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Contest & Sponsored Giveaway!
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Contest & Sponsored Giveaway! ***Congrats Travis Leanna*** on 03/29/2011 13:35:20 MDT Print View

Congratulations to Travis Leanna!

"Love Conquers All On The Trail

Thanks to everyone who entered their hiking stories during the Hyperlite Mountain Gear contest on After much debate, we chose this romantic and beautiful story submitted by Travis Leanna. Congratulations Travis! We hope you enjoy your new HMG Echo l Shelter!" --HMG

Thanks for participating! Click to view Travis' winning entry.


Hyperlite Mountain Gear is giving away an Echo I Shelter System, recently reviewed by Will Rietveld, via the Backpacking Light forums!

Echo 1 Shelter

Ain't she purty?

To enter, simply post your favorite/best/funniest/most gripping hiking story as a comment on this forum. Bear in mind that minors read the forums (be as appropriate as you can muster), and that your story must not include anything illicit/illegal to be eligible to win (test this, and I might have to knock you into next week). There's no word limit, you can include photos, but please leave the gear lists out for once.

HMG is judging the entries, and the judges want to be moved in some way. Be descriptive and evocative. Be hilarious and persuasive. Be compelling and awe-inspiring.

Entries must be posted to the forum no later than 3:00 pm MDT on April 10. Winners will be announced April 12 at 7:00 am MDT. Winners must agree to their super-excellent story being bandied about the interwebs (BPL Forums, HMG's blog, Facebook, Twitter). The prize will ship by April 15.

Newcomers to BPL: you must create a user account to post to our forums. Please read our terms and conditions first!

Edited by dtpaladino on 04/12/2011 16:30:19 MDT.

John McAlpine
(HairlessApe) - M

Locale: PNW
Writing Classes - why would I need those? on 03/29/2011 15:27:40 MDT Print View

I knew I should've taken a writing class in College...... lots of stories but poor at putting them down on paper.... Will we be able to read the top three?

Daniel Allen
(Dan_Quixote) - F

Locale: below the mountains (AK)
Re: Contest & Sponsored Giveaway! on 03/29/2011 17:03:50 MDT Print View

is it ok if I just post this right now, and edit in an awesome story later? I just want mine near the top, is all. =)

Max Downen
(MaxwellJ) - F

Locale: Northern California
Contest on 03/29/2011 20:18:40 MDT Print View

What a great idea! I look forward to see how it turns out.
Thanks for putting it on!

Ted E
(Mtn_nut) - MLife

Locale: Morrison, CO
Re: Contest & Sponsored Giveaway! on 03/29/2011 20:38:20 MDT Print View

I've got a few trips that are worthy to write about. mine might be more of a photo essay than an actual essay

Peter MacDonald
(JavaPete) - F

Locale: Great White North
AT Highs and Lows on 03/30/2011 09:45:09 MDT Print View

Here's a few highlights of my 2009 thru hike on the AT...

I traveled for about 56hrs on planes, trains and a bus from Townsville Australia to Bangor Maine. Met my dad there, went shopping for food, shook down my pack and was dropped off at Katahdin the next day.

My hike up Katahdin started out late in the day, after the cut off, so I rushed up the mountain leaving my pack in the Rangers station. Things started off in a bit of a haze but looked good as the sun was shinning the whole way up, but then I got to the plateau and the clouds started rolling in. I made my way to the top and hung out for a bit (drank a beer) and was the last person to make my way back down, I immediatly started running into people that were going to be in trouble as I knew when they left the summit and how far they still had to go, no way they would make it before dark, so I made sure they all were comfortable with their situation, had water, food, lights and proper clothing.

I got to the rangers station just before dark and immediatly went to find the ranger to let her know of the situation and how many people would have a rough night hike back. After chatting for a while we got down to business, register and pay up for the night.

While I climbed Katahdin someone helped themselves to the cash I had and my credit card. The ranger was really nice and shocked that this happened, she let me stay for free, gave me some firewood and a lift to the lean-to. I couldn't do anything about it until I got to Monson, a little over 100 miles later. What a great start.

Leaving Gorham NH one of the guys I was hiking with had some friends come to hike with him/us for a few days. During our climb up Mt Moriah we split into three groups, Brad went on alone, Brian hiked with his girl friend and I hiked with her friend Jane and her dog. About a mile into the hike I had to carry her 20' x 20' tarp that she was going to abandon on the trail (Yes I tried to convince her prior to the hike that she would not need it) we hiked on and then about a mile later the dog jumped into the creek and destroyed his pack, SO I Put most of the stuff from the dog pack into my pack and we hiked on. Then it started to porring rain, Jane was shivvering, complaining constantly, wanting to quit and turn around but at this point we were closer to the shelter than the road so I told her she needed to push on. We got to the top of our first major climb and she was near hypothermia, I knew we needed to get to the shelter ASAP so I proceeded to carry my pack, her pack, and the dogs pack for the next 4.5 miles in the pouring rain. We got to about 3 miles from the shelter and reached a breaking point, she was pretty much hypothermic. We stopped and I got her drinking fluids, made some tea and told her to change into some dry clothes. She had NO dry clothes, everything in her pack was soaked. I gave her some of my dry clothes and raingear to wear and we hiked on, me still carrying everything. We got to the shelter just after dark, I got her settled, into dry clothes, her sleeping bag, and made her a hot supper...all the while she was just complaining to everyone around about absolutly everything. I stood out in the rain and drank the two beers that I packed in not saying a word for about an hour. The next day we found her the quickest way off the trail.

Thinking that I did such a great job, karma must be on my side...2 days later while climbing Mt Maddison, I slipped on a rock and knocked myself out, I was alone, I figure I was out for 30sec or a minute based on the amount of blood lost. KARMA EH!

Had a great time on Mt washington. As I was climbing down to Lake of the Clouds, trying to be one of the first people there so I could secure my spot for work for stay, I met a lady about halfway who asked me what time it was and if I thought that her and her two sons would make it to the top in time for the 5pm train down the mountain, I thought she would make it but it would be close. Then about 3/4 of a mile later I met a man hiking with his 3 year old daughter who looked very concerned, it was his wife up ahead and he feared that they would not make the last train. It took about 2 or 3 minutes for me to react but then I started jogging down to the hut. I got there, confirmed my place for wor for stay, asked if the last train was at 5pm, then dropped my pack and informed the hut staff that I was going to try and help. I ran up the trail, met the father, put his daughter on my back and continued jogging up the trail. The little girl was enjoying the ride but I was terrified she would fall off my back and kept telling her to hold on. we eventually made it to her mother and brothers who were less than a mile from the top, it was about 4:45 so I continued with the little girl on my back and told them I would inform the train conductor of their situation and get him to wait. I got to the train with a little girl on my back just as they were about to depart, I rushed over to the conductor, winded, exhausted, and said that he had to wait, that this was not my child, that her parent and sibblings were coming. He calmed me down, let me catch my breath and informed me that they decided to have an extra train run at 6pm. WHAT ANOTHER TRAIN AT 6!!! So I sat there with my new found friend, waited for her family, informed them that they were OK there was a 6pm train. I made my way back to Lake of the Clouds hut and it turns out everyone was talking about my rescue and all got a big kick out of finding out that there was a 6pm train. The caretakers figured that carrying a 3 year old up Mt Washington was enough work for my stay and gave me the rest of the night off.


Richard Brownkatz
(Rbrownkatz) - F

Locale: Southeast
Angels on 03/30/2011 11:00:07 MDT Print View

(Note: this is posted on my site

There Are Angels Part III

From Part I

“My God man!” he says, “What are you carrying? Did someone get hurt?”
He and his buddy are standing at the beginning of the next switchback down Georgia’s Blue Mountain, and as I carry the two packs toward him I tell him my wife is having a hard time.
"Tell you what,” he says as he drops his pack. ”Let me carry one of those down to the road for you.”
I don’t know who this guy is. I thank him, and I’m truly relieved. But I’m not surprised. With the way this trip has gone, I’ve been expecting him.

Part III

After the trudge down Blood Mountain, I’m really not in the mood for what I am expecting here at Mountain Crossings.

Fame can breed arrogance, and I am steeling myself for mistreatment. We make our way through the crowd to the door of the shop and there stands Joshua, the Woody Gap trail angel who appeared out of nowhere to give us a ride from Suches back to the AT. There he is, wearing his hiking kilt and showing off his unusual photography.


