My husband and took up backpacking three summers ago. The kids were all moved out of the house, it was time to go on some new adventures. We found that our trips were great times to decompress and come back together.
Being out in the wilderness, we realize how small we are and how much we have to learn. We learn something new each trip. Sometimes, we learn that a new piece of equipment would be helpful. Our first trip, we realized how easy it would be to get lost in some of the areas. We promptly purchased a Garmin GPS for our next trip.
This last weekend, we learned lessons in a very difficult way.
We had set out for our first backpacking trip of the summer, we chose the Lava Lakes area and were looking forward to getting on the Pacific Crest Trail. It really felt like there was one mishap after another and I had been tempted to say "let's just stay home" out of frustration.
First, my husband had traveled all week and was not able to get home for our departure on Friday. No big deal, we'd just head out Saturday and come home on Monday, just a minor adjustment. He had a hard week traveling for work and hadn't ate very well or had very much rest.
We left on Saturday morning and made our normal stop for some extra perishable snacks. We had been driving about an hour towards Detroit Lake when suddenly the tire pressure alert went off. One of our tires on my Jeep had lost about 12 pounds of pressure. Then it dropped more. We knew it was more than just a low tire and that we had run over something. Thankfully, we had the spare.
My husband had started to jack up the Jeep and get the spare on but I realized that this was a perfect time for me to learn how to do the job. What if I was driving somewhere alone and had a flat tire. Changing the tire wasn't an easy task as those tires are heavy! I did it though! I'm very proud!
Spare tire on and we were off on the road again. The tire, by the way, was not salvageable.
We arrived at the trailhead, put on our sunscreen. By the way, I really like the Beautycounter Countersun Stick for the face. Packs on both of us and also on Piper, we set off. Yes, Piper, my Golden Lab, carries her own pack. We purchased a Ruffwear Palisades pack for her, it's worked very well.
It was so hot out! Hiking in 98 - 100 degree weather with 40 plus pounds on your back is not easy!
We took the trail leading us to the PCT. We followed along for a three miles, came to our first stop, South Matthieu Lake. Here, we cooled down in the lake, let Piper swim, and had a little snack. The heat really drained us. Piper was so happy to be in the water.
My husband mentioned that his legs were cramping a little. He thought it had to do with the fact that it had been a year since we had been out and his body was adjusting. I suggested that we just camp there and get an early start the next day. Having that flat tire had put us behind our target schedule. Feeling behind, wanting to get as far as we could, he decided that we should push on and keep moving.
Our next leg of the trip was beautiful and brutal at the same time. Hiking through the land of lava, a giant lake of molten rock, it was incredible. We never knew that this existed in Oregon. Soon, we came upon Yapoah Crater, which by the way, didn't look like a crater to me but a dome. I was not looking forward to the climb up the path that I saw ahead of me. I was hot, tired, my pack was heavy and I was wondering why I had wanted to start backpacking. I think the same thing when I'm running a half-marathon or marathon.
We had reached an elevation of 6500 feet and started down to the valley. There a spring would greet us, we would camp and rest up for the night before starting again early in the morning. As we began our descent, we noticed that mosquitos were abundant. I had confidence in my "natural" mosquito repellent and that it would keep them away. Was I so wrong!
Smack in the middle of the valley, we were literally attacked by mosquitoes. My Honest Bug Spray did not even phase the mosquitoes. All they seemed to want is our fresh blood. Piper's too. Luckily, we did have a small amount of spray with 15% DEET in it. I can't even tell you where the can came from because I didn't purchase it. I'm the chemical free person, remember? This hardly phased the nasty vampires. I've never seen anything like it before.
Quickly, we walked to our destination, the spring of fresh water and out of mosquito valley. We discovered how delusional we were. The mosquitos were still in abundance. There was no relief.
As we set camp, we realized that my husband had become dehydrated, began to experiencing severe muscle cramping. The heat and pain brought on vomiting. I have never seen him in such pain and it shook me to the core. There was no time for fear, only making sure that he got the hydration, electrolytes, and sugar that his body needed. I'm thankful for those Sour Patch Kids that some passing hikers gave us that night! The sugar content was just what his muscles needed and he was able to then get the other nutrients his body needed.
Morning came and we had to make the decision to continue or just call it an out and back overnighter. We chose the out and back. The heat, mosquitoes, and climbing had worn us out. I had bites all over my body, I was dirty, and I hadn't even had a cup of coffee. Plus, my sleep was so broken because my body ached and no amount of tossing or turning could relieve it.
The hike back to the trailhead was much easier than the hike out. Six miles, much of it downhill, except climbing out of the valley. I can honestly say that I would not be sad to never see Yapoah Crater again.
So what did this trip teach us?
- Backpacking isn't a sprint. It's like running a marathon. Listening and fueling the body is so important. Factors such as heat, elevation, rest, and food prior/during to the trip can make a big difference in how things go.
- Having a variety of food to eat and snack is helpful, being mindful of how they can help the body. Banana chips would have been very helpful on this trip. They would provide the potassium lost from sweat and the sugar to fuel muscles.
- Having electrolyte tabs or salt tabs packed in our kits is a must for future trips. I would never run a marathon without making sure that I can replenish what I'm sweating out.
Last night, I was so happy to shower, wash my hair, and sleep in my own bed. I woke up several times during the night, itching the bites I had acquired on the trail. Even at home, I was still being tormented by those mosquitoes! I awoke, feeling like I had just had one of the hardest workouts I've ever experienced. In truth, it was. Physically hard, mentally hard, and emotionally hard. But it was an adventure.
We haven't decided the date or area that our next adventure will take us but I do know that we will take with us the things that we've learned. I'll keep you posted.