I will just admit it: my house is a shambles right now. My new roommate has moved in, and I had to move everything from a 200 or 300 square foot bedroom with two enormous closets into a tiny bedroom with a tiny, dysfunctional closet. So my hallway looks like a possessions explosion for now. It’s distressing. But I have been really wanting to write another blog post, so gosh darn it, that’s what I’m doing instead of fixing my house.
I have wanted to write more about my backpacking trip, since I mostly focused on our bear-line-hanging gymnastics in my last post, Women Gone Wild, Part I. It was such a fun trip, consisting of my friend Kelly, ten-year-old Ambrosia, seven-year-old Selah, and me. Kelly had brought Ambrosia backpacking before, but this was Selah’s first trip, so Kelly suggested Island Lake, which has a very short, easy trail with considerable reward in terms of recreation and beauty.
When we got there, Ambrosia eyed me doubtfully. “You’re wearing a DRESS?” I felt a little defensive, but I prefer to do most activities in skirts: biking (more fun), hiking (more comfortable), and basically everything else (because skirts are better). And it turns out that a crummy cotton sundress is just about the best thing you can wear on a backpacking trip. When it was warm, it kept me comfortable. When it cooled off, I put pants under it and pulled a fleece over it, and it kept my back warm. Even though Kelly laughed at me for looking like I was from Santa Cruz (her old stomping grounds). And the girls laughed at me because they said I looked like an old-fashioned maid in my dress, kerchief, and hiking boots. But forget those guys.
Heading Out in My Dress
Maid at the Lake
We all headed out and Ambrosia and Kelly almost immediately pulled out in the lead, discussing the trip and logistics, while Selah lagged behind, moaning and pretending to struggle under the weight of her bag as if someone had broken her arms and legs and I was making her drag a dead horse up a hill anyway. I responded to this the way any good mother would: by becoming enraged. Why does whining get to me so much? Why can’t I just ignore it? I can’t really say. Finally, however, I said, “I am not laughing at you. But I want you to listen to how you sound.” And I whined just the way she had. It was a shot in the dark. At first she said, “I don’t sound like that.” Then she said, “You are laughing at me.” And then she stopped whining, and everything was fun from then on out.
Having the elementary school age set along turned out to be awesome. They were old enough to be allowed to wander and play a bit. And Selah caught a water snake with her bare hands.
Our closest neighbors were a man and his two elementary-school-age boys, and Selah announced that she and Ambrosia would probably fall in love with these boys. Of course she proceeded to be embarrassed anytime I mentioned this for the rest of the trip–I am practicing for the, “MOOOOMMM!” days I know are coming. They actually did turn out to be great playmates for the girls, especially since they had brought fishing equipment along and were willing to share.
As the weather cooled down, we started to bundle up, and pulled on our sweaters, hats, and gloves–or, in Selah’s case, mitten and hand sock. I could only find one of her gloves. But it was pretty cold, being October. She happily headed down to the lake with hand sock, and I forgot until I joined her and the other family, and the man was helping Selah, who was struggling to bait her hook. “Is that a hand sock?” he asked incredulously, looking at me. I tried to explain, feeling a little ashamed of my own complete pair of gloves.
While Kelly tried to kill me in the bear-rope hanging process described in the other post, the girls gathered firewood.
Kelly had already informed them that if they wanted a fire, they were going to have to light it. While I have had multiple people show me how, I apparently have an innate inability to light fires that don’t immediately go out. No, I KNOW HOW. I just CAN’T DO IT. I know, I have built the little teepee and everything. I can’t do it. Despite our need for a source of warmth, I was incredibly relieved to find out that mountaineer extraordinaire Kelly can’t do it either. See, it’s a thing.
So Ambrosia lit the fire. She lit the fire in a manner that was far too adept and swift for a ten year old to have the capacity for. It was downright smug. But we didn’t mind, because hey, fire! We drank tea that Selah claimed was too spicy, and we looked at the stars. Man, I had forgotten about those stars. Here in Sacramento we have a smattering of halfhearted stars visible through the city lights. But these stars just reminded you about the universe and God and how small you are and yet how big you are. We caught some shooting stars, and did the trick where you stare at a star until it disappears, which I still don’t quite understand. But honestly, I don’t want to understand. I’d rather marvel.
The next morning, we gave the girls oatmeal, and Kelly prepared to whip up some freeze-dried huevos rancheros for us.
The Four of Us
Cooking the hot beverages and freeze-dried entrees was super easy with Kelly’s lightning-speed water heater thingydoo. Unfortunately, the thing that the thingydoo is not good for is reminding you to read the directions. I had gotten off easily the night before, as the enchiladas were a one-step entree. I just added water. But the only breakfast entree we had with us required adding water–and then recooking the eggs in a skillet! Frack. We didn’t have a stove, much less a skillet. And yet this was pretty much all we had. Though Kelly’s husband Hal had teased us for bringing too much food, we had basically eaten it all. So, gulp, we tried to eat the huevos rancheros minus the cooking step. We sat there, grimacing, with our cup of eggsoupblah, and it got worse when Kelly pointed out it was basically uncooked egg sub. Have you eaten egg sub that’s kind of warm, with vegetables in it (including unrehydrated beans that were like little stones), but isn’t actually cooked? I don’t recommend it. I tried sopping mine up with the leftover corn tortillas, but it was a nightmare. I finally had to dump most of my breakfast. And those of you who know me know I take my meals pretty seriously. Ugh, I shudder just thinking about it. The good news was that it made the instant coffee simply delightful by comparison.
That was more or less it. We packed up, finding we had the usual problem with having more stuff instead of less on the way out, and hiked out. Selah was chipper and happy during that portion of the hike, though we still were not as speedy as Kelly and Ambrosia.
- Bring Kelly and Ambrosia with you on trips. Especially Ambrosia.
- Maybe don’t bring Selah or me, because we are largely just decorative.
- Wear a dress. Men, this applies to you too.
- Bring at least 2 gloves/mittens per person or prepare to be judged.
- Read the stinkin’ directions on your food before you leave.
- Start small with a new backpacker. Island Lake was perfect, at maybe 1.5 miles each way.
- Kelly and I were pretty sad that we didn’t have the ability to have a glass of wine out there under the stars. Consider looking into that dehydrated stuff–but read the directions on that package, too. I’m not clear on how that would work, honestly. (Although really, can it be worse than uncooked but warm eggs?)
Clothes Plus Sleeping Bag Equals Big Bag