A few caveats, because I feel the need to defend myself before I perform the analysis of a some very bad decision making.
Hubs and I are not slouches. In fact, we're training for a 1/2 marathon and can easily run 10 miles. The glossy trip brochure was not specific as to the schedule -- had the torment been detailed, we wouldn't have gone. The trip leaders were super nice people who worked hard all week long -- it's not their fault. And finally, I started the trip exhausted. A colleague went on emergency leave, and I picked up a week of Ob/c-section call the week prior to this trip, and in fact was on call up until midnight prior to leaving, which is not the optimal way to begin a vacation. I get that. No one's fault. The fault was signing up in the first place.
With that having been said, I give you: The Great Canadian Death March -- otherwise known as a week of adult summer camp minus arts/crafts and daily nap time.
Day 1: After getting up at 3am to drive 1.5 hours to the nearest airport because we live just around the corner from the edge of oblivion, travel progressed smoothly until we realized we had only 50 minutes to clear customs in Toronto. After shuffling through rows of what could be best called "cattle chutes" we then waited 45 minutes to collect luggage and then walked (ran) said luggage through yet another checkpoint. No way would we make the plane. But wait! Hurray! Air Canada's fuelers were on strike. Yup, the people who fill the tank so that the plane will remain airborne from point A to point B were On. Strike. So, are they going to switch to 87 octane in protest? No, but lucky for us, the flight was delayed 45 minutes, because, like, 1 dude showed up to work this day. Thus we made the connection, yay strike!
Day 2: Waterfront city, very lovely, if only we hadn't slept til noon because we went from Mountain time to freakin' Atlantic Ocean time. Lovely day, strolled around, toured some things. Mind you, the actual hiking portion of the vacation hadn't started yet, thus why happiness seeped out of our pores on this day.
Day 3: The deception. Met with group of mostly 60-80 year old retired overachievers + two nubile 20-something trip guides. Guides tell us to expect intense and long hikes, lots of free time, and cultural experiences. My Dad is so stoked, I swear to God, he's already stretching out his hamstrings and doing light calesthenics in anticipation of today's hike. We all buy the song and dance -- hook, line, and sinker. So begins the descent into hell.
Day 3.5: Bait and switch. These trip guides are geniuses. They set up the 8 mile hike that takes us from the middle of nowhere to the hotel (aka: food, shower, and No More Walking). To call me highly-motivated to be done by approx 4 miles in would be an understatement. But no choice -- we have to continue on in the hopes of laying down on a bed. In fabulous news, we have fancy GORP to eat. I'm noshing on dried apricots like there's no tomorrow, oblivious to the impending repercussions later this week. Yet another error. Dinner begins at 8pm and takes over 2 hours. Went to bed with the sweet sounds of the meal repeating on me.
Day 3.9: Norwalk virus. Hubby begins vomiting at 11pm and continues q30 minutes. He's moaning like a woman dilated to 8 cm, and even though I deal in bodily fluids in my day job, having to clean up...that...is not something I looked forward to on this vacation. Up with hubby all night long, no sleep for either of us.
Day 4: Rest day. Hubby is still vomiting at the 7am breakfast time. Yes, I said 7am. Stay tuned. This is a theme. Thank you, Jesus, that hubby cannot stand upright, much less hike. Thus, we >must< stay in the hotel and Not-Hike all day long. After a nap, I go for a lovely 1 hour run and then snooze under a shade tree for a few hours. Little did I know, this would be the most relaxing day of the trip.
Day 5: Mein Kampf. Hubby has arisen from the dead only to be faced with 7.5 miles of hiking (an "easy" day, thanks). The group takes off down the trail at what could best be described as a light, arthritic jog with these septuagenarians heckling hubby's and my less vigorous pace. Trip leaders remind us this will be a "fabulous" and "beautiful" hike. Okay, it was ocean, seals, trees and wind, so yes, nice. But how about time afterwards for sightseeing, or savoring the town where we're staying that night? Nope. Have to hurry up and change so we can go to a fiddle playing demonstration. (Here's a hint -- each folk song sounds exactly like the others to the untrained ear. We don't need 90 minutes of lovely fiddle playing to demonstrate this fact.) Dinner at 7:30 with a 2.5 hour service. Which wouldn't be a problem, if....
