How about a little armchair travel?
Perhaps this is the best time to share them. Who would have thought we’d have a season of canceled or forbidden travel? Now we have to thrive on memories of all the places we can’t reach.
Today’s story comes from Megan Nelson. Megan was in youth group with my sons during high school. When I told Jeff that Megan sent me a camping story, he dropped his jaw. Megan Nelson? Camping? Was she being held at gunpoint?
Well, Megan-who-never-goes-camping actually did. And lived to tell about it. Barely. Here’s the tale in her own words.
An Unforgettable Backpacking Trip — Summer 2019 — by Megan Nelson
Memories seem to be stronger when they are tinged with misfortune. My first backpacking trip was a near disaster, but it remains one of my favorite memories of this past summer.
I spent the summer out in the Sawtooth Mountains of Central Idaho for an internship. I am not an outdoorsy person, so I was really out of my element in the mountains (especially being from Wisconsin!). However, I forced myself to try new things.
In late July, my coworker, Aspen, approached me with an idea. She wanted to go backpacking. I excitedly agreed!
We selected a fairly short hike up to a place called Saddleback Lakes. The hike was four miles one way. Aspen warned me that the hike had a 2,000-foot elevation gain which would make it a nice challenge.
On the morning we were set to leave, I woke up feverish. When I texted Aspen to cancel, she was less than sympathetic and told me to suck it up.
When I left my house, I felt as though I had packed too much. At least I had enough space in my bag for a small bottle of Dayquil. If I had to guess, Aspen and I were both carrying 25-30 pounds of gear.
The first two miles of the hike weren’t too terrible aside from the weight on our backs. But the next two miles were a near-vertical climb. The last three-quarters of a mile involved climbing on giant boulders and up the side of a waterfall. It became more dangerous when the rain started pouring down.
When we finally reached Saddleback Lakes, Aspen and I pitched the tent in the rain. Like the great outdoorsman I am, I napped as soon as the tent went up.
When I woke up, Aspen and I made dinner together. The rain had stopped so we were able to eat outside. After dinner, we decided to go hang our bear bag.
The Sawtooths have black bears, so every camper is advised to exercise caution. The best bear safety practice is to hang all scented items in a bag strung up in a tree. We threw everything in our bear bag, even our “greywater” which was dirty water from cooking and brushing our teeth.
Once we had the bag tied shut, we had to find a perfect tree. It took us a while, but we found a tree that was half fallen and propped up by some other trees. Aspen threw the bag up over the tree, but it needed to be repositioned. The rope was stuck on one of the branches.
Aspen kept pulling on the rope until there was a large, echoing CRACK. She dashed away from the tree and it came crashing down. The sound of the tree hitting the ground was one of the loudest sounds I had ever heard. Other campers in the area shouted, asking if we were okay.
After recovering from our shock, we examined the bag and found that most of our breakfast food had been ruined due to the jar of greywater shattering on impact. We spent the next 20 minutes re-hanging a bag of glass shards that was dripping with gross water.
Aspen joked that she wanted to die of embarrassment while I was just thankful that she ran away in time. Calling Search and Rescue would have been a nightmare.
The evening brought torrential rain and a huge thunderstorm. I am blessed with the ability to sleep through most noise, but Aspen was kept awake by the deafening thunderclaps.
In the morning, Aspen volunteered to go to the lake and get some drinking water for the trip back. I was in the tent, presumably taking more Dayquil, when I heard her come back to the campsite. Aspen burst into the tent, completely drenched. She explained that while crouching at the lake’s edge, she had fallen in. She was completely soaked and her knees were cut up.
Aspen and I got back to civilization safely. Our friends teased us for our misfortunes and my family was shocked I even went. My boss later told me that she was so concerned for our safety that she had packed an emergency bag in case we needed to be rescued. I guess no one had faith in our abilities.
In spite of our misfortunes, I was grateful for the memories, the quality time with my friend, and the new knowledge of how to pick a good tree for a bear hang!
Megan’s photographs of beautiful scenery hardly capture the terrors of the vertical hike, the falling tree, and a plunge into the lake. But you can easily imagine the scenes that she captured with words.
Pictures are great. But when people put memories into writing, they have a way to preserve and relive them that enhances the experience, especially years later when details have dimmed.
Keeping a travel log and writing about favorite experiences is a great way to start a writing habit. Thanks, Megan, for taking the time to write yours and share it!
BIO: Megan is a 23-year-old from Wisconsin who has plans to get her Master’s in Applied Historical Research at Boise State University this fall. Megan dreams of one day working in a museum. While her summer in the mountains gave her a love of camping, she still prefers to stay in a hotel, especially if it offers a continental breakfast.
Any horror story camping trips out there?
Please add your comments below. I’d love to hear from you!