The Angel Joshua and his remarkable outdoor photography.

So this is the outfitter’s where he works. He’s all smiles and I’m grateful to see him again, a friendly face in this mob. I go in and talk to a young woman behind the counter, and she’s all apologies as she explains they only allow camping near the building during the spring thru-hiker season. The rest of the year they let the land recover.

She’s so nice about it all, despite the crush of people, I find myself okay with this. Besides, they’re right about the land.

Meanwhile, Mudpie has approached another employee, a young woman named Felicity. Mudpie asks if they sell reading glasses here, and Felicity tells her no, leads her to a little box and lets her choose from among three pair, free. Then Felicity checks on our mail drop.

It’s not here. She tells us the next mail is due on Monday at 12:30. We can’t camp nearby – which we’d planned on so we could shower and do laundry – and the next site with water is a mile and a half north.

That leaves staying in their hostel. I don’t want to stay in a hostel. I don’t want to stay in shelters, either. I don’t like the idea of staying some place with a whole lot of strangers likely to be making noise, getting drunk, smoking pot, staying up all night.

Mudpie loves the idea. She actually likes meeting people. And, she points out, the prediction is near freezing tonight. Grumbling, I agree to try it for one night. I’ve got some ear plugs in my pack. We go downstairs to check it out.

Hostel Bunkroom

The Mountain Crossings hostel bunkroom

There’s this bearded old guy in the kitchen area. I ask him if he’s staying here tonight.

“I work here,” he says.

His trail name is Pirate, he manages the hostel, and he will become very important to us.



Turns out we’re the only people staying here tonight and tomorrow night. We go back to the shop, buy some snacks and wander around looking at all the gear. I buy denatured alcohol, some Esbit tabs as a backup, some more Micropur tablets and an MSR Sweetwater filter. I also buy a 1.8 liter Platypus Hoser. Mudpie’s been carrying our 3 liter version and it’s too much for her. Besides, I want to try out this new-fangled drinking tube thing she’s raving about. I meet Winton Porter and shake his hand.

I ask him if there is somewhere we can set up our tent and tarp to dry out.

“Right out front,” he says.

“Out front?” I blurt, confused that a shop owner would say such a thing.

“Sure. Anywhere out there.”

And so we do.

I can’t recall who it was, but one of them offers us a shakedown.

Porter and his staff have become famous for doing shakedowns of thru hikers’ gear during the season each spring. (See the story about them in Backpacker Magazine here) Lots of thru hikers start like we did last year – tremendously overburdened. They struggle from the AT’s southern terminus at Springer Mountain 30 miles to Mountain Crossings, where Porter and his staff go over all their gear and show them how to cut weight and stay safe. They do this for free.

Well, this isn’t the season, we’re not thru hikers, we’ve already bought a bunch of stuff and don’t plan to buy any more. But they offer it anyway. I ask what would be a good time when the staff is not too busy and they tell us after noon tomorrow, Sunday. So we go downstairs, choose bunks, unpack, take showers, do laundry, make dinner and relax watching a video.

Mudpie and Mountain Crossings Cat

Mudpie and one of the Mountain Crossings cats

When we unpack I find our lost water filter. Somehow I had managed to pack it under the trash compactor bag I use as a pack liner. I had gotten all upset for nothing, but forced to experience the good luck or God working or whatever that had Jim and Austen show up when we needed them.

The whatever continued. In the bunkroom I find two hiker boxes, where hikers leave stuff they don’t need for those who do. One box contains food, an outstanding selection of Ramen noodles. The other contains gear, and there I find a pot scrubber and a knee brace for Mudpie. Alongside I find some blue foam padding someone has already cut, and I make two sit pads for us. That, with the free reading glasses, replaces all we had lost or forgotten.

When I get up the next morning at 6 and wander into the kitchen area to make coffee I find some already made plus hot water in a carafe, bagels and croissant, Pop Tarts and a variety of add-hot-water stuff, including tea, cocoa, oatmeal and grits. Pirate gets up at 4 am everyday to do this for the hikers at the hostel, even if it’s just the two of us. Later he will give us a lunch of bean soup he made.

Hostel Breakfast

Breakfast at the Mountain Crossings hostel

Sunday, at about one in the afternoon, we carry our packs into the store and mention to the young woman behind the counter that we are supposed to ask about getting a shakedown.

“Oh, yes,” she says, “Alpine has been waiting for you. He’s right there.”

Before we go any further with this I want to explain something very odd and unusual about the people at Mountain Crossings. It is something I have experienced only once before in my life, at a very expensive, exclusive inn near the Swiss border in France.

They seem to anticipate our needs and to meet them like we are family. No sh…No lie. They act as though they were glad to help, even when there was no money in it. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Certainly at some point these people will tire of us and our problems and our endless questions, tell us they don’t have time to waste on people not spending much money. But they are as relentlessly friendly as Mudpie is optimistic.

Alpine is James Ingram, a highly experienced backpacker retired after 13 years as an Army Ranger, and those guys can hike. Alpine has like 20,000 miles under his boots. He brings us over to the backpacker clothing section of the store and directs us to unpack our gear, so we end up blocking real shoppers from the clothing racks. He then goes over almost every piece of gear we have, building a pile of unneeded stuff that grows and grows and grows, my tiny multi-tool and most of the rest of my just-in-case repair kit, the bear canister I bought to avoid hanging a bear bag, the smaller of our titanium pots and our second stove, windscreen, reflective base for it, and on and on.

Mountain Crossings does not prosthelitize for ultra-light gear for its own sake. They seek a balance between light weight and safety. And they don’t condemn comfort. I like this.

He has someone set up a teepee style tent for us to check out, since we tell him that’s what we hope to buy someday. He goes over what packs he thinks we should use, mine being the Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian I already have. I tell him I think the best for Mudpie would be a Ultralight Adventure Equipment Catalyst, a 4600 cubic inch pack weighing just under 3 pounds. But Alpine convinces us a better pack for Mudpie is the Granite Gear Vapor Ki, the women’s version of GG’s famous Vapor Trail, at 2 pounds, five ounces and 3600 cubic inches. The Vapor Ki is $80.04 cheaper.

He helps us cut even more weight, opening our eyes us to trekking poles, which I had long-ago dismissed without trying, and loans us two pair of Lekis for the second half of our trip. The Leki sales rep happens to be there and Alpine has him give us a short course in how to use the things.

Alpine puts the stuff we don’t need in the back room to keep for us. When we retrieve our car at the end of our trip we will drive back here, return the Lekis, the glasses and the knee brace and get our stuff.

Alpine is teaching us as if we are on a thru-hike, since we told him that’s what we are practicing for.

He does it for four hours.

Alpine and Mudpie

Alpine and Mudpie

That Sunday night we have the hostel to ourselves again. Next morning Pirate has laid out another breakfast before we even stir. We hang out, pack what we can, play with our new gear while we wait for 12:30 and the mail.

At 12:35 we go into the shop. We don’t even have to ask. One of the young women tells us the mail has arrived without our mail drop. Pirate is at my elbow. Somehow he also knows we were waiting for a mail drop.

“Come on,” he says. “I’ll take you into town so you can re-supply.”

“Why don’t we resupply here,” I say, gesturing toward all the packages of backpacker food.

“That’d be real expensive,” Mudpie says, and all of the staff standing around nods their heads.

Besides, this is thru-hike practice, so we’d better get used to re-supplying at regular stores.

We get in a van with Pirate and he drives us 18 miles to Blairsville. While he goes in a thrift shop for a bookcase, we hit a health food store to replace our supplements. Then he takes us to a shopping center and a big grocery store.

I’m carrying a cell phone. Its battery has died, presumably from the cold since I haven’t used it. I go into a Radio Shack next to the grocery store while Mudpie shops. I’m hoping to buy one of those battery powered quick charge things I’ve seen on the web, but the young man who helps me says they don’t have any.

“Why don’t you give me your phone and I’ll charge it while you’re shopping?” he says.

Turns out he is also a military veteran and he is planning an AT thru-hike. We have a nice chat and I encourage him to go see Alpine before he starts buying gear.

Mudpie has done a great job finding easy-to-cook food that will make pretty balanced, one-pot meals for us. As soon as we get in the van for the ride back, she gets on the floor and starts re-packing everything to save weight and space.

