It was just one week ago, yet I would go back in a heartbeat if I could. Its the one weekend I look forward to all year long. And I don't even like camping! Well, that's what I thought before I found myself intertwined in #5DadsGoWild.
This was the second annual trip, and the five of us picked up right where we had left off. To some degree it didn't even feel like we had left. Well, besides the obvious difference... this year our campsite was covered in snow!
It was an incredible scene to drive into. Obviously arriving in a 2019 Ford Expedition helped. When Ford agreed to sponsor our little getaway weekend, I made it clear that I wasn't interested in reviewing a vehicle I had no interest or intent on ever buying. They listened and gave me the largest vehicle in their catalogue. You can read my full honest review here:
The weekend is an incredible, quiet, reflective getaway for me. It is literally the only hours away from my kids that I get in the entire year. It has been a hell of a year for me as many of you know. I had been looking forward to this weekend for a long time. I NEEDED the quiet. I was weary and I needed to escape into the wild with some friends for a couple days.
It was no secret that while the core of this weekend was five dads getting together to connect with each other in the wild while disconnecting from our routines back at home, we had some amazing support from a handful of sponsors. For me, the one I was most excited about was Altitude Sports.
Last year at the inaugural #5DadsGoWild weekend, I literally showed up with nothing! It was the first time I had ever gone camping. I didn't know a thing, nor did I have the first thing necessary to do the camping. Altitude Sports heard about this, and this year they set me up with a Coleman Sundome Dark Room Tent, a Eureka Lone Pine Sleeping Bag, and a Coleman All-Terrain Airbed. I can't begin to tell you how much better this year was compared to last year! It's amazing how much better camping is when you have the right gear.
The tent was so easy to set up. James offered to help me, as I had never set up a tent before and we had it up in less than five minutes. The Dark Room™ technology on this tent blocks 98% of sunlight to keep the tent darker if you want to sleep in a bit even after the sun comes up. This was my favourite feature as I am not a morning person, and I remembered being woken up last year at the crack of dawn because everything got so bright so quickly.
But then sleeping on a Coleman Airbed, inside an insulated Eureka! Sleeping Bag changed everything. Last year, you may recall I only got 17 minutes of sleep because of numerous factors that left me so uncomfortable I literally couldn't fall asleep. This year I didn't want to get up! The Sleeping Bag had a temperature rating of 0 °F / -18 °C and kept me warm and cozy all night long. So warm in fact, it took every ounce of willpower and determination to pull me out in the morning.
When I did finally emerge, I trekked through the fresh snow and found Stacey had fresh coffee made and waiting for everyone except me. For me, he had a kettle of hot water boiling. See, I don't drink coffee. You should know this by now. Even Wes, the owner of the Blue Moose Coffee House knows this! This year, as he packed up some beverages for us from his world class coffee house in Hope, BC, he only packed up four coffee's and then handed me an assortment of specialty teas.
Due to the weather we bailed on our Saturday adventure of going out in a boat on Lightning Lake. Instead we found a little trail in the woods and wandered down it. Turns out it was a place called Strawberry Flats. With the fresh snow still falling, it was a magical little detour that we stumbled upon quite by chance. The focal point was this warming hut built for cross country skiers and people snowshoeing coming through the area.
I think it was in this moment my attitude finally switched. Instead of being frustrated, annoyed and disappointed with the weather and the snow, trekking along this trail, literally planting the first footprints in the fresh snow reminded me that virtually nothing in my life ever goes as planned. But that's OK. I've wasted too many hours and too many days resisting occurrences like this, thinking that I could fight the situation going off course, when rather accepting it and making a course correction in my own attitude and approach consistently produces better results.
There was nothing I could do about the weather that we were so unprepared for. I couldn't brush the snow off the trees or insist the sun emerge to warm the area up. But I could see it in a new way. I could smile at the fact that we were buried in snow in September. I could try to find the beauty in the fact that we were witnessing the first snow of the season. I needed to realize that we were all thrown off by this freak, change in the weather and coming to terms with it in our own ways. At least my tent was still standing unlike Michael's Tent Collapsing Under the Snow.
