Posts Tagged ‘backpacking’

A weekend away with the gals

This past weekend I spent just over 24 hours immersed in the beauty that is the Clarks Fork Canyon on the Shoshone National Forest. This was a trip that my friends Yvette and Veronika and I have been trying to make happen for well over a month now.

When we first planned the trip, we thought it would be a snowshoe, winter camping experience.  Well….Wyoming had different plans, so after a spoiled weekend thanks to my ER trip for vertigo and a shift in location due to intense levels of mud, we had a beautiful, warm spring weekend to enjoy!

After leaving my truck at the eastern end of the Lower Clarks Fork Canyon, we drove up to just east of Dead Indian Campground. We put our packs on our backs and began to wind our way through dense trees, along rocky mountainsides with steep drop-offs, and finally all of the way down to the bottom of the canyon.

The beautiful canyon as we were descending

The beautiful canyon as we were descending

Our plan was to cross the river and camp on the north side of the canyon. From cliffs high above the river, we spotted an area which looked like calmer water, so after we made it down to the edge of the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River, we headed back west about ½ mile where we decided to try crossing. Without going into great detail, we made it across!

We found a great campsite nestled amongst the big sagebrush and began setting up camp.  I had decided to go tent less, so my set-up was pretty easy 🙂 Next up, fire. During our successful river crossing, both Veronika and Yvette switched out there hiking boots for other shoes.  I did not have other shoes since when I left home that morning, a river crossing had not been the plan. So my boots got drenched during the crossing, and even though Yvette took her boots off, a step down into a deep part of the river filled her boots…so a fire to dry out boots it was!

That evening was beautiful and great fun. We watched a mountain goat high above us, made our dinners, and watched the evening sky turn to a blanket of stars. As we turned in for the night, I was beyond thankful for the day we had just had.

The next morning was a leisurely start as we made coffee and ate breakfast before breaking down camp and heading out the canyon to my truck.

My top 5 things for this weekend? Oh that is an easy list for sure!

5. I finally got to see mountain goats (yes plural!) on my beloved Shoshone National Forest! As I said above, we watched one on the first evening (he was a really big guy!), but then as we had breakfast the next day, Yvette spotted another mountain goat on the canyon wall above us. These creatures are magnificent!

The gals watching our buddy Kyv (yes we named the mountain goat)

The gals watching our buddy Kyv (yes we named the mountain goat)

4. My Ahnu Sugarpines. . I have worn these on a variety of hikes and a near daily basis since they were sent to me following last August’s Outdoor Retailer Show. While I have really enjoyed these boots before, this trip secured them as my current favorite light hiker. I have had drenched boots in the past, and even though I have tried to dry them out around a fire, they are always a bit wet the next day. Not so with my Sugarpines! A couple of hours around the fire and they were dry as a bone; my feet were very happy not to get blisters during the hike out 🙂

Drying out my Ahnu Sugarpines while "cooking" dinner

Drying out my Ahnu Sugarpines while “cooking” dinner

3. Big Agnes Ethel 0 sleeping bag. I had decided that I would leave my tent at home and sleep on a tarp to really test this puppy out! I was sent this bag for review following the winter Outdoor Retailer Show this January. While I have used it a handful of times camped out in the yard at home, this was its inaugural trip into the backcountry. I knew that it claimed to be water repellent since the bag is not filled with your typical down but DownTek. We were not supposed to have any precipitation, but as luck would have it, it rained on us at night. As I lay asleep in my comfy bag under the open sky, I awoke to the pitter patter of rain, which quickly became steady. I hastily threw my rainfly over my backpack, put it on the bottom of my sleeping bag, and wrapped the tarp up on both sides and over my head. By this point, my sleeping bag had already gotten wet and some parts were still exposed. After the short shower, I unwrapped myself from my tarp burrito and lay staring at the newly emerged stars. When I awoke in the morning, I was completely dry and had stayed toasty warm in my bag! A quick look at the top of my sleeping bag showed small puddles of water in spots…the bag did actually repel water like it claimed!! I was in love…

Check out those rain puddles!