Mudpie in Van

Mudpie repacking after Blairsville resupply

I’m actually sorry to leave this place. We buy two of Joshua’s photos and leave them and our hiking staffs with all the other stuff they’re holding for us. At about 3:30, we hike north with a new water filter, lots of Micropur, a full bottle of denatured, Esbit tabs for backup, grocery store food and yet lighter packs than we started with.

We’re headed over three days to Unicoi Gap. We’re going to cross the road there and camp just north of it about a mile. There’s a water source there and we’ll be able to get up early enough to hike back down to the gap and meet our shuttle ride at 8 am our last morning. All is well and I feel a kind of warm belonging to this trail community.

The weather turns bad. From daily sunshine and nightly moon glow it goes to constantly increasing wind, rain, mist and see-your-breath cold. The trekking poles are a great help, but even with the brace Mudpie’s knee is hurting. The trail is wet rocks covered with wet leaves and the down hills are pounding her. In some spots acorns lie in wet piles and feel like ball bearings under our feet. I transfer some of Mudpie’s gear to my pack and that helps. Still, we’re having a great time. I’m no longer the cynic. Whatever happens, either we or someone or something will take care of it.

The new water filter fails on its third use. In the rain. Some of our stuff gets wet, but Alpine had shown us Sea to Summit eVAC® dry sacks with eVent® on the bottom that lets air out. I bought two so our down bags compress but are safe from the water. I’m not a wreck over the water filter. We’ve got plenty of Micropur.

We’re behind schedule again and the weather keeps worsening. We set up our silnylon 10’ x 12’ tarp over our Double Rainbow ultra-light tent and seal the windward sides with leaves and duff. This gives us a dry, wind-free place to cook, change, pack and store our gear. We’re kind of having fun adapting. In the morning we push the leaves and duff back where we found them.

Our last day on the trail the weather has gotten even worse and Mudpie’s old rain jacket has wet out. Her poncho doesn’t work well hiking since she’s short and it gets in her way. We hike over two miles short of our goal, and make the Blue Mountain shelter. But when we get there we find the open side of the three wall building facing into the wind. The shelter is frigid and wet. I seal the opening with the tarp and a poncho and we have a calm and dry place to sleep. We break a rule that makes me nervous. We cook dinner in the shelter and I stay half awake all night fearing bears.

We have a long way to go in the morning and all down hill. If the weather is bad and Mudpie’s knee acts up, it will be a close call meeting our shuttle on time. We’ve never done a shuttle pick up before and have no idea how long the driver will wait for us if we’re late. We try to give ourselves plenty of time and rise at 4 am.

The weather is awful. The rain and mist are so thick there will be no daylight until 7:30 this morning. We literally can’t see our hands in front of our faces. It takes us two hours to get everything packed and get going, and we have a hard time finding the path from the shelter back to the trail.

Last year we had with us two Photon II key chain lights, which some say is all a backpacker needs. But over and over this past year I found myself imagining I was shining a very bright light into the woods on a misty night. After a friend showed me her small but powerful Surefire, I upgraded my old Mini Maglite with a 140 lumen Cree LED. The thing blasts through the rain and dark and mist this morning. Mudpie’s got one Photon Velcroed to her hat brim and another on a line around her neck. They barely illuminate a small pool at her feet. I’ve strapped one of my Lekis to the top of my pack to free one hand for the Maglite. I shine the light ahead to find the way, then back for her to see the path. The wind has toppled a tree into the trail during the night. There are branches all over. It is slow, slippery going.

Mudpie is going slower and slower. We’re not going to make our deadline.

Mudpie’s in tears. She’s standing a little up the mountain from me and her aching knee, the wet and rocky trail, the mist, the rush, have worn her down and now I’ve almost impaled her on my trekking pole. I forgot how far out the pole is sticking from the top of my pack and when I turned too fast it almost punctured her head. Now she’s terrified and crying. I fear she’s about to give up. I apologize, hold her, reassure her.

Then I take her pack and hang it on my chest, arms through the shoulder straps and the chest strap closed over the back of my pack. I’m carrying about 60 pounds, but its pretty well balanced front and back. I yank her pack to the right so I can see the ground. It’s finally dawn and we don’t need the lights. Mudpie can walk okay, now. We head down the mountain and I find I am imagining someone offering to carry her pack for me.

Pack Angel

I don’t know his name. But he’s the angel who carried Mudpie’s pack to Unicoi Gap.

nanook ofthenorth
(nanookofthenorth) - MLife
... on 03/30/2011 11:40:28 MDT Print View

What a great idea!

Nathan V
(Junk) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lake State
Re: Contest & Sponsored Giveaway! on 03/30/2011 17:44:04 MDT Print View

On May 12 2010 I had open heart surgery to repair my leaking mitral valve and to remove tissue from my abnormally thick septum, which had both kept me from doing any strenuous activity for a long time. The surgery went well with just a couple of complications and after an 8 day stay in the hospital, I was able to go home and start the long process of rehabilitation. By July I was able to do some easy day hikes and by September the doctor said I could finally backpack again.

So early in October was the big day, I had been waiting and planning for months, my first solo overnight backpacking trip in over a year. I had all my gear ready, checked and rechecked, I loaded up my pack and then decided to use my smaller pack, so after transferring all my gear ( I thought ) I was ready to go.

It was a 4 ½ hour drive full of anticipation to the trail head , finally back in the woods. I couldn’t wait, even if the weather forecast called for rain turning to thunderstorms. Finally there, I parked the car, put on my raingear and started out on the trail. Light rain fell on and off, the forest was alive with beautiful fall colors sparkling with rain drops all around. I was having a great time until a weird thought popped into my head about 6 miles into my planned 10 mile hike for the day.


After a quick debate in my head , ( did I really forget my tent? ), I stopped to access the situation, yep, no tent, no other possible piece of gear to rig as a shelter, and darkening skies from the looming thunderstorm, it was game over. I turned around and made tracks back to the car, all the while in disbelief how I could’ve screwed up so bad after so much waiting and preparation. By the time I got back to the car the anger had worn off, after all, I was at least still able to hike at all.

A couple of weeks later, I tried again, with success. Same trail, same gear (plus a tent), and had a great time, with beautiful weather to boot. No tent necessary this time ( Oh well ).

Edited by Junk on 03/30/2011 19:53:14 MDT.

Martin Swobodzinski

Locale: SoCal
kitty, kitty on 03/31/2011 04:09:22 MDT Print View

my wife and i had a wonderful time in yosemite in the summer of 2009. our trip didn't start out that well, though. after a first visit to the valley i was ready to leave. boy, it was so crowded.

as a result, we talked to the rangers at the big oak station and extended our wilderness permit by two more days (from an initial one night stay in the backcountry). rather spontaneously, we decided to do a semi-loop from murphy creek/tenaya lake to poly dome lakes, then ten lakes, and out. it seemed like 20 miles to me. we had a topo map for some of the area, paired with a vague idea of how strenuous hiking in the sierras can be.

after spending the first night at poly dome lakes, the second evening we barely made it to the big lake on the ten lakes trail coming from the east. all we managed to do before nightfall was to put up our bug tent and go to bed. retrospectively, i think we might have suffered from a mild form of altitude sickness--exhausted, nauseated, no appetite.

just 20 minutes before making camp, at dusk, i caught a split-second glimpse at a pair of tan-colored ears running past us on the ridge above as were were approaching the lake. i didn't think much of it. it certainly didn't move like a dear. my wife and i decided to stay close together.

once we reached our destination and set down our backpacks, we didn't eat nor do anything else for that matter besides getting ready for bed. we claimed a spot maybe ten to fifteen feet away from the shore on the eastern side of the lake.
Kitty's Favorite Lake
while my wife was changing outside of the tent, she suddenly noticed something walking towards our campsite. i was sitting in the tent, taking off my shoes. she saw some greenish reflection (my wife had her headlamp on) so she thought it was a person with a reflective strap. ske asked me to come out of the tent (with my back to her, sitting five feet away, i didn't hear nor see anything). with the stranger now maybe ten feet away, my wife said 'hello.' on that cue, the creature turned its head and took a good look at her with its big green eyes. fortunately, a few seconds later, the creature turned away from my wife and our camp and continued its stroll away from us and the lake.

we started yelling, me rolling out of the tent, bear spray ready, headlamps on full blast. no surprise, my wife was really freaked out. sure, i was anxious as well but tried my best to stay calm. there was no sign of any animal--it was gone before i managed to get out of the tent. so we retreated into our bug tent (how thin the mesh walls suddenly seemed...) and i did my best to calm my wife down. it was obvious, i told her, that the animal was not interested in her, i mean, us.

