Marie-Hélène Beaudry

On Monday the day began in healthy mode: pineapple granola, yogurt, ”little peanut butter toast”, warm-up led by Dillan M., last backpack day trip, ‘duffle bag’ and all the rest… a great start for our winter camping adventure!


Today, we walked about 7 km on relatively flat terrain with some small hills to get us pumped and warmed up. We really were ‘walking the talk’ because there was a lot of chatting on the trail. We went from lakes to winding paths deep in the forest. The sky was overcast, but it wasn’t really cold.


Our brains were also engaged thanks to the rich teachings of Elizabeth, a guide at the Triton. Did you know that fleas live in the snow? Do you know why spruce trees have a conical shape? Do you know how to tell the difference between a spruce and a fir? Do you know what you call a cat that falls into a can of paint on Christmas Eve… a Christmas “Painted-Cat”!!! Ok, that one is my very personal addition, not to be confused with the great wisdom shared by our guide. (translator’s note: this is one of those word-plays that is funny in French, but doesn’t work when translated into English – sorry!)


We stopped for lunch around halfway: hot burritos toasted on the fire, vegetable soup and crazy-delicious homemade brownies. As a proud gourmet with a full belly, and in total admiration of our chefs, I am already thinking about the gourmet dinner that no doubt awaits us later this evening… and I know that I am not the only one drooling!


Back at camp, the real work has only just begun. Fortunately, the group still seems to be bursting with energy. I saw Ben actually jumping down the trail to get some group gear to carry; frolicking, he loves a challenge just like I do! I wonder if his “boost” is related to the fir tree gum harvested from the bark that Nicolas made him taste earlier today! He has literally “tasted” the territory and this medicine seems to do him the greatest good. Later Momo asked me what it takes to volunteer with the foundation; he would like to get involved in the future. Motivation, we like that!


So, back to the real work: the troops were divided into three teams. The first set up the last tent and the second placed fir branches on the ground to add comfort and aroma to our canvas castle. The third, affectionately named the ”poo-team”, had the honor of organizing the bush toilet system: a ”solids” throne alongside a ”liquids” throne, all well hidden behind a wall of snow. The brats in the ‘War of the Tuques’ (a classic Quebec film, a must-see!) would be impressed!


Everyone took their tasks seriously, even Felycia, the impressive one-armed womangoddess-camper. Despite having injured her shoulder earlier in the expedition, she still worked with everyone. Half hidden under her big orange jacket, one of her arms rested against her body in a sling, while the other was very active, developing ambidextrous skills. Outstanding!


Once the work was done, it was time to play! Jessica appealed to everyone’s child’s heart by hosting an epic game of musical chairs, with accompanied by Catherine’s voice and her trusty banjo. Pretty cool, since as people got eliminated, the choir got bigger and so did the party! The competition was really tough, as we were dealing with experienced musical chair players. After many histrionics, falls and gales of laughter, the finale was a heated contest between Jessica and Lana. In the end, Lana was the winner, her smile reaching all the way to her long black braids. I am sincerely happy for her.


The evening went smoothly around the fire. After judicious advice on how best to manage your heat while winter camping, the dinner team arrived with our evening sustenance. Cream of broccoli soup, bourguignon, small potatoes, cakes and hot drinks cheered us up as the sun went down. I was able to discuss deep topics with some participants, learning in an uninhibited way about cancer. It’s crazy how unique each story is. The volunteers unanimously agree that these touching exchanges are really part of our volunteer pay. As Jessica said this afternoon: “things like that cannot be bought”. Totally agree with her!


The weather is good outside, people are sitting around the fire, hearts seem light (lighter than the stomachs anyway!). Little by little the stoves in the tents let out their smoke, the lanterns light up and the day comes to an end. It looks like a quiet night.


Until tomorrow, dear parents, families and friends. It is always a privilege to bring these stories to you. I hope it will feed your imagination and that you will feel a bit like you are with us. We blow you a kiss and a big “whiff” of spruce smell.


Marie-Helene Beaudry

Blogger-Photographer for the On the Tip of the Toes Foundation