Check out those rain puddles!

2. Sleeping under the stars. To me, it really doesn’t get any better than spending a night out in nature. The ability to fall asleep under a canopy of stars is something I am beyond thankful for. After the quick rain shower, I was treated to a sky full of stars and began recognizing different constellations as I drifted back to a very restful night of sleep.

Pure bliss

Pure bliss

1. Getting to share this experience with two remarkable women. This was my first backpacking trip in 2015, and I am so thankful that I got to spend it with Veronika and Yvette. These two women are badasses in their own rights. From being successful in their careers, loving parents to their children, devoted spouses to their husbands to being adventurous souls willing to go mountain biking, hiking, showshoeing, backpacking, you name it at any given time to being true, sincere friends, these women are just simply amazing. I’m so happy to have found such true friends and can’t wait to get back out for some fun with them!

Can't wait for more days like this! Photo courtesy of Yvette.

Can’t wait for more days like this! Photo courtesy of Yvette.

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Hit the trail but definitely take good food!

It has been a bit since I have been inspired/had the time to write a post, but when Sierra Trading Post asked me to write a post about food, I knew I could find my writing groove 😉 Let’s face it, I love food and am always up for a good chat about food on the trail!

My history with food and backpacking started out with canned soup and granola bars. By the time my sister and I started backpacking together, it shifted to packets of tuna and chicken with crackers and energy bars. By the end of a three day trip, both Renee and I would swear off tuna for weeks!

Our food for three days in Yosemite in 2009

Our food for three days in Yosemite in 2009

Luckily, my love of food has driven me to spend a bit more time and money when prepping for food for the trail. Over the past year and a half, Brian (my fiancé and adventure partner) and I have tried numerous backpacker meals and also discovered that ramen noodles with summer sausage and cheddar cheese can be the perfect meal when starving on the side of a mountain.

In all of my backpacking, the best prepared meals and desserts that I have had were from Backpacker’s Pantry. We have unsuccessfully tried other brands only to be disappointed by lack of taste when starving after a long day of snowshoeing or hiking. Our absolute favorite pre-packaged meal to date: Backpacker’s Pantry’s Pad Thai. Not only did this meal fill us up, but it was warm (which was important on the mountainside during a cold March afternoon, with a snow storm approaching), easy to make, and so very delicious!

I have to say that while the Pad Thai was great, it is not the best meal that I have had while backpacking. That title falls to a meal of steak, mashed potatoes, and red wine that Brian made for me (using a stick & knife because we forgot our sporks) in May of this year.

My man has some mad camp cook skills!

My man has some mad camp cook skills!

Since we weren’t camping in grizzly country, we were able to be a bit more relaxed about food on this trip. Brian put together a marinade in a Ziploc bag at home, and we soaked a steak in it for several hours in one of our packs while we hiked and fished. That steak, cooked over our small MSR stove, might very well be the best steak I have ever eaten! We made instant mashed potatoes and had taken in some Stack Wine. As we sat in the rain that turned to snow and back to rain again, we savored every bite and sip.

For me, food can make or break your time on the trail. Join the #trailtime conversation with Sierra Trading Post and a bunch of rad peeps on Twitter this (& every) Thursday at 4pm MDT. As you might guess, this week we will be talking food 🙂

 

Winter backpacking with Teton Sports’ Hiker3700

Mother Nature has apparently decided to keep us in a wintery state well into April here in northwestern Wyoming. While I am more than ready for the new growth and blooms that come with spring, I have definitely enjoyed the later winter/early spring snow that has stuck around in the mountains.

Back in January, I was talking to the amazing people from Teton Sports about a few weekend snowshoe trips Brian and I had started planning. They were kind enough to send us a box o’ goodies to use on these trips. It was like Christmas when I opened the box to find two Hiker3700 packs and two Tracker +5 sleeping bags.