well, all the yelling and shining, as it turned out, left the animal rather unimpressed. about 10 minutes later we heard obvious drinking sounds from the lake--animal at the waterhole. the beast must have circled around our camp to get to the water. we didn't hear it getting there but it was obvious that it enjoyed the water. so we started the whole shining and yelling tohobohu again. tasty water trumped all our yelling, though. fortunately, some moments later, the animal decided to slip back into the darkness.

at that time we though it was a bear. my wife claimed the animal was too big to be something else and our minds were framed by the whole bear country context. the animal's nonchalant behavior and big reflective eyes left me rather confused, though. strange bear. the next morning we couldn't find any tracks either.

eventually, we talked to my wife's dad, a hunting guide, and he suggested that it was a big cat; and certainly not a bear. the eyes of a bear would have been small compared to the pair of big green eyes that my wife starred down.

so at the end, the question remained (at least for us) if we witnessed an encounter with a bobcat or a mountain lion. my wife insisted that the animal that she saw was much bigger than a bobcat, the head/eyes too far off the ground. in addition, we were above 10,000' which, after some more research, led us to believe that we crossed paths with a mountain lion.

i did not see the creature at all, only my wife did. i now think of the mountain lion as my wife's totem animal. it was a fantastic trip with everybody safe and healthy, including the cat.

Edited by mswobodzinski on 03/31/2011 04:21:45 MDT.

Matt DeLapp
(ATrocket10) - F
Funny Story! on 03/31/2011 07:46:48 MDT Print View

I have a funny story with a matching video!

On my 2010 Northbound thru-hike of the AT, a group of us decided to spend the night at the Captain's Place just north of Pearisburg, VA. The captain is a very nice man who lets hikers spend the night in his house. To get to his house, you have to cross a river using a zip line. When we arrived at the zip line, the captain hopped on the zip line and with one big push off the tree, flew across to the side of the river we were on without us helping to pull him across- just like he owned the thing, and he did. He helped us attach our packs, get on the zip line and we all went about 5-10 feet before having to be pulled the rest of the way by the ropes. We spend the night at the Captain's Place. We woke up, the Captain left to work, and we head off to tackle the zip line. Now seeing the Captain push off the tree with ease and make it across the river with one kick on the previous day, I decided why not try the same! Here's the video of what happened!

video here! -->>

Word traveled fast and the video became a hit. Every time I saw someone I haven't seen since the zip line, the first thing they said is let me see the video! Even hikers that I was meeting for the first time knew about the video!Zip Line

Edited by ATrocket10 on 04/05/2011 15:58:11 MDT.

Patrick S
(xpatrickxad) - F

Locale: Upper East TN
Re: Contest & Sponsored Giveaway! on 03/31/2011 21:58:09 MDT Print View

"...and that your story must not include anything illicit/illegal to be eligible to win ..."

Bummer because my best story involves gun smuggling, drugs, prostitution, a serial killer and more. I'm not even kidding.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Contest & Sponsored Giveaway! on 03/31/2011 23:09:55 MDT Print View


Please tell me your trail-name changed to "Faceplant"!

Angelo Radano

Locale: New England
Lonesome Lake, White Mountains, NH on 03/31/2011 23:38:40 MDT Print View

With Chris's travels and my fatherly duties, our backpacking adventures haven’t been as common as we might like. But in early November we made it back into the woods for another two-man slumber party in the cold outdoors. Back in March, Chris's first trip took us to Connecticut’s highest summit, Bear Mountain (not to be confused with Connecticut’s highest point which you’ll find at the border with Massachusetts on your way up Mt. Frissell). This time—despite ambitious plans to summit at least a couple peaks in New Hampshire’s White Mountains—we didn’t make it to the highest point of anywhere. Unless, that is, you count as somewhere the good graces that called us down from what nearly became our coldest night ever.

The clustered 4,000+ foot summits and alpine lakes of Franconia Notch State Park, along with the opportunity to drive the scenic Kancamangus stretch of Route 112, collectively summoned us to the Lafayette trailhead along I-93 in the western Whites. We had spent the better part of the previous day at the Kittery Trading Post building Chris's collection of winter camping gear and we were prepared to spend the night at either the Kinsman Pond Shelter or in Chris's recently acquired Eureka Timberline two-man somewhere along the trail. Or, I should say, we thought we were prepared.

We made it onto the trail at 11 on Sunday morning. The wind was blowing pretty hard and the gray clouds started not far above the trailhead. As always, I started out wearing more than would be necessary once we got moving. At the start, there was 1.8 miles of trail between us and Lonesome Lake. A steady climb with good footing, Lonesome Lake Trail allowed us to work up a sweat and make good progress quickly. Early on, a pack of early teens panted anxiously back toward the asphalt. One coming particularly apart at the straps pleaded, “How much farther?” Not far, bud. You’re almost there. Taking their time a couple hundred yards behind them, a pair of fathers was much less eager to get back to whatever they’d left behind when they took their sons and their sons’ friends into the woods for the weekend.

By Noon, we made it to the icy shores of Lonesome Lake where we found the recently-renovated Lonesome Lake Hut. Some large family, or group of families, was making lunch in the kitchen and playing cards when we arrived. Chris and I took the opportunity to enjoy our packed sandwiches (one pb&j and one hummus, cheese and green pepper sandwich each) before resuming our hike. This is where I began expressing concerns about the looseness of our sleeping plans. Let’s just make it up to the Kinsman Shelter and assess from there, Chris insisted. Even with the 4:30 sunset (the clocks had been set back at 2am that morning), we’d have plenty of time to get there and back if necessary.

Fishin’ Jimmy Trail took us from Lonesome Lake to Kinsman Pond (1.9 miles, 1200' elevation gain). Slowly. The occasional stretch of steady progress was routinely interrupted by one precipitous ascent or another. Without any kind of foot traction, we found ourselves carefully clambering our ways up the face of many icy boulders. More than once, my better judgment and outstretched hand pulled Chris back from a less-than-advisable effort. After its many ups and downs, Fishin’ Jimmy Trail came to an intersection from which we came upon and unloaded our sacks into the Kinsman Pond Shelter. Another thirty yards past the shelter we could stand beside the not-quite-frozen pond, itself. It was 3:00 and we decided to find a tree-limb for hanging our food-sack at night and get settled in.

We found a good limb that would keep our food out of a bear’s reach and, back to the shelter, came across a lone hiker and his very happy dog, Kirby. Not having stopped moving long enough to realize how very cold it was, we explained our plans to settle in. The lone hiker shared the next day’s forecast he had read: hurricane force winds and sleet. Chris and I looked at each other and turned to the man’s plans. He wasn’t camping; he’d be hiking out into the dark with the help of Kirby and his headlamp.

Chris and I took out our map to assess our options. We could dig in and hope that the night’s cold and the next day’s weather were survivable. Or, we could hike back to Lonesome Lake and pay the $35 each for the relative comfort and warmth of the hut and its accommodations. In the time it took us to open the map and discuss our options, our decision was rapidly being made for us. The cold started to bring back memories of our March trip in Connecticut where we impatiently scarfed down half-cooked chick-peas for lack of warmth outside our sleeping bags. This cold night, it was looking to be even worse. Add the potential difficulties hiking out the next day and our minds were made up. Back to Lonesome Lake; but not by the crags of Fishin’ Jimmy Trail.

We would take the longer, but surely safer, route: Kinsman Pond Trail for 2.8 miles until a left turn on Cascade Brook Trail that would take us 0.8 miles to the hut. It was 3:20 and the sun would set before we made it. Nonetheless, we showed ourselves the meaning of haste. It was slow going at first along the west shore of the pond, but once the trail widened we were able to enter a light jog until the trail merged with the Cascade Brook. The trail was mostly clearly marked but snowfall and a lack of traffic made for some difficult moments. Only once we needed to split up to find the next blue trail blaze. As the trail separated from the brook again we were able to enter a full-stride run for at least a half-mile before darkness made that unwise. With the sun down and our headlamps on, we came to that intersection with less than a mile left to the hut at Lonesome Lake.

Along that last stretch we came across Kirby and his dad one more time. They must have done some running too, or just made some great time down Fishin’ Jimmy. He seemed happy to see that we were headed for a more reasonable resting spot than an hour and a half earlier. We wished each other well and continued on. By 5pm, we surprised the hut’s 23-year-old caretaker as we became her only guests for the night. Or, I should say, her only welcome guests.

