Newbie backpackers: the saga

Sorry this blog has been so quiet– my training got sidelined by travel, by a calf strain, and by the Cold From Hell (which is finally subsiding). But I never wrote about the backpacking trip! So here goes…


The backcountry site, about a month before we camped there. Think more fallen leaves and golden trees…

The trip was 4 of us, 2 experienced backpackers (me, my friend’s husband) and 2 newbies (my husband and my friend). By now I have a pretty good handle on what should go in my pack so packing went quickly, but my husband (who is an overpacker no matter where we go) had a tough time. Foodwise, I went with light, rehydratable stuff, while he decided to buy a bunch of MREs– convenient and relatively tasty, but heavy (and so much trash to pack out!)  Not only did he pack heavy food, he also brought a bunch of stupid stuff like a solar charger. Honey, we’re going to be there for 2 nights, just turn your phone off and save your pack 5lbs… (I wish I’d weighed his pack before we left!)

Friday afternoon we finally left and battled the traffic up to the park. We found the tiny parking lot, parked the car, and hoisted our packs to hurry to the site before it got dark. It was a short and easy hike, just a mile and mostly downhill, though we’d all loaded our packs up with lots of water so we were heavy. Once we reached the site, we hustled to make camp before it got dark and almost made it (hanging a bear bag in the dark is fun times).

My friend is not exactly an outdoorsy type, and she was worried about the outhouse/pit toilet at the site. Me, I said, “Thank goodness there’s an outhouse and we don’t have to poop in the woods!” She made her husband escort her to the outhouse every time, but it seemed to work out all right.

It got really cold the first night; we ate dinner and huddled around the fire before it was time to go to sleep. Thankfully my hammock setup was toasty after I brought the tarp in tight against the wind, even to the ~35F low overnight (thanks underquilt!) My husband didn’t sleep though– he couldn’t get comfy. And he was a grump in the morning!

After breakfast on day #2 we found we’d gone through ~75% of our water already. I suggested we go to a creek and try out my new Katadyn filter and fill up, but they didn’t trust it for some reason. However, in anticipation of such a situation, we’d left 3 3-gallon jugs of water in the car… and guess who went to fetch them? The ladies. My friend took one, I took two. By my calculations, each jug weighed 24lb, so it was a very awkward and unpleasant 1 mile suitcase carry. (And in the end, we didn’t even drink all the water! One jug got used to douse the fire ashes before we left.)

Day #2 was hot; it was almost 80F and very windy. Weird weather! We worried about the campfire, making sure someone was always keeping an eyeball on it in case an ember got away. I taught my friends how to play euchre, and we drank the last of the whiskey in our flasks. Turns out we’d all overestimated the food we needed; the number of meals was off because of the pack of cheese brats I’d brought for dinner the first night (best campfire food ever). I ate the entree from one of my husband’s MREs to save him a couple pounds; I wound up taking the ramen and Mountain House meal back home with me. And the Backpacker’s Pantry chocolate cheesecake dessert? Won’t be buying that one again.

While we were drinking and playing cards a couple park rangers came over the ridge and into our camp from two directions wearing camo body armor and handguns, scaring the bejeesus out of us. They informed us that the parking lot at the trailhead wasn’t for the trail but belonged to the church across the street and they weren’t happy about us parking there. We apologized and asked it we could leave the car for now, provided we left early the next day before church. They said okay, then vanished back into the woods. Really guys??

I’d helped my husband adjust his hammock setup a bit, adding some slack to the suspension, showing him how to lay diagonally, and securing his tarp a bit more… securely. This was a good thing. Overnight gusts were 35+mph, but our tarps stayed put and he got a decent night of sleep.

At 5:30am I was up and started packing up camp with my headlamp on. Eventually everyone else woke up and joined in and just after sunrise we had packs on and headed back down the trail. Our packs were a little lighter (I was only carrying 1L of water this time, not 6L) but it was all uphill and it was a slog. Eventually we made it back to the car, and already a couple church ladies were standing across the road giving us the hairy eyeball. We loaded our packs into the car and headed to Waffle House, where we decided that next time we’d go car camping.

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1 Response to Newbie backpackers: the saga

  1. Pingback: 2016 in review | Running While Fat

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