Day 6: Viva la Revolution! Breakfast starts at 7am, so that -- GOD FORBID -- we don't limit our time on the death march. Hubby and I try to entice the old folks into cutting out of the 10-freakin' mile hike early with promises of spa treatments, shopping, and early dinner. Coup d'etat attempt = fail. These Jack LaLanne wannabes don't want to miss any. second. of the suffering, just to prove that they are still prime physical specimens. In a surprise loss of consolidated voting base, my parents swing their votes with the other old people. Thanks, guys. We endure a two hour, warm, bumpy, nauseating drive in the minivan... (why? because Doris, an 80 year old who >has to< sit at the front of the bus constantly complains that she is "too cold").
Upon arrival in the middle of the wilderness, we are instructed to tuck in our pants into our socks and spray OFF all over us. Uh, pardon? Yes, you guessed it: today is the "Tick Hike", I s#$t you not, that's what they called it: "The Tick Hike". Hiking with Ticks. For 10 miles. And it's rainy and warm, which is a FABULOUS combo when one is wearing a raincoat for 5 hours. That's not a slimy and disgusting greenhouse effect happening in my jacket AT ALL. Again, the diabolical leaders drop us off somewhere on the event horizon and remind us that to get to food and No More Hiking, we have to...hike. And then there's more GORP. Remember the dried apricots?
Day 7: Repercussions. I won't mention last night's late dinner, the lack of shopping/strolling around town, and the 6 hours of sleep until the 7am muster in the mess hall. That all goes without saying. What we're going to talk about is how there are no bathrooms on the 9 mile forced march and how I have consumed approximately 30 pounds of GORP in the past 4 days. Remember the Play-Doh "Fun Factory" kit? The one where you shove a wad of neon green into the machine, place a template on the release valve, and press down on the handle? Yup, about like that. In the woods. Q-20 minutes. Oh, and our peppy trip guides remind us of the "pack it in, pack it out" policy. Yup. Because I so want to carry the Ziploc bag of Play-Doh wipes around. Dammit, freakin' GORP.
Day 7.5: Stockholm Syndrome. No more arguments, no attempts to modify the hell. Eye is on the prize now, which is to say, the promise of being done with the eternal hiking. Found myself thanking tour guides for "such a nice hike", then excusing myself to Play Doh behind a damp, moss-covered tree as I pray that I don't get ticks...there. (To be fair, no tick would survive more than 5 seconds in the toxic GORP-induced patties of hell, so I shouldn't worry.) Yes, 11 miles sounds lovely, I'm disappointed we cannot hike more. No, I don't really want to browse the quaint shops filled with kind people. Yes, dinner at 8pm will be perfect, in fact, my hiatal hernia/dyspepsia thanks you for the encouragement to improve.
Day 8: Escape. A carrot hangs before us, held by the disturbingly-rested, too-pleasant-to-be-believed trip leaders. If we would but walk another 6 miles, we will be permitted to leave the hiking trip. There appears to be no other alternative. We acquiesce, and hike faster than on previous days, in an effort to compress the time spent suffering. I cannot get within 10 feet of the GORP bag without psychological/physiological backlash. At the end of the day, we tip the guides, if only to to ensure our safe passage out of this trip.
Day 9: Up at 3am in ATLANTIC OCEAN DAWN OF CIVILIZATION TIME ZONE to go to airport. I have zero recollection of what occurred between sitting in my airplane seat and landing in Newark. That period of time is lost forever. 12 hours later, we have returned to the end of the Earth over here in Mountain time zone. Email dings. I'm asked to provide a review of the trip. My only question: If I complain, how far will they go to find me?