Earlier that afternoon, during our lunch-break, we had learned of a neighborhood black bear that had helped itself to some of the sweets that, for some reason, had been left outside the hut. As far as we could tell, at least a jug of molasses was liberated. If the cartoons are to be believed, only honey could have made the bear happier.

All this was news to our host, Ashley, who had arrived sometime since our lunch break. She had dealt with the bear before, but she didn’t know about the bear’s dream cache left outside. She explained that a scheduled airlift of the hut’s excess food had gone uncompleted over the weekend and that the previous care-taker must have forgotten to bring the goods back inside. Whatever the case, Ashley knew, we wouldn’t be alone tonight.

We put our shoes back on and headed where the bear would surely be. It may have scurried away as we approached or it may have just been hanging out in the woods licking molasses out of its jug. We never got a good look, but when Ashley’s flashlight shone into the woods behind a row of cabins, two little scared bear eyes could be seen looking back. Ashley made a bunch of noise to keep the bear afraid of people and the hut—despite its newfound perks—and we headed back inside with some bear-mauled boxes of food left-over from the hut’s busy season.

We hung out for a couple hours, ate all of our stuffing, beans and rice, and learned some tricks for drying socks and keeping warm (not at the same time) with a bottle of hot water. Ashley’s front row seat to American hiking habits made for some good stories, particularly about the Boy Scouts.

Leaving aside the anecdote about the boy-poo left under a square of toilet paper on a cabin floor, consider the backpacking plan of the Boy Scout troupe that decided to divide the weight of its gear by some bizarre application of Taylor’s rules for efficiency. One boy carries only food, another, tents, and so forth. As if the original premise wasn’t bad enough, they put all the sleeping bags with the slow chubby kid. So when they arrived to their site, cold and tired, they couldn’t climb into their bags for another hour.

Off to our cabin, Chris and I did some jumping jacks and stretches to get the blood flowing, jumped into our bags and placed bottles of hot water in our respective crotches. Like a sauna, our bags and our toes warmed up and we slept as well as we had hiked.

We slept in Monday morning, making our way to the kitchen at nearly 10am. We didn’t putz around long. Just enough to share some of the morning with Ashley and enjoy the last of our food (Grape Nuts) and coffee. We took some photos, bought a Lonesome Lake patch, signed the guest book, said our goodbyes and made our way back down Lonesome Lake Trail. If we had waited much longer into the day to descend we likely would have encountered deceptively thin ice and undone any gains made on the dry socks front. But we made no such missteps. By Noon we were back at the Lafayette trailhead with dry socks and yet another adventure in the bag.

We definitely learned a bunch this trip, like checking the weather ahead of time. So thanks to Kirby’s dad and the early afternoon chill that struck Kinsman Pond for driving us back to Lonesome Lake. And it might be worth investing in some of those strap-on spikes for traction on ice when hiking in New Hampshire in November. But other than that, we did pretty well. Hey. At least nobody pooped on the cabin floor.

Edited by zalmen_mlotek on 03/31/2011 23:42:17 MDT.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Contest & Sponsored Giveaway! on 03/31/2011 23:42:59 MDT Print View

July 30
My girlfriend (Gretchen) and I set out for Glacier National Park at 4:00 am from Oak Creek, Wisconsin. It was going to be a memorable 12 days.

Short rundown of our itinerary:
1. Drive to Little Missouri National Grasslands in North Dakota; spend the night
2. Finish the drive to Glacier NP.
3. Spend the night in the Flathead National Forest
4. Spend 6 nights in Glacier’s backcountry
5. Spend another night in the Flathead
6. Stay at the Village Inn on the shores of Lake McDonald for one night
7. Drive home

Like I said, we headed out in the early morning on the 30th. The morning was cool, the air was still, but the buzz of excitement had us energized. The drive through Wisconsin on I-94 is more exciting than many would think. While much of the Badger State is relatively flat and checkered with farmland, our dense, lush forests, moraines, drumlins, and various other glacial formations make for a decent drive through the state--especially north and west of Madison, through Black River Falls, and on to the great Mississippi River.

We entered, drove through, and left Minnesota without much to note. On to North Dakota! Now, for someone who has never visited the Great Plains, North Dakota was exciting for about 6 minutes. I missed my Wisconsin forests. However, once we started into the hillier Badlands, it became much more entertaining. The colorful canyons, buttes, and hills were a welcome sight, and it is always fun to explore a new terrain.

That evening, we turned off of I-94 onto Buffalo Gap Road into the National Grasslands (opposite of Theodore Roosevelt National Park), and drove up a rocky, rutted dirt road on which Gretchen’s Toyota Corolla seem slightly out of place. We picked a place on a small, flat patch of earth between two hills to pitch our shelter. That night was warm and clear, so all we set up was our two-person Bear Paw Tents Pyra Net 2.

pyra net 2

[Sunset in the National Grasslands]

July 31
The next morning, we were up, cooked breakfast on some Gram Weenie stoves to the sound of some mooing gigantic black cows that were apparently free ranging, and continued our drive through the plains of Montana. Later that afternoon, for the first time, I set my eyes upon the great Rocky Mountain Range, shrouded in a gray, misty, rainstorm--a harbinger of weather conditions for the rest of our trip.
“That’s where we’re headed,” I said as I pointed out to the great peaks with renewed excitement.
“Wow,” replied Gretchen. The singular word was spoken like a child who was too encapsulated by awe and wonder to show outward excitement; yet the twinkle of joy surely danced in her eyes.

We drove on to our destination, which was an undetermined spot in the Flathead National Forest near West Glacier. I found a sign indicating “National Forest Access,” and turned onto the dirt road. The sky had clouded again, and thunder could be heard in the distance. Up went the MLD Trailstar with the bug net underneath. Lightning, thunder, and rain woke me up, but Gretchen slept right through it. We were in Montana. I smiled and went back to sleep.

August 1
The sun peeked through the towering pines as we sponged off the wet Trailstar, and the heavy, damp air left by last night’s thunderstorm began to evaporate. After breakfast we made our way to the backcountry permit office in Apgar Village, which to first-time visiting Wisconsinites on a sunny, warm, Sunday morning, seemed to be an incredibly charming and well-kept secret community hidden from the large populations. I still hold that view.

Gretchen’s Corolla was once again crawling up a rocky, winding road. This time to Bowman Lake Campground. We stepped out of the car and were greeted by the fresh scent of pine, clean mountain air, and amazing beauty all around us. We spent little time making final adjustments to our packs, and hit the trailhead around 11:00 am.

[Bowman Lake from Trailhead]

bowman lake trailhead

As you can see from the picture, the morning and early afternoon was beautiful. Oh, Nature’s little tricks… a thunderstorm popped up mid-afternoon, complete with pea-sized hail. We donned our pack covers and rain jackets, and onward down the trail we went. The cold rain and hail bounced off my jacket’s hood, soaked my hands on my trekking poles, and drenched my pants. But it was all good. It added to the flavor.

We got to Bowman Lake Campground late-afternoon and chose a site next to a Henry Shires’ Squall 2. We later found out that the owner of that tent was spending a month out on the Continental Divide Trail collecting data on wolves, elk, and ash trees, as their habitation was somehow intertwined--though I forget the exact function of the ash tree in that equation. The sky cleared, and the day became sunny and warm again.

[Bowman Lake Camp: our Trailstar and the lake]
trailstar bowman

I swam in the cool (freezing) water of Bowman Lake, soaked up all the scenery I could, and dried off to the realization that I felt more at home here than in any city. That evening, a family led by a guide from Glacier Guides came to camp. While I’m not going to criticize anyone here, I will say that their packs looked heavy! When I saw fresh veggies and other non-lightweight foods come out of their packs for dinner, it confirmed my suspicions. They were also most curious about our tiny Gram Weenie stoves. It was nice to know that my entire cookset weighed less than one of the green peppers they pulled out. But, they were a fun, nice group of people that Gretchen and I enjoyed talking to. A fire to dry out soaked socks and shoes capped the night.

August 2
Morning brought more sun. After breakfast we hit the trail and headed to Brown Pass. The trail led us through the forest and streams, with views of mountaintops peeking through the trees.

