Thursday, August 30, 2012

10 Things I've Learned on the Trail

Well, I'm not entirely sure that I have even a single reader that backpacks.  I wouldn't even call myself a "backpacker" at this point.  I mean, we've done it...yet, not that many times.  But none the less, I feel as though we've learned a whole lot and so here, for your reading pleasure, is a serious and not so serious list of the top 10 things I've learned about backpacking.  Enjoy. :)

10.  Food.  Food is key.  There is a fine line between grubbin' good and not carrying a whole Thanksgiving meal with you in your pack.  Hot meals are key though.  Things like chicken fajitas are delish and if you ask me totally worth carrying the couple of cans of chicken (I've yet to find the chicken in the tuna...I know they exist but cannot find them ANYWHERE!)  Oh, and carrying beer was heavy and yet SO worth it and the end of a long day on the trail.  hahaha.  My father would be proud.

9.  You snack a heck of a lot less than you think you will. 

8. A chair.  I want a chair.  Seriously.  A hard log by day 5 is killer on the back and the butt.  I want THIS CHAIR to be exact.  It's light...and expensive.  But totally worth it.  I was having dreams of
beautiful back support by the end of the trip.

7. I am hopelessly and completely...totally irrationally, no...TERRIFIED of mountain lions.  How about bears you ask?  Nope.  They don't freak me out...not at all really.  Bears don't EAT PEOPLE.  Grizzly bears do but since we don't live in grizzly country we're good.  I knew that I had a fear of them before.  I went on a night ride mountain biking once and being that I was the slowest downhiller in the group I started having visions of a mountain lion picking me off since I was seemingly the "weak one" at the back of the pack.  Then after a few backpacking trips that left me frantically searching in the dark looking for those freaky reflecting cat eyes...just looking to pounce on it's prey (that would be me) sealed the deal.  It's official.  They freak me out.

6. This relates to #7.  Always hang your bear bags in the EVENING when it's light out.  The first night we did it late when it was dark.  We were far from the campfire in the pitch black with a headlamp that was flickering in and out.  If you don't know, hanging bear bags can be a long process as you have to find a branch that's high enough, tie a rock to a rope and throw it over.  A lot easier said than done.  Being it was dark it took forever!  And I was FREAK.ING OUT X 10.  I made Jason promise me that we would hang the rope before dark.

5.  This also relates to #7.  I thought that I would be into hammock backpacking (you string a backpacking hammock and sleep in that instead of a tent).  It's lighter and seems super cool.  Then I realized how much I don't like the night.  It's stupid but I feel safe when I'm in the tent.  As if an animal can't slash right through that thin tent wall?  But maybe if I'm really quiet it will just walk by and not know I'm there?  Maybe?  Then the thought of me being in a hammock all exposed just became a  I want my tent, my walls, my false sense of security!  :) 

4. Sleeping mat.  Let's talk about the sleeping mat.  PAY THE MONEY FOR COMFORT.  Just do it!  Especially if you are a scrawny boney girl/guy.  You will hate yourself if you don't.  I hated myself this last trip.  Side sleepers especially!!!  I want THIS MAT!  I will get it...when it's on sale that is :)  Oh wait!  It's on sale now!  Fancy that!


3. Never store your baggy of koolaid next to your baggy of coffee.  Turns out flavors transfer through ziplocs.  Our koolaid water had a weird dirty coffee taste and it took me a day or so to figure out what was happening.  yuck.  I preferred the bleach taste to the coffee hinted koolaid by the end.  blak.

2. There are about 521 ways to start a campfire.  We've done them all.  Good ole' Jason and his mad survival skills.  :)

1. If you see smoke...and you smell smoke....there's a fire.  Don't keep thinking, "oh, it must be a campfire" when you haven't SEEN A SOUL in 3 days.  Yeah.  Good times.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Summer Backpacking Trip -- Numero Dos

We started the summer off with a backpacking trip so it seemed only right that we end the summer with a backpacking trip also.  We returned to the Trinity Alps and set off to do the North Fork to East Fork Loop.  A 5 day, 4 night, 27 mile escapade.  Did we complete it?  NOPE!  Want to know why?  Well, the night before we arrived there was a lightning storm.  No big deal right?  It didn't effect us.  Or so we thought.  After attempting a detour to a lake which was about the half way point (seriously, this trail was unmarked, and never used.  We were totally winging it and definitely got lost at one point.  We knew we were close but didn't want to risk getting truly lost.  This was the WILDERNESS, as in we hadn't seen a soul in a couple of days and there probably hadn't been a person where we were in who knows how long (plus on our itinerary we gave to the ranger station we didn't note this detour).  So we decided to call it and retrace our steps (it was beginning to get dark and we needed to find a place to set up camp). 

We made it back, found a spot, set up camp, heard a very close gunshot go off at 9:30 pm (which means two things: Option A: crazy person with a gun...don't like this option.  Option B: Crazy bear/mountain lion threatening person with gun.  Don't like this option either...though I choose the animal over the crazy person any day.)  Turns out the gun shot sorta wigged me out...though I didn't realize it at the time of the shot.  When it came to lying in the tent...listening to the forest noises, with Jason sound asleep in .5 mind went crazy.  And my mat was really hard and uncomfortable and sleep was had.

The next day we packed up and continued back from our detour to find the main trail.  This is when I started to smell smoke.  Not horribly...but I could smell it.  I have a freakishly sensitive nose.  I even weirds me out sometimes.  Jason always jokes that the police should hire me for their narcotics division.  :)  As we started hiking deeper into the wilderness the smell was getting stronger and stronger...and we began to see it in the sky...and even lower in the trees where we were hiking.  There is something really unsettling about the knowledge of a forest fire being somewhere but having no clue where it is.  So, we talked and prayed and decided to head back down, backtracking our trail rather than completing the loop.  In the end it was about the same miles but it was going back the direction that seemed to be better smoke wise.  We made it pretty far, found a site and decided to make that home for the next 2 days. 

We woke up the next morning...and the sky was clear and blue.  No smoke.  Weird.  So we lounged by the river, relaxed and had a nice low key day.  We woke up the next morning sad to be leaving the mountains as we were hiking out that day.  I started packing up, and then the smoke came fast and strong.  The sky was a weird browny color in some spots.  We kicked it into high gear and got out of there as fast as we could.  We did 4 miles in oh...a little less than an hour. haha.  With packs on our backs.  :)

So, we did our 5 days and it was grand.  Being outdoors...especially far from anyone else besides the person you're hiking with involves flexibility.  Sometimes it's hard to remember that.  But we had a blast and have some good stories to go with it too.  And here are a few pictures to leave you off with!  :)

Jason and his crazy cool suspension system for boiling water in the pot.
Tongs!  To remove our quesadillas!  :)

You know you are far from civilization when you aren't worried about people seeing you in these babies!  :)  (sssshhhh.  I secretly like wearing them!  :)  )

Too bad I caught the only fish...and it was sooo tiny!  :(  Sad.  I hate killing really do.  Even bugs.  I know, it's ridiculous.  We tried to release it but it had swallowed the hook to deeply and it didn't make it.  But there you have it.  The fishing champion!
Our attempt at a "together shot"  on a bridge...with packs that got in the way every time we turned to face the camera, haha.
Loaded up!

Smoke!  Ack!
Our accommodations for the week!  :)
Have a great weekend everyone!  Adios!  Oh....and yes there is a big fire in northern Cali right now.  It was about 30 miles east of Redding.  Not sure how close that was to us.  Not dangerously close, but definitely close enough.  Especially when you had no way of knowing where exactly it was!  Good times.  :)