After three weekends of backpacking in the snow, wind, and cold of wintery Wyoming, my love for winter backpacking is here to stay! However, I am pretty sure statements like that, after describing getting blown over on mountainsides by winds gusting 70mph, make my family think I am a bit off my rocker 😉

The last weekend of February we did a quick jaunt up to the top of Sheep Mountain for a night with our dogs. It was a calm, quiet trip to break in our winter backpacking legs. We were beyond thankful for our Tracker +5 bags when temps plummeted below zero. With all of the clothes we had brought layered on, we were toasty warm in our bags, even with icicles forming inside the tent!

Our Sheep Mountain weekend was a blast

Our Sheep Mountain weekend was a blast

The last weekend in March we headed out to our beloved Shoshone National Forest with a friend of Brian’s (also named Brian…I hereby cannot allow anyone else named Brian into my life!) and our dogs. This trip would be Brian’s (the friend) first backpacking trip on the Shoshone, so after getting everything prepped, we hit the Jim Mountain Trailhead. We headed into the mountains with the hopes of crossing the ridgeline leading up to Little Jim and eventually making it to Robbers Roost.

What a view!

What a view!

While my pack fit comfortable enough, I had meant to adjust my lumbar system on my Hiker3700 before we hit the trail, but alas, I forgot. When we stopped for our first trail snack, Brian (my guy…see already confusing, haha) helped me adjust it. Even with a pack weighted down with everything I would need for 2 days, it was such a simple adjustment to make. After moving the lumbar/shoulder strap system down a bit, we tightened one strap and I was good to go. I couldn’t believe how much better the pack fit!

An even better fitting pack & I'm off!

An even better fitting pack & I’m off!

Hitting the trail once again on a trip we dubbed the “Lost & Found” trip (inside joke), we saw new parts of the forest, snowshoed through numerous types of snow, crossed ridgelines above tree line, and were thrown around by incredibly strong winds. While we never made it to Robbers Roost, we (Brian) found more antlers, discovered not all backpacking meals are created equal :(, and had a weekend of fun with spectacular views.

Snow, smiles, sun, & lots of wind!

Snow, smiles, sun, & lots of wind!

The first weekend of April brought Brian and me another chance to get away into the forest with the pups. We headed up Green Creek and jumped on the Table Mountain Trail. The snow added some extra miles to our trip by keeping us from driving all of the way to the trailhead. High above the valley floor, we watched storms move across the mountains on the other side and knew it was a matter of time until the wind began whipping up a storm on top of us. We walked through high alpine winds threatening to blow us away (in case you aren’t getting a trend here, it is very windy in Wyoming), had very tasty meals, bandaged an injured doggie foot, got in over 10 miles and almost 3,000ft on snow that went from deep powder to slush to hard packed icy to everything in-between. 

I can't believe this is our life!!

I can’t believe this is our life!!

After three winter backpacking trips with our Hiker3700 backpacks, both Brian and I are in love with them. It amazes me that a 6’ man and a 5’4” woman can use the same pack thanks to such easy, common sense adjustment systems. The amount of strap adjustment possibilities allows this pack to fit pretty much any frame. This pack has enough padding that my hip bones weren’t rubbed raw, which is a big deal for me!

Brian says this pack is “the most comfortable pack I’ve ever put on.” With plenty of pocket options, you can put things within easy reach for trail snacks, photo opportunities, fluid replenishment (fact: bladders are not the best water apparatuses in the winter!), and quick shifts in the elements (i.e. extra layers in outside pockets). We never ran out of room and in fact could’ve carried more if we needed to. We were able to easily strap snowshoes onto the pack and then back off and then back on.

This is what we think of time in the mountains, snowshoes, & Teton Sports gear

This is what we think of time in the mountains, snowshoes, & Teton Sports gear

At $90 on Amazon.com, this pack will blow you away. I can’t wait to hit the trail with this pack, sans snowshoes, for a bunch more backpacking trips this spring and summer!