When we got back to camp the cold really started to set in. I don't think the temperature changed at all, but it had been 24 hours now, of us adjusting to the snow and freezing temperatures and it had hit the bones.
Enter Stanly PMI. This is a brand that has been around for over 100 years and yet I've never owned anything from their catalogue before. This company threw me an All-In-One Food Jar claiming it would keep the Beef Stew James cooked, hot for 12 hours and a 20oz Adventure Quencher that would keep my hot tea hot for 4 hours or my cold drinks cold for 5 hours!
Not only are these products built for life and passed every test we threw at them, but they have a lifetime warranty and will be replaced if they don’t live up to any of the claims.
That’s a guarantee I can appreciate. But after using them for the entire weekend, I know I’ll never need to... these things are the most rugged and durable items I own and have immediately found a permanent home in my camping supplies.
Another highlight of the weekend for us is that there are no demands or pressures or schedules to follow. No spouses. No kids. Just us five dads. And while we spend the majority of the time together, we each wander off at times to reflect, think and enjoy the quiet. I tried to do as much of this as possible. See, there is something about escaping into nature and the wild where you discover yourself again. Maybe that’s just me, but even though I’m anything BUT an outdoors man, being in nature rejuvenates me. I’m inspired, I find myself again and I come alive.
It’s probably super cliché of me to say this, but the first thing I think of when I’m packing to go hiking, camping or out into the wild, is Trail Mix.
This is my favourite thing to have on hand. There is just something about the combination of dried fruits, nuts, seeds and chocolate that tastes so good and provide all the right calories for me while out on an adventure.
So, when McSweeney’s offered to hook me up with all my Trail Mix this year I was a little confused. Why is the Canadian brand of meat snacks offering to supply me with Trail Mix? Well, it’s simple really... they have taken Trail Mix to the next level.
Similar to last year, we divided up meal responsibilities up equally seeing as we would be out in the wild for five meals, and there were five of us attempting to survive. This year the guys gave me the last meal of the weekend, which was risky seeing as I was the least likely to survive that long. But literally thanks to all the sponsors who supported us, I not only survived, I emerged on Sunday morning with an extra dose of energy.
I wanted to try something unique, so I whipped up crepe batter the night before, and then sauteed bananas in a pan of brown sugar and rum, which resulted in Bananas Foster Crepes. I boiled some potatoes and tossed them with some sauteed vegetables and breakfast sausage from Farm Town Meats. The look on James' face says it all. It was a hit, and I was already told that Sunday morning will be my meal again next year, as everyone is expecting an encore.
In the end, the weekend was phenomenal. It was everything I had hoped it would be and more... just not in the ways I expected or had anticipated. Waking up to snow covered trees was unique and magical all at the same time. I realized that I have only gone camping now twice in my adult life... both times in sub zero temperatures, and now in snow. Perhaps we should listen to one of our followers advice and schedule our weekend prior to Labour Day long weekend next year, but then again it’s not our style to be boring, predictable and cliche like everyone else.
At least this year I had a tent, a mattress and a sleeping bag!
And just like that, we were saying goodbye at the park sign again. Proud of the fact that 5 Dads went in, and 5 Dads were still standing at the end. This weekend has got to be the fastest 48 hours of my life. All of us want to add on another day to extend the time away by just a little bit, but as you may know... that virtually impossible to do as a parent. So, we remain grateful that our wives and kids allow us this time away and we eagerly look forward to the next time we get together again. The dates in September are set already for 2020 and there is rumor that we may even get together sooner than that for a special edition of #5Dads but we will wait to see if that pans out. Time will tell.
In the means time, we are left with a few thousand photos and countless memories of a special weekend comprised of 5 Dads, a handful of amazing sponsors and an amazing park eagerly playing host to our annual trip. We'll be back, Manning Park... we will be back!