[Morning on Bowman Lake]
morning bowman

Also along the way we came upon some trees wrapped in barbed wire. Caught in the tines was some brown hair. Grizzly hair.
“Yep, they’re here alright,” I muttered with a sense of respect. The unfortunate events just a few days earlier in Yellowstone where a man was killed by a griz rang fresh in my mind. Even knowing the very small odds of an attack didn’t prevent that fear from creeping in just a bit.

[Grizzly hair along the trail to Brown Pass]
griz hair

[Crossing Pocket Creek]
pocket creek

[Along the trail to Brown Pass]

After a brief lunch of tortillas, cheese, sausage, peanut butter, and hummus, we continued up the switchbacks leading to Brown Pass. With each step, the views became increasingly beautiful as we ascended up and out of the deep forests. Along with the expansive views came another thunderstorm. We could see the dark clouds brewing over a peak not too far to the west. I could feel the air change and the wind picked up. I pointed to the grayness with my trekking pole.
“I want to get to camp before that does,” I said to Gretchen.
“Yah, so do I.”
Its not that we would have been put off by another rain, but setting up our tarp over dry ground sounded nice.

[Storm brewing up and heading toward Brown Pass]

We threw up the tarp just as the rain started falling. A quick pitch of the Trailstar prevented most of our stuff from getting wet. We relaxed inside our bug shelter as the rain pattered on the silnylon canopy and the voracious mosquitos buzzed outside the permithren-soaked mesh.
“Ha ha!” I laughed out loud at those little buggers. I hate mosquitos.
A nap was in store before dinner as we waited for the rain to abate. As the storm passed, cool, damp air set in--the kind of air that doesn’t let a single sock dry out.

The sound of other campers getting into camp roused me from my nap. We were to share this campground with the same guide-led group we met the night before in Bowman. They were drenched. No pack covers. No pack liners. Bummer. They set up camp and their guide began cooking their meals.

I watched a few deer mill around camp and near the pit toilet. I do believe I could have pet one had I the inclination. They seemed to be waiting for an opportunity to nibble a sweat-soaked sock, pack, hat, or anything else left unattended. One took a fancy to Gretchen’s Platypus while we were in Bowman the day before. Thank God for Seam Grip and Super Glue. If anyone sees deer Poop with a blue bite valve and bite valve cover in it, you’ll know where that came from!

[Fruitlessly trying to dry gear at camp at Brown Pass]

That night we all ate dinner under either headnets or rain gear. The mosquitos seemed hungrier than we were. The sun poked out just long enough for us to see it set a deep, hazy red. The guide told us the haze and color of the sun was intensified by some fires burning to the south in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Sure was pretty, though. Later, as I lay inside my bug net and listened to the mossies buzz away, I just smiled and drifted to sleep.

August 3
This morning saw a shimmer of sun, but the clouds won out. Some rangers had come into camp to do some maintenance, including painting the pit toilet. Even the backcountry needs a pretty crapper. They also brought news of the weather forecast (scattered thunderstorms all week) and current grizzly activity. Apparently, some women staying in Hole-in-the-Wall campground a few nights before had a female grizz and her cub wander through camp. At some point both bears stood on their hind legs. What a sight that must have been! The same bears also prevented some hikers from continuing on the trail. Momma grizz didn’t want to move. According to the rangers, the bears were headed down toward the Lake Janet and Lake Francis area. So were we.

We broke camp and headed out into the hazy morning. Down the switchbacks toward Thunderbird Pond we went, and back into the dense, lush forests. Muddy trails and rain-soaked foliage soaked our shoes, socks, and pants. “Hey Bear!” became a commonly heard phrase that day, especially since we knew there were some bears in the area. We ate lunch at the Hawksbill campsite, then continued on to Lake Janet.

[Thunderbird Pond]

Gretchen and I were the sole occupants of the Lake Janet campsite. We took the opportunity to rinse off in the creek, which was amazingly cold (I just hope I didn’t do any permanent damage to my, er, well, you know.) The night became damp and cold, with temps reaching down into the mid 30s. By this point, I had become familiar with putting on damp socks before bed. They were always dry by morning.

August 4
Sun! We were always excited to see the sun. It meant cheerier days, more opportunity to dry clothes, and it was way better for photography. I took the chance to snap a few morning photos before we left the Lake Janet camp.
Today, our route backtracked to Brown Pass, but continued to Hole-in-the-Wall campground, which was considered by many to be one of the top campsites in the park.
“Today is going to be an amazing day,” I said aloud.
“Its all been amazing,” replied Gretchen. She was right.

[Sunrise at Lake Janet]

Even though we were retracing part of our route, it was like seeing all new scenery. The clouds and sun paint the landscape in completely different ways. Colors are different, water seems to change its opacity and clarity, and the very shape of mountains seems to morph with the presence of low-hanging clouds. It was actually a treat to be able to see the same landscape in two very distinct ways. Plus, the added sense of familiarity made the hike back up to Brown Pass seem new and old at the same time.

[Sun-kissed ridge at Lake Janet]
ridge sun

[Mirror surface of Thunderbird Pond]

We decided to eat lunch at Brown Pass before continuing on to Hole-in-the-Wall. The sun and warmth that reined throughout the morning were waning. Clouds were moving in again. No matter. We were about to see some of the most amazing views of our lives.

g trail

[On the trail to Hole-in-the-Wall. Bowman Lake can be seen to the left of center below the horizon]
trail hole wall

The trail to Hole-in-the-Wall follows the side of the mountain. As you gently ascend, the view opens up and the entire valley lays at your feet like a giant mural. You look down and see Bowman Lake in the distance.
“Look!” I yelled to Gretchen. “That’s where we started!”
As we rounded the bend, more mountains kept popping into view. Then the campsite. Hole-in-the-Wall is a level, lush, cirque that sits between ridges and peaks. Several waterfalls feed into streams that crisscross the area before convening into one or two larger rivers that plunge off the edge to the valley several thousand feet below. From our vantage point, we could see where the water originated from snowmelt and fed the streams and waterfalls that eventually ran into the lakes we had swam in days before.

The sound of a helicopter interrupted the moment.
“Must be some tours,” I said. “That’d be kinda cool.”
“Yeah, but I’m certain our view is better than theirs,” was Gretchen’s retort.
And she was right. No matter how much “more” they could see by being in a helicopter, it simply couldn’t match traversing the land by foot. We actually knew the land. They were merely looking upon it.

The trail splits, and depending on your itinerary, you continue around the upper rim of the cirque, or you descend into the campground. Hole-in-the-Wall is an amazing little pocket of alpine fields, waterfalls, streams, and tiny stands of pines that have been disfigured or have grown with odd little bends and twists in their branches and trunks. We picked a site that is disconnected from the rest of the group; it requires a small stream crossing just to get to the pit toilet and cooking area!

[Hole-in-the-Wall Campsite]
hole camp

Adjacent to our site was a stream fed by the cascading waterfalls originating from the peaks above. It was a mighty fine place to take a little shower. Every way you turned, your view was saturated with beauty. Mountainous peaks hovering in the distant mist, waterfalls, snow fields, and sun-drenched foliage of your immediate surroundings. This truly was a special place.

After chasing a deer around camp for a while (she was very interested in salty items) we cooked a fine dinner of Ramen, then watched a mountain goat teeter on a rock ledge far above us. He would not be the last we would see.
great views

Before bed, I decided to take a solitary walk as the sun set, and dusk brought its cool, crisp air. This was a special walk. It would be my last moment alone before I was to open the door to a whole new chapter in my life. Tomorrow I was to ask Gretchen’s hand in marriage, on top of Boulder Peak. At this particular moment, this was my time to reflect. To rejoice. To take it all in.

I held up the ring, and snapped a photo with Boulder Peak inside the band. I smiled, put the ring back in its box and ziplock bag that I had kept deep inside the hydration pouch of my Exos pack, and slowly walked back to camp. I slept well that night.
ring, boulder

[Evening view from Hole-in-the-Wall]
evening hole

August 5
The clouds had stayed away that night, and the sun greeted us warmly. We packed and ate breakfast, and continued our journey. The trail between Hole-in-the-Wall and Boulder Campground was an extremely fun hike. Varying terrain and spectacular views filled our day, and was a seamless continuation from yesterday of the great interactive mural mother nature had painted for us. We ascended out of Hole-in-the-Wall, followed the higher ridge of the cirque, crossed small snow and scree fields, and pushed on towards Boulder Pass.

