Archive for the ‘Backpacking’ Category

P7310543Four years ago, I was leaving the grocery store a few blocks from my house and noticed a guy waiting outside with two backpacks. He looked like he’d been hiking. Figuring the other backpack belonged to his partner who was probably inside the store getting food, I strolled over, and inquired about his trip.

Turned out that Mike and his girlfriend Emmy had just hiked the Pacific Northwest Trail across the North Cascades and hitched a ride into town. I promptly invited them to my home for showers, dinner, use of our washing machine, and a tent spot in our backyard.

They accepted and we walked to my house – where I introduced them to my family, my husband covering his surprise at sudden guests. Interesting and interested college students, they were fun visitors and headed off the next day by bus towards Seattle to eventually get back to their college on the east coast.

They were among the first travelers we’ve had stay with us, followed later that summer by a bicycling Dutch couple, and most recently our first warmshowers guest this past June. And in turn, we have met people while adventuring who have shared their hospitality with us.

This week we came home from a swim at the lake to find a note and a bottle of wine at our door. Emmy and Mike had stopped by, “just passing through on our sailboat and remembered you and your kindness.” They left no phone number or directions as to where they might be moored, so we didn’t have a way to thank them. I’m so sorry we missed seeing them, but we’ll just have to enjoy the wine and toast them, travelling, and saying hello to strangers.

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P7270485Climbing Snowking Mountain this week involved the hottest buggiest approach I’ve ever experienced. Smartly, my friend Liz had brought her headnet. I have never worn one except on a 4-day backpack in the Talkeetnas in Alaska, and that one was borrowed. Watching Liz, I’m sold on the usefulness of it. If you can just know ahead of time what the bug factor will be.

The approach was biting black flies, but at the campsite elevation, the bug population switched to mosquitoes. We watched them swarm outside the mesh of the tent and were thankful we hadn’t gone with bivy sacks rather than the tent. The mosquitoes even came along on the climb the next morning – across the snow and to the rocky top. They  only disappeared towards mid-day, either it was too hot for them or their siesta time. We were thankful because that allowed us a much needed dip in a cold cold lake.

I kept wondering how I would have managed the incredibly buggy situation with my kids. Actually, I didn’t have to wonder that long. We’d have retreated. Much as I love being out, being bugged is just no fun.

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P7120430My annual gal’s trip into the mountains got weathered out. After a glorious hike in, we spent an exciting evening in a fire lookout with an electrical storm flashing all around us. Then it rained. And stayed gray for two days.

We hiked on anyway, but the traverse and the glacier travel we had planned wasn’t such a good idea in such low visibility. Eventually, we elected to head home early and I tried not to be disappointed. It just works out that way sometimes. So now, I’m studying maps, watching the weather, and trying to get out again.

Meanwhile, we’re also looking at maps and weather for the next family trip. We’ll plan as best we can, but have to stay flexible and know we can change our itinerary if the weather, terrain, or people dictate. It is good practice to balance our plans and what develops. And to remember that the weather is beyond our control, and that’s a good thing.

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100_2315_1 With both parents educators, you would think we would have a wide expanse of  summer in which to plan backpacking, bicycling and kayaking trips. And while we do, already it feels like not enough as I draw lines through sections of the calendar for events and trips.

There’s two weeks penciled out for a bicycle trip with our Canadian tandem pals, a five-day stretch for my gals’ backpacking trip, Tom’s Dadventure, and two 3-4 day trips we plan to do with folks new to family adventuring. They’ve never done a bike or backpacking trip before. We get to introduce them to it, which will be double the fun.

And we haven’t even planned anything involving our kayak yet.

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spring09Our regional go-to guide for outdoor “race, play,experience” info changes seasons this weekend. The spring issue, with my article on the pleasures of walking, gets posted on-line, while the summer issue becomes available to the region in print.

With hordes of visitors in town for the annual Ski to Sea relay race the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, folks from all over will get to check out the great writing and super photography of the magazine. The summer issue includes my Backcountry Cuisine article on home-packed food for backpacking and kayaking trips, and offerings on the geology of a bike tour, paddling in Victoria, mountain bike racing, and feeling at home on the Wonderland Trail. 

