I learned a lot of things on a recent weeklong backpacking trip with a bunch of guys…
…including the fact that boys like to talk about poop. A lot.
Their poop-banter was delightfully juvenile and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I also loved having the opportunity to spend so much quality time in nature with friends that mean the world to me.
This past year and a half has been very difficult due to the illness, and ultimate death, of my mother. I’m just now beginning to find my footing again as I step back into a life of adventuring. These guys have always surrounded me with love, laughter and friendship, and I relished the opportunity to have them all to myself for several days.
My companions included Glenn (my husband) and his brother Chris.
Glenn and Chris hadn’t been backpacking together since they were in the same Boy Scout troop over 37 years ago. They lost their parents when they were quite young. As such, I always enjoy their conversations when they get together and try to reconstruct their shared history (a dynamic I’ve never experienced as, until recently, my mother has always been around to ask).
For example, does Chris remember the time they replaced the mildewed wallpaper in the kitchen…only to discover the smell was actually coming from a rotten pan of au gratin potatoes that had been long-forgotten in the oven? Or, is Glenn’s recollection of why people started calling him by his middle name (Glenn) instead of his first name (Donald) the same as Chris’ – that his parents didn’t want to be constantly reminded of their close friend Donald’s untimely death in the Vietnam War?
I also got to spend time with Kyle, whom I’ve worked with for well over a decade. For many of those years we sat within spitting distance of each other. We used to spend nearly every waking moment at work in each other’s company, including eating lunch together every day (chicken burritos from the food cart a few blocks away…extra Tapatio sauce!). In recent years, however, we’ve been working on different projects and so, while I’m still physically near Kyle, we are moving in different circles and I don’t get to connect with him very often. I’ve missed him.
Fritz also came along for the adventure – bless his heart! Beyond doing a few trail runs with us, Fritz has never gone hiking…much less backpacking for several nights after climbing an incredibly difficult trail! His 45th birthday was coming up and he decided to try something totally new and outside of his comfort zone.
Fritz and I are each others’ biggest cheerleaders. We challenge ourselves, and each other, to constantly try to do more than we thought we could. I can’t count the number of hills I’ve run up because Fritz was at my side saying we could do it. Trying new things together is a most cherished aspect of our friendship.
Backpacking is, by far, my most favorite thing to do in the entire world. It was such a treat to share that with Fritz. I got to watch him gain his “trail legs” and step with more determination and confidence as each day passed. I got to watch him enjoy his first tastes of dehydrated camp food. I got to watch him go through withdrawals as we moved out of cell service range and he began disconnecting from the outside world…and then I got to see him become enveloped with that sense of Zen that can only come from such disconnection.
My dear friend John also came along. John is like a brother to me – a brother with the biggest heart and the sharpest wit. Plus, John thinks I’m as funny as I think I am…which is a lovely character trait!
John’s beloved wife Melissa died the day after my mother died. We found ourselves on parallel journeys and have been able to, I think, provide some solace to one another because of our shared experience of watching the most important person in our lives be consumed by cancer. Melissa loved backpacking, and being with John in nature was a treasured activity for her. I have no doubt he missed her terribly as we meandered down the dusty track. Despite the sadness, John was able to smile, joke, laugh and enjoy the camaraderie of the trail. That warmed my heart.
John and I talked about what Melissa would have loved about our hike, and how she probably would have made campsite pancakes like me (way too big to flip safely in the pan…but yet, we can!). Grief is an ever-shifting and complex journey – and I’m so thankful that John and I got to spend some time remembering the past, while also making new memories together.
My final companions were the towering mountain peaks and shimmering alpine lakes that surrounded us on our journey.
I had heard about a place called “The Enchantments” in Washington State from several friends that had visited there over the years. It was said to be such a magical place that you had to win a lottery to be able to camp there. We were lucky enough to get such a camping permit and, under the haze of smoke from distant forest fires, we set off for what was one of the most beautiful backpacking trips I’ve ever been on. It was one of my most challenging backpacking trips as well, with ~5,700 feet of elevation gain, nearly 50 switchbacks and more rocks, boulders and uneven trail surfaces than you could shake a stick (or trekking pole) at!
For those who want the specifics:
- We were on the trail for 4 days and 3 nights.
- We hiked in and out on the Snow Lake Trail near Leavenworth, Washington.
- We camped at Upper Snow Lake and day-hiked into the “Core Zone” area.
- We traversed ~23 difficult miles – that seemed to be going either straight up…or straight down.
- I now know more about the male digestive system than I should!
Enjoy the pictures below, and to see more pictures and video visit Chris’ blog.
Snow Lake Trail
Camping at Upper Snow Lake
“Core Enchantments Zone” Day Hike
Here’s a video of our goat encounter.