[Terrain and view as we approached Boulder Pass]
terrain boulder

Following trails, footprints in snow, and strategically placed cairns, we made it easily over Boulder Pass. Here, we contemplated summiting the peak directly from the pass, or heading a short distance to camp and setting up our shelter before heading to the top. We opted for the latter. Marmots scurried as we walked over the smooth rock face that made up much of Boulder Campground. A quick setup of camp, and we were off to the summit.

After an initial failure at finding the best spot to gain the ridge up to the peak, we made our way up, past alpine grasses, trees, wolverine tracks in the snow, and loose rock, toward the summit. Down below us to the southwest was Pocket Lake, with Kinnerly and Kintla Peaks towering behind us. No, we were not in the company of giant 14ers or greater, but that mattered not. We had the most beautiful day on our shoulders, and we felt alive.

[Our goat friend who frequented the pit toilet at Boulder Campsite]

[Me, taking a load off]
me load

[Campsite at Boulder Pass]

[Pocket Lake from the ridge heading up to Boulder Peak]
pocket lake

Now, Gretchen is afraid of heights in certain situations. Standing on a rock ridge, looking down at Pocket Lake was one of those situations. She initially froze and insisted I go on alone, but...what about my grand plans to propose on the peak!? I calmed her, and guided her up slowly until the ridge widened. All was safe. We reached the summit and found ourselves with a 360 degree view of endless mountains, illuminated by the most beautiful sunlight. The gentle breeze cooled the sweat we worked up climbing uphill, and we just took it all in.
summit cairns

Now was the time.

I set up my camera on a small tripod to take a shot of us together among the three rock cairns that marked the top of Boulder Peak. I set it for video. With camera rolling, I fumbled around in my pocket for the ring I had sighted Boulder Peak in the night before.
“Well,” I said to Gretchen. “I figure if we’ve made it this far…”
I fell to one knee.
“We can make it the rest of the way.” The box opened, and the ring sparkled as light danced around the facets of the stone.
She gasped and held her trembling hands to her mouth.
“Oh my God!” she cried.

[Frame excerpt from video of proposal]

Except one thing wasn’t right. She stared at me for a few seconds, and I back up at her. I had forgotten to actually ASK her to marry me!
“Do you have a question for me?”
“No!,” I sheepishly and jokingly said, which was promptly followed by me actually saying those four words.
“Will you marry me?”

We spent a bit more time at the summit, then began our way down the ridge back to camp. What’s more to say? That evening we cooked dinner with a couple from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I brought out some fine scotch whiskey I had been saving, and the four of us toasted to a wonderful day. Good conversation and a stunning sunset capped the evening of the first day of the rest of our lives.
sunset 1

[Sunset at Boulder Campground]
sunset 2

But the night wasn’t over. At about 2am, a thunderstorm from Hell unleashed a torrent of wind, rain, lightning, and thunder upon the camp. Rain was definitely misting through the Trailstar, wind was whipping us in all directions, and a rock slide very near our tent scared the crap out of me. Gretchen slept through that part of it. The rock slide was loud and close enough that it prompted other campers to poke their head out of their tent to see if we were ok. Once I was certain I wasn’t going to have large, pointy boulders rolling over us, I was able to fall back asleep. The storm was rather enjoyable at that point.

August 6
A windy morning was not much of a surprise, considering the night we had. But despite the wind and clouds, the sun struggled through. By the end of breakfast, the wind had swept away over Boulder Pass behind us, and a warm glow with a pleasant breeze had replaced all traces of nature’s turmoil.

[The sun pushing away the clouds]
boulder sun

Switchbacks slanted back and forth down the mountain as we headed for Upper Kintla Lake. The sun we enjoyed all morning gave way, yet again, to another downpour. Donning our raingear, we pushed on, back and forth through thick, wet brush, towering pines, and over rushing creeks. We passed a couple headed up to Boulder Pass.
“Where’d you come from?” the man asked.
“We were at Boulder last night.”
“Oh, were you in that storm? We heard it was pretty bad up there, and that there was a rockslide.”
Word travels fast, I guess.
“Yep, we were right in the middle of it!”

Lunch saw a break in the rain. We had stopped at Upper Kintla Lake to sit and eat for a bit before heading down to Kintla Lake for our final night. The ping pong game the weather had played all week continued. Sun cheered us up once again, and deep blue skies with its own mountains of clouds floated above.

[Upper Kintla Lake, looking back on where we had come from]
upper kintla

We strolled into camp at Kintla Lake and pitched the Trailstar as...wait for it...more rain came down. It didn’t last long, and we were soon out and enjoying our surroundings. I swam in Kintla, which was a gorgeous turquoise color. The water was relatively warm, which allowed me to spend more than a few minutes playing in the mountain waters. Loons dove in the distance, resurfacing dozens and dozens of yards away from their entry point. It became a game to try to predict where they’d pop up next.

Our campmates that night were three separate groups of canoers. Gretchen and I marveled at the equipment they had. After carrying near-ultralight packs for almost a week, we saw full-blown coolers, huge tents, many changes of clothes, large stoves, and a huge cast iron Dutch oven. And BEER. After talking to one couple, they offered us a couple of brews. It was pure delight to sit around the fire that night, nursing a cold beer. And, as coincidence may have it, they gave Gretchen and I nothing other than Honey Moon (makers of Blue Moon).

[Evening at Kintla Lake]
kintla evening

August 7

[Morning at Kintla Lake]
kintla morning

We had a leisurely morning before finishing the last 6.5 miles of our hike. We passed through thick, deep forest, burned sections from a 2003 forest fire, and eventually to the wildest place of all: Kintla Lake Campground (not to be confused with the backcountry Kintla Lake camp we had spent the night before). Loud cars, and worse yet, loud people were the first sounds to shatter the charm of the backcountry. Whiney little girls bossing around their parents and obnoxious drunk men were the wild animals here.

But we wouldn’t let it phase us. We were us, and they were them. For me, when I leave the backcountry, I leave a bit of me there, and I take a bit of it with me. The bits I take along act as a filter for the parts of “civilization” I don’t want intruding on me. The bits I leave act as a bridge so I can always visit the places I love.

[Canoes at the foot of Kintla Lake]

Despite our simultaneous joy and sadness of ending our hike, there were pressing issues. We needed to get to our car, which we had left at the foot of Bowman Lake some twenty miles away. Hitchhiking was in order. As we finished lunch, one of the couples who had canoed to our camp last night was just pulling up on shore. Jackpot. They were headed out past Polebridge, which would cut our journey back to our car by more than a dozen miles. We found another family to take us the rest of the way, and we reached our car early that afternoon. We were scheduled to stay at the Village Inn in Apgar the night of the 8th, so one more night in the Flathead National Forest was in order.

August 8

Before we checked in to our room at the Village Inn, we decided to drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road and do a few dayhikes. Avalanche Creek Trail was an easy, two mile hike through old-growth pines terminating at Avalanche Lake. The rushing water through Avalanche Creek had carved out the mountain stone over millennia, creating beautiful gorges filled with blue swirling water.
avalanche gorge

Our other hike was over Logan Pass to the lookout at Hidden Lake. The trail starts at Logan Pass Visitor center. People, people, everywhere. The weather had whipped up a nice cocktail of high winds, driving rain, and diving temperatures, causing everyone to cram into the visitor center. It was the role reversal of a zoo. Many humans crammed inside a small building with numerous large windows, while nature looked upon us from the outside. Touché, mother nature.

Once things settled down, we started along the trail, which for much of it was a boardwalk of zig zagging wooden planks. I assume this was to prevent hoards of careless tourists from trampling the sparse vegetation that dotted the expansive meadow that sat just below the pass. Once higher, the trail reverted to the normal dirt and rock path. We were accompanied by a mother goat and her kid. They ambled very near the gawking tourists, who occasionally rushed in too close to get a photo. We took in our fill of the scenery, and made the drive back to Apgar down the winding road, and found our hotel room.

[Kid at Logan Pass, with Hidden Lake in the background]
goat logan

[Continental Divide weather at Logan’s Pass. Cold, rainy air mass on top of us colliding with a clear, warm air mass in the distance]

Soap! Shower! Our tiny little room at the Village Inn was just what we needed to air out some gear and relax. That night we had a hearty meal at Eddie’s Restaurant (outstanding buffalo burger, by the way), got some beer, and watched the sun set over the mountains, creating a collage of deep blues, purples, and blacks. Sleep beckoned.