A fine collection of inspirations to get you springing into summer. Read and enjoy.

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If you want to get your family outside, many times you have to wean yourselves away from the tv, computer, and iPod. To this end, you might consider participating in your community’s Screen Free week or TV Turn Off week. Whatever it gets called and whichever week your community or your family designates, it’s a chance to think about how we spend our time, and take a break from all those screens.

It was Dana’s idea for us our family to participate. No screen time at home, Monday through Friday, all week this week.  She wants to go to the pool and the bookstore, her brother will bike or scooter with friends more after school I bet, and we parents will make sure to focus on family time. We get lots of that when we’re on bicycling, backpacking, and kayaking trips together, but sometimes not enough in the busyness of everyday life.

I hope we go for a family hike and solidify our summer trip plans this week. I think we’ll feel like we have more time and be outside more too. We don’t have tv, but there’s often someone at the family computer in the kitchen. Even we need to move more and watch less.

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Did I mention my kids were born two years and ten days apart? That means two birthday celebrations in a very short period at the end of April. And so yes, outdoor adventures have taken a backseat to birthday adventures.

We’ve had a movie marathon overnight (the 13-year-old) and a Redwall Quest involving our very own basement turned into catacombs (many, many cardboard refrigerator boxes). If we can be the house of fun for birthday adventures, I’m hoping we can also attract our kids’ friends and their families to think it would be a world of fun to adventure with us this summer.

We’re thinking a 2-night 3 day bicycling trip and a similar length backpacking trip for folks who have never experienced an outdoor overnight. Usually, I get excited about new places and longer trips, but now I’m also excited about adventuring with people who are new to it all. Have interest and willing to try it? Let us know.

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p40100121With the kids at school and spring break for one parent, we decided the adults should get out for a rare without-the-kids hike. The weather was a bit gray, so we started in fog and rain, and got snow as we gained elevation. Oyster Dome looked windy, and we knew there would be no view today, so we snacked at the Bat Caves and talked about how all this would be a great setting for a northwest hobbit.

We also felt like we had a moment of hiking solidarity with our friend Mary, who began her 5-month trek on the Appalachian Trail today. I figure we and she were hiking at the same time, just across the country from each other. We wish her well and we’re hoping she was having better weather than we were. When I got home, I googled the weather in northeast Georgia and found 67 degrees. Nice.

While a good fitness hike for us, this would not have been as good a family hike. Cold drippy weather and sloppy slushy footing might have made this frustrating for the kids. Spring is coming though, so I hope we’ll be hiking more as a family soon. 


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Catching up mailwith these friends, I got to hear about their family hiking plan. With their less-than-a-year-old kiddo in the backpack, they’re hitting the local trails every weekend. The goal is to hike all of every trail in a particular area, one peice at a time. What a great way to get outside as a family, in increments that work for them. Mom and dad can stretch their legs, and their son is getting introduced to the outdoors at an early age. I bet by summer, he’ll be walking some of those trails.

Whatever your kids’ ages, pick a goal that works. I’m tempted to get a trail map and copy my friends’ plan. Their little guy has been out hiking more than I have this year, now that’s inspiring. Here in the gray northwest, we may need to set goals like this to remind us to get outside even if spring weather hasn’t found us yet. If my kids don’t vote for this plan, we can at least open the discussion of what goal would inspire us to hit the trail together.

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My old Kelty backpack has been carried many miles and is showing a little age. When I pulled out my old friend this time, along with the familiar marmot-gnawed waist belt, I found one shoulder strap separating from the pack. Oh yeah. I remember noticing that on a North Cascades trip last summer, but of course when I got home I just emptied the pack and put it back on the gear shelf.

Now the backpack needs a fix, and that will require a little ingenuity, as my industrial needle and extra strong braided thread are at home and we’re far from there. While I believe duct tape takes care of almost anything, this calls for sewing. So I borrow a needle from my daughter’s felt crafting, nylon thread from a friend, and use a rock to help push the needle through the tough fabric. Score another point for do-it-yourself solutions.

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