Roughly six weeks ago when we were last on this trail, this creek was dry as a bone. Now the gurgling water and little waterfalls provide the perfect background sound for a hike. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Roughly six weeks ago when we were last on this trail, this creek was dry as a bone. Now the gurgling water and little waterfalls provide the perfect background sound for a hike. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Sarah Simpson column: If you go out in the woods today…. don’t bring the kids!

Rare day off yields quality couples time

Something strange happened the other day. For the first time since having children, my husband and I both had the day off. The same week! On the same day! And the children were both at school!

It meant we would have roughly five glorious hours together without kids. When my husband learned he’d be off, he shot me a text saying: “Wanna hike?”

“Yup!” was my immediate reply. I didn’t think twice.

Hiking with children is an amazing experience. To see nature through the eyes of a child is remarkable. That being said, you really do have to examine every single leaf, blow on every single dandelion, pick up every single stick and make it a wand or a sword, and of course, stomp in every single puddle — water or mud, it makes no difference — and then deal with the aftermath. All of that turns a two-or-three-kilometre jaunt into an hour-long affair. It’s painfully slow but we do it anyway and by and large we enjoy the time spent together outdoors as a family.

The idea of actually getting more than a couple of kilometres into one of our favourite trails really appealed to me, though. As soon as we decided we’d hike, I knew we’d be going up Mount Prevost from the Bings Creek side. A three-to-five hour hike? Absolutely! We love to play at the base of that mountain but we never seem to get very far. It bugged me. I knew there was a spot on the mountain where you had to use a rope to navigate some steep and rocky terrain and I’ve been wanting to get there for years. Kids made it impossible.

I don’t normally do it but I printed out a paper trail map. Usually we use our phones but without actually talking about it, we both opted to keep our phones in our pockets to enjoy our time together and the rare opportunity to talk without being interrupted by the kids. We didn’t even really need the map but I’d sent it to my mom and sister so they’d have a frame of reference if they wanted updates as to our whereabouts. Safety first right?

I kind of felt like Dora the Explorer with the map though. Heavy J (a pretty well known trail mapper around these parts) had some great labels. As Dora would say: Dark Forest, Short Fixed Rope, West Summit!

Off we went and it was a perfect hiking day. Drizzly to start but the forest canopy kept us dry. We didn’t see a soul save for the group of young men beginning to gather at the trail head before we started out.

It felt like the entire forest was ours. Well, the ravens reminded us there’s a lot more to the forest than the humans walking through it.

The creek finally had some water in it after that dry summer. There were beautiful little waterfalls and the barren winter landscape had become lush and green once again. We passed a couple little fairy villages and traversed the Dark Forest without getting murdered by a headlelss horseman or anything.

At first we talked about the kids and to do lists and stuff, but that eventually melted away and into the types of things we talked about before kids.

Finally, we got to the section on Heavy J’s map where we should have seen the Short Fixed Rope. There was a fork in the trail and more than an hour and a half in, my map was crumpled and it wasn’t clear to us whether we should take a right or a left.

We went right.

A half hour or so later we found ourselves at the parking lot between the east and west summits. It’s a bit bittersweet to spend two hours walking up a mountain to end up at a spot that we could have reached in 10 minutes by car.

“It’s the accomplishment of it all,” said my husband, though I knew he, too, wanted to feel like we were way farther away from civilization than we were. Nevertheless, we wandered up to the west summit. We didn’t spend a ton of time at the top because it was very windy and I didn’t want to make headlines for being blown off the side of a mountain.

We descended on a different trail because I was cranky we hadn’t been to the Short Fixed Rope yet. It turned out that we should have turned left instead of right at the fork in the trail. In fact, if we’d looked — really looked — we likely could have seen the rope section from that junction!

As we neared the rope we saw the group of 15 young men (and a few women) on their way up. It was tight quarters as we all attempted to give each other pandemic space on the steep trail. As we were shuffled about, I asked them “are you guys a hockey team or something?”

They were all quite fit and many of them had the same type of neatly trimmed mustache. Seemed like something a team would do.

“No. We’re the navy!” was one’s reply.

The chances of seeing the Royal Canadian Navy at the Short Fixed Rope deep in the woods of Mount Prevost are pretty slim, I’d say.

Almost as slim as having a day off to hike with my husband.

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