[From our room at the Village Inn]
room 2

[Evening settling in on Lake McDonald]

August 9

[Morning on Lake McDonald]

We were sad to leave. Our journey was over, save for the long, long, car ride home. This wasn’t an epic traverse of hundreds or thousands of miles through untouched wilderness. It wasn’t a summit of the world’s highest mountain. Hell, we didn’t even go incredibly far for a week’s time. But we didn’t need to. The test of oneself in the backcountry isn’t necessarily how far or high you can go, but what you take away from it. A man could walk a thousand miles and be unchanged, while a child could spend five minutes watching a caterpillar inch its way down a leaf, and understand the majesty of life. We were that child, and our trip took us exactly how far we needed to go. As I closed the hotel room door behind me, I looked out to the blue mountains framing Lake McDonald and smiled.

“I’ll be back.”

[The mountains disappearing into the distance on the ride home]
bye bye

Edited by T.L. on 04/06/2011 21:57:57 MDT.

/A .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Re: Contest & Sponsored Giveaway! on 03/31/2011 23:47:56 MDT Print View

"Bummer because my best story involves gun smuggling, drugs, prostitution, a serial killer and more. I'm not even kidding."

Sounds like NE TN! Post it on another thread (trip reports or chaff).

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Backpacking with Emotionally Disturbed Boys on 04/01/2011 10:25:12 MDT Print View

My coolest backpacking experience to date was taking a group of emotionally disturbed boys on a short backpacking trip. Here's the link to the story I wrote up about it.

This remains my favorite trip because in this case I wasn't just having fun myself I was able to use UL backpacking to help some boys who really needed a hand.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Backpacking with Emotionally Disturbed Boys on 04/01/2011 15:01:02 MDT Print View

Hey Luke,
I contacted HMG about putting links in this thread, because that's what I did also. They want the actual story here, not a link. That's a bummer because I've got a lot of picture I'll need to re-upload.

Julie Kennedy
(jakennedy01) - MLife
Re: Contest & Sponsored Giveaway! on 04/01/2011 19:09:07 MDT Print View

My husband and I have been backpacking and hiking since we were in our teens and when we had our son, this is of course something we were eager to share with him. We planned a leisurely vacation to Banff and Jasper National Parks with a lot of hiking. One side trip was to the Yoho National Park in BC for a day outing at O’Hara Lake. It’s pretty difficult to get into this area, you have to book several months in advance and entry is severely restricted.

Already a week into our vacation (with two more to go), our 5-year old boy was not super excited about another day out hiking. And this day was going to be the biggest of the vacation, not just in terms of distance and altitude, but also with unquestionably the most spectacular scenery (and with the fewest number of tourists!). We really wanted to make it Cathedral Basin, which was about an 8-mile roundtrip, but we were prepared that it simply might not be possible. But as with most young children, the sooner you can find running water, a stick or a lake, things turn around quickly so we weren't daunted. And we had a plan...

Just love that running water!

So off we went with our lunch, water and a LOT of cajoling to keep our boy going. About half way to Cathedral Basin, the complaining really began to amp-up. So we decided it was time to bring on the bribes (I know I’m going to get the bad mommy rap for this, but I knew it’d be worth it). We had a package of Starburst candy “just in case” and so we began to offer one every time our boy made it to some landmark; the top of this hill, that rock way over there, that big tree up ahead, etc. all the while carefully parsing out the limited amount of candy. The last half mile was pretty hard in terms of keeping him motivated, but as we neared the lake, the trail leveled out and our boy immediately cheered up as we each stood in awe of the magnificent beauty.

Almost there...

Just a little further...

We enjoyed lunch, skipping stones, identifying plants, geological formations, a very curious marmot and the crisp alpine air. After everyone was rested, we decided begin the trip back. About half way down, our boy really was spent. He was tired, and we knew it, but we used up the bribe candy (there were only 10 pieces in it) and he’s not interested in the fruit, granola bar or other snacks. To add to it, we’re starting to run low on water and forgot the filter, so my husband and I starting to move with a little more urgency. We took turns giving him a piggy back ride when the trail would permit such a dangerous thing, we played games, and more to keep him going. Once we saw the cabins and more people again his mood lifted, we were back to O’Hara Lake. We had a nice cold drink, and everyone was treated to an ice cream and we sat on the porch enjoying this immensely beautiful place. Our son began telling a kindly older gentlemen about our adventure when one of the bellmen asked if we had checked in (you can stay at the lodge there). We informed him we were here just for the day, when he informed us that the bus had already left. Uh-oh.

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music...

We had gotten the time of departure wrong (completely our fault, no way around this one!). Our only option was to walk down the road to the parking lot, “it’s just 12 miles, all down hill” the bellman gleefully noted. As we stood there quickly combing through our options, my husband goes down the road, I go, is there anyone else, we’ll pay whatever for a ride, etc. A maintenance man comes around the building in a small utility truck (think one of those small truck/cart things you might see a guy driving at your local park) with three trash cans on the back platform. He overhears the conversation between us and the bellman and offers to take us down the road. “It’ll probably take about an hour, this thing doesn’t go too fast, but she’ll get ya there!” he told us. So we helped him unload the trash cans, and squeezed onto the back and laughed the whole way down the hill. For three weeks we saw jaw-dropping amazing scenery, glaciers, animals, plants, weather, etc. and what does our boy remember most fondly of this trip? The ride on the “go cart.”

andrew deitrick
(diego4) - F
From a 500-mile hike to Santiago from St. Jean Pied de Port on 04/02/2011 19:37:08 MDT Print View

One of several stories from one epic adventure through Espana.

My professor and I were a little over half way through our 500-mile walk to Santiago on the Camino de Santiago. We had come to Manjarin, the only town on a Spanish map which has a population of one person—a hospiteleros who claims to have ties with the Templar Knights, and thus upholds their traditions within his particular albergue. This being said, the guy is a character. His vision for the Camino is a little different than most caretakers along the way; it isn't first come first serve for places to sleep, it is largely based on how far you've traveled that day. That particular day, we had only traveled a little over 10 miles but spent a majority of the early afternoon relaxing and killing time in hopes that arriving late to Manjarin will make it appear that we've traveled a long, difficult day. We were wrong. The Knight didn't allow us to stay the night, nor sleep in his yard, but did allow us to stay for dinner. After a simple meal of soup and salad, the sun had begun to set amongst the surrounding mountains. With this, rain clouds were heading in and we were limited on time for finding a camp spot before dark. Also, being as we didn't have tents with us for the Camino, we knew we would be cowboy camping it somewhere in the brush for the night. The Knight warned us about the wandering Policia who search for camping pilgrims—camping is illegal in this part of Spain due to people starting uncontrollable forest fires—which didn't ease our thoughts.

So we set off from Manjarin with about an hour of daylight left, hoping to find some sort of place to sleep for the night. At this point, three others who were also turned down by the Knight joined us. Traveling about 2 miles, one of the pilgrims who joined us was telling us a story about a wild boar he had seen earlier that day. Now on the look out for boars and the Policia, we settled on a small area with surrounding trees to help shield us from the mountain winds. The clouds were still hovering above, and drops of rain began to come down as the sky turned dark. I managed to fall asleep fairly quickly despite the howling winds and light drizzle.

Pitch black, and no longer raining, I woke up to one of the strangest noises I have ever heard. A sound between a bullfrog and a howling monkey—and no less than 10 feet away from us in the shadows of the night—grew increasingly louder in each passing rhythmic roar. This was the first time it really registered that I was on top of the tallest mountain range of the trip, unsheltered, and completely vulnerable to whatever may come my way. My first thought, honestly, was 'dragon-bird.' Was this real, or was this some crazy dream? Furthermore, were my fellow partners hearing this too?

After what felt like an hour of roaring croaks, this dragon-bird flew away. The roars still coming, but fading away, I was hoping it wasn't coming back with friends. I sat up immediately, looking at the other four around me, who also sat straight up in bewilderment.

"What the hell was that!?" I said, half laughing, half still scared out of my mind.

We all shared a few laughs, my professor exclaiming how he thought the Policia had stumbled upon us and were yelling "Fuego! Fuego!," thinking we started a forest fire. The other, who had seen the boar that day, naturally was inclined to think the boar was ready to attack us.

I didn't sleep much the rest of that night, naturally, and was excited to see the sun rise. We concluded it was a crow—they grow quite large in the mountains there—and still have a good laugh each time we tell this story.