Sunday, June 20, 2010

Into The Woods

Backpacking is very new to me, but I think if I had been exposed to it as a child, the nature-loving side of me would have the present Leah setting up permanent residence in the woods.

I shared with my partner yesterday (mostly out of frustration) that my only memory of camping with my family was sitting at a picnic table late at night, eating pizza with a flashlight while my father cursed about how inconvenienced he was at being there. We didn't last the night; jumped back into the car and drove to our safe haven in the city. Fortunately, my partner was an avid backpacker and took me out for the first time last summer, then again in early April 2010.

We spent Friday night at an established campsite not too far from the North-South Campground.
At some point we passed these ruins of an old home,
when I still had enough energy to take pictures

Campsite was set up a bit further south than the ruins,
about 500 feet away from the stream fed by this one, in
our fancy shmancy 3-season tent

The campsite we found had very obviously been used before, and that is an important part of the Leave No Trace philosophy. The fewer sites that are created, ideally, the lesser the impact on the immediate ecosystem. Unfortunately, a group that had camped there before us had left a right mess, and we did wind up cleaning up a bit. (Except for a bottle someone had urinated in.... we just threw that in the fire pit.)

When we woke up in the morning, I made quick work of brewing some coffee... some Trader Joe's instant coffee that is. It was the first time I had set up the backpacking stove by myself, and also the first time I had made the coffee myself. My partner had done it before, and I always thought the instant coffee was terrible... turns out that he, being a man, thought "more was better." Turns out Trader Joe's makes a pretty decent instant coffee!

In my non-leaching plastic backpacking cup, probably
not made for high heat, but it got the job done

The coffee was a much-needed boost to get us (at least me) through the day's hike. We decided to take Devil's Path over two of the four peaks that follow the 14-mile stretch. We hit the peak of Plateau Mountain, which is a misnomer given the extreme gradient to get to the 2-mile plateau, in about an hour and a half. From there we traveled further east to Sugarloaf Mountain, which was not quite as difficult a hike...

(Yes, this is part of the trail)

but still had some spots like this one along the trail where I was convinced that if Hell existed, it would be an eternity of climbing uphill.

It's the view from the top of the peaks that makes
the whole body-breaking ordeal worth it.

It was about 2 o'clock (we had left just after 9) and both of us were battered and bruised. We found a lean-to where I bandaged up a chaffed toe (and a flare-up of folliculitis that hit the day before, which I will not show off!), then rejuvenated with a ClifBar.
Note my awesome Kiowa Vegan hiking shoes, a gift
from my very obliging partner

At this point I was suffering from a bit of hypoglycemia that the rest of the trek, despite my better efforts to stay focused, passed by in a blur. We were lucky to run into someone along the path who exchanged making a call on my cell phone for a ride back to our car. We never caught her name, but in the woods, who really needs them? She showed us a fancy rock quarry, and we got another amazing view from the look-out.
The Twin Mountains, which barely look like twins if you
get them from the correct angle

Burning more than 400 calories per hour, 8 hours in one day, takes its toll on a body that has been more or less sedentary since the weather got warmer. I woke up this morning, back in my own bed, sore from my head down to my toes. I'm totally ready to do this again.


  1. got your comment re energy bars..yes!

    i have a version that's made w/ maple and PB and banana and oats

    that you may or may not like, but they are cheaper than store boughts and you can control the ingreds.

    what gorg pics in this post...sweet!

  2. Wow Leah..please do include me in your next trip of backpacking ;)

    I haven't tried it at all..but your post is making me eager for the adventure !!!

    And time to buckle up and start writing, lady!

  3. Averie - Thank you for the recipe, those look awesome!

    Ju - ...yes. I need to get to writing. Just one more stressful week and then it's down to warmer, calmer seas!

  4. Your pictures are absolutely beautiful. You are such a brave woman to go hiking. I love nature, but it doesn't always love me.