As I sit here writing this during a quiet weekend at home, my face has finally recovered from severe wind burn and the subsequent peeling, Sydney’s paw has healed, and I cannot help but think that I am living the perfect life for me 🙂

A slip, a fall, a softball: A backcountry mistake

Chances are if you enjoy backcountry adventures, you have learned some lessons thanks to a mistake or two.  I would like to think that my past mistakes of mine have made me wiser, so I share this with the hope of making you, the reader, wiser as well!

In June 2010 my sister and I met in Jackson, Wyo to run a half marathon and then head into the Grand Teton National Park for a three day backpacking trip.  After being cheered on by our mom during the half-marathon (my first one ever!), we rested for a day before setting out on our adventure.

Our trip began with taking the gondola from the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort to the top of Rendezvous Peak where we met up with a trail that would take us to Marion Lake and the Teton Crest Trail.  We had done our research, talked to rangers, and brought our ice axes and yak-tracks because we were told there would definitely still be snow, which was confirmed when we picked up our backcountry permit the day before.

Renee & I getting ready to take the gondola up!

Renee & I getting ready to take the gondola up!

We got off the gondola with our backpacks and headed for the trail, which we got on and began moving through some snow.  We quickly lost the trail and also learned that the snow was not even close to being hard packed, like we had been briefed.  Not to be deterred, we got out our map, oriented ourselves, and figured out what direction we needed to head in.  It was at this point that we began bushwhacking down and up sides of mountains. 

This was the last time we saw the trail

This was the last time we saw the trail

As we continued to posthole through snow up to our waists, we learned that we could take our packs off, slide them down the mountain to each other and move a bit more efficiently.  We were definitely getting a good workout and knew we were headed in the right direction; suddenly we saw a trail (on dry ground!) and were stoked!  We looked at the map and knew that trail would intersect our desired trail.  As we pushed our way through the snow and down the side of the mountain towards the trail, we realized that we were going to have to cross a fast-moving stream that was very full due to runoff. 

This was the stream we had to cross (taken post crossing)

This was the stream we had to cross (taken post crossing)

Let me take a break at this point and say that we were both experience hikers but both relatively new to backpacking (it was my 4th trip and my sister’s 2nd). Ok back to our story…

We got to the bottom of the mountain where the creek was flowing; we looked for the best area to cross.  When we thought we found it my sister began to cross.  She was weighted down with her backpack (which we now know to either throw across the creek or at least unstrap the waist and chest belt of) and the rocks on the bottom of the steam were slick.  Before I knew it, she slipped on a rock and was floating downstream face first!!  I was able to reach her pack and help her pull herself back to the bank of the stream.  We decided that the only thing for us to do was find a way across this stream as going back up the mountain wasn’t possible and the drainage was too narrow for us to simply follow the stream, plus we were trying to reach that darn trail!

After finding a good, sturdy stick, I was able to stay on one bank holding an end and she could slowly walk across holding the other end (we have since learned proper stream crossing techniques).  We crossed the stream easily and were beyond joyous, that is until we realized that Renee had landed hard on her shin during her first attempt. 

We were very thankful for this stick!!

We were very thankful for this stick!!

We took a look at it, let the adrenaline of the situation wear off, and realized that she had a lump that was swelling to the size of a softball on her shin!!!  After getting up a short hill to the trail, we reassessed and decided that our original plans for the trip now had to be scrapped due to her injury, but she wanted to continue on with something.  Taking the map out we found other options that would give us less elevation changes but still allow us to enjoy our trip.

The bump swelling up on my sister's shin

The bump swelling up on my sister’s shin

We set up camp that night and I begged her to be honest with me and that if it hurt too much or looked worse in the morning we could just hike out. After that promise, we were able to still have a great trip and see amazing sights, to include our first bull moose and an elk watching us sleep during an afternoon nap (but those are entirely whole different stories!).

One of many unexpected but spectacular views we were treated to

One of many unexpected but spectacular views we were treated to

Want to learn from the adventure missteps of others?  Join me, some other bloggers, and the fabulous staff of Sierra Trading Post for #STPLive on Twitter this Thursday, March 27 at 4pm MST.