Last week I took a four day backpacking friends with some friends. My husband strongly encouraged me to go, which surprised me, since he’s so busy right now. I wasn’t sure about leaving my family, but I went.
***More photos to come. Waiting on my friends since I didn’t bring a camera.***
Our group started out with five women, three over fifty years in age. None of them but me had ever backpacked before. We drove to a trail head and started out; after half a mile Bonnie’s 60 pound pack wasn’t working so well. Plus our trail wasn’t taking us where we wanted to go, and the friend with the detailed topo maps had decided not to come the night before. So I hiked back to the truck and drove around to where the ladies were resting. We drove back the dirt road to the ranger station, where we picked up a map. Then we re-read our trail head description and found the right starting point. Is it amazing that we can spend six months planning to go somewhere but forget to figure out exactly where until we’re there?
We started hiking again. This time we did much better. We took a slow pace and took breaks when the trail went up hill to allow everyone to catch their breath. It was already afternoon, so we had to hike steadily until evening to make it to our planned camping spot. It rained on us during the afternoon for about half an hour. That would have been no problem, except I had convinced everyone to leave their rain gear behind to save weight because the forecast said only 10% chance of rain. Really, we only got damp and none of our gear got wet, so we managed fine. We made it to our stopping point and set up camp. By the time everyone had set up their tents, cooked dinner, and filtered water, they were ready for bed. Frogs and an owl serenaded us during the night.
Tuesday morning we woke with the sun. Those of us that had slept, that is. When backpacking there is no option but to sleep on the ground. Even with a pad, this isn’t comfortable and takes a few nights to get used to. The dew covered our tents, so we waited for them to dry before packing up.
Bonnie asked to go home. Logistically it didn’t work to walk her back to the truck without all of us quitting so she said she’d keep going. We repacked her pack, taking all of the heavy items out and giving them to her granddaughter to carry. We gave her moleskin for her blisters and she borrowed my sandals. Then we started out. First thing we had to climb out of the canyon, but as we continued on we kept a steady pace. While looking at the map, I noticed our trail joined the next trail within 0.1 mile of a forest road. “Bonnie,” I said, “if we hike to the road and get cell reception enough to call your husband, you can get a ride home.” She liked that idea. So we hiked the couple of miles to the road, texted for a ride, and got a reply that he could come. Then we ate lunch together, brought their gear to the road, and left Bonnie and her granddaughter to wait. It was sad to have them stop, but I would rather let them leave than push them beyond their physical capacity. So far, blisters were the only injury.
Only halfway to our destination, we continued hiking. The afternoon was warm, and sweat soaked our shirts. The roasted pine needles released fragrance with each step. The trail was easy to follow, crossing four small canyons. With encouragement, we reached our next camp, a spring. We had more daylight left than the previous day to set up camp, eat, and filter water. We all took sponge baths using water from the creek below the spring. I lit a small camp fire and stayed up until the stars came out, but my two companions went to bed. I enjoyed the solitude of being alone in the wild. I heard elk calling across the canyon. I thought about how I saw God’s hand everywhere around me.
Our third day we had half as many miles to go. We hiked along a creek through a sunny canyon, with tall grasses and wildflowers. To our surprise we arrived at a cabin by noon. It wasn’t on the map, but the spring next to it was our planned stopping point. My friends took naps in the scenic meadow. I hiked up a side canyon and spend a few hours reading and thinking. We had finally adjusted to the slow pace and peaceful surroundings. Backpacking is a timeless occupation. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 10 or 2. There are no deadlines, only the rough plan to hike until you arrive at a certain point, which is negotiable. You hike, eat, rest, as your body needs and spend the rest of your energy soaking up the beauty of nature.
We enjoyed a refreshing night of sleep. Then after leisurely eating and packing up our gear, we hit the trail one last time. Before we knew it we saw the familiar point where we had begun our journey. My companions smelled a bit more seasoned than they had begun, but their faces reflected the fulfillment of completing the trek. We hopped in my truck and stopped to eat some burgers before driving the rest of the way home. I dropped off both friends, and just as I tried to pull into my neighborhood, the power steering pump on the truck quit and I had to muscle the wheel to make it the last half mile. Whew!
Life is just like this trip. You can decide what to pack and where you’d like to go, but you have no control over what happens to you along the way. You hope what you brought will be enough for the challenges you’ll face. Your friends can be your greatest assets. When it’s over you look back at all of the memorable challenges and say, “Wow! That was amazing! Let’s go again!”