooly beast, we eventually emerged 50 m beyond him. In the end, he did not seem that interested in our presence.

At two stage on the trail, the mosquitoes reached sufficient ferocity to force Freya into donning her mosquito net hat.

There had not been any precipitation in the park for a couple of days so the Tawayik Narrows - pictured here - where quite solid. Freya is shown racing to our planned lunch spot on the far side of the narrows.

After about 7 km, we stopped for lunch. We have found that beef jerky makes an easy to carry and very filling treat.

Freya looking strong about halfway through the trek.

Freya at the junction of the trail and the Otter Lake Campground Road.

The Tawayik Lake Trail joins with the Shirley Lake Trail (the next on our list) for the last 4 km. The mosquitoes came on in full force again here. We pause to reapply insect repellent and to devour a couple of chocolate bars.

We stumbled across this amazing spider web at the trail side. We could look down the tunnel in the centre of the web - which was about as thick as one of my fingers - and see a rather large spider therein.

While Freya looks spunky here with about 2 km remaining, the sky had darkened, the rain had started, and Freya's feet began to hurt badly. The rain had also forced us to pack away the printout of Volsunga Saga (pdf) that had been sustaining us on the trail. Freya was particularly taken by the brief appearance of her namesake goddess in the text - she comes to the aid a king and queen with a fertility issue. We completed 11 chapters before the rain forced us to pack it away. Freya loves to listen to and tell stories to pass the time on the trail.

Sweet victory! By the park wardens' latest measurements, we completed 16.8 km in 7.5 hours. This is a slightly faster rate for Freya. Most of the trails were completed at a rate of almost exactly 2 km/hour.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The story of the Wood Bison Trail

At 10:00 am Tuesday, July 27, 2005 Freya prepared to begin her journey at the Wood Bison trailhead.

We started off with high spirits and heavy packs. Freya was carrying 2 L of water in a camel pack and 450 mL of Gatorade in sport bottle

Increased precipitation this spring and summer have contributed to lush undergrowth throughout the park.

Being prepared is crucial when wilderness hiking with children. Ample water, food, and a well stocked first aid kit are a given. Freya's preferred personal gear is a 2 L camel pack on her back (you can see the water line at her shoulder), an insulated bottle with something cold and sweet (Gatorade on this trek), a good sun hat, long pant and sleeve to deter the biting insects, and an emergency whistle. A unique piece of equipment preferred by Freya is a light stick in the region of 50 cm in length which she employs in her ongoing survey of the numerous "bison pies" one finds on the trail.

Roughly 5 km into the trail, we paused for a snack along the eastern shore of Flying Shot Lake. The weather was overcast and around 19 degrees C.

Mid-July to mid-August is bison rutting season. So, when a pair of bulls came ambling down the lake shore trail, we quickly packed up our snack and sought refuge in a stand of aspen away from the trail.

Thankfully, this particular bull was more interested in scratching himself on a tree sending showers of bark fragments in all directions than charging us down like lame matadores! His smaller companion, who was not photographed, ran away at top speed once he got close enough to get a good look at us.

Following hours of hiking, Freya still had a smile on her face. Freya likes to pass the time listening to her father's stories and detailed plot summaries of Hollywood films. On this particular walk we covered the "Saga of the Volsungs" - the Old Norse source of Wagner's "Ring Cycle" - Kubrick's "2001", "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", and a couple of "Star Trek" films.

Over 10 km into the trail, we had to leave the trail through a hazelnut thicket in order to give this irritable bull a wide birth.

The trail was in pretty good shape, but there were a few spots where minor detours were necessary. Freya initially wanted to attempt balancing down the slippery logs, but ultimately opted to simply go around.

On this day, as every day, this trail proved to be a borders paradise. While Freya and I are extreme amateurs when it comes to bird watching, we were treated to the sights and sounds of numerous birds including assorted ducks, finches, robins, and a stunningly beautiful oriole with bright yellow markings. However, the most notable bird sighting on this walk were two hawks of some variety circling just above the tree tops on the shore of Flying Shot Lake continually emitting their characteristic piercing cry. I suspect that this feather came from one of those raptors.

As we left the western bank of Flying Shot Lake behind and headed northwards back towards the trailhead, our energy reserves began to near depletion. The only blessing was that our load was lightened by all of the water we had drank.

When our spirits were reaching a low ebb, the forest gave us a magnificent gift. We were humbled to have seen this bull moose with antlers in full velvet. Buoyed by this honor, Freya and I forged on with renewed vigor.

Freya found this small bird's nest lying in the middle of the trail - perhaps a wind storm dislodged it from a tree? As we reached the final 2 km and the trail turned eastwards, the highway came into view through the trees to the North. Freya had the idea that we should cut through the bush to the highway and sit on the shoulder until our support crew came to pick us up. This was a very tempting idea at the time. However, after some discussion, which included the idea of a shoulder ride, Freya elected to continue on the marked trail entirely under her own power despite her aching legs.

Over the final km, the mosquitoes became a serious irritant for the first time that day and Freya donned her bug-net hat. As we emerged into the parking lot and saw our support crew awaiting our arrival, Freya actually broke into a trot!

At 6:00 pm, Tuesday, July 17, 2005 - fully 8 hours after Freya set out - the 18.6 km trail was complete. As she posed with a triumphant smile at the trailhead, Freya described her state as, "tired, hungry, thirsty, and achy."

Freya did not remain debilitated for long. Within 45 minutes, Freya was goofing off at the picnic table and running amok in the Astotin Lake playground as if she had just woken up after an afternoon nap. What an amazing child! (Pictured her from left to right are Dad, Auntie Michelle, Freya, and Grandpa Hammond.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Dad's favorite Elk Island memory

About 6 hours into the trail, a beautiful bull moose appeared on a ridge above the trail about 35 m away. He watched us for a few minutes then slowly walked away. This is my favorite Elk Island memory. Keep visiting to find out Freya's favorite Elk Island memory.

Photos at the finish

On Tuesday, July 26, 2005, Freya completed the 18.6 km Wood Bison Trail in 8 exhausting hours. It was a spectacular walk teaming with wildlife. At the finish, we were met by a welcoming committee including Grandpa Hammond who took these wonderful black and whites.

The proud explorer at the end of her trek

The hikers'' arrival with Freya's sister Stephie in the fore ground

Freya takes a break in the parking lot clutching a bird's nest that she found lying on the trail

Dad looks a little tired

The hardy explorers and their support crew - picture taken by Auntie Michelle