Over eight months in the making, I finally took that shiny, unused backpack into the woods. For those tuning in late, the plan was set last fall with a “shoulder season” overnight trip in October, get my backpacking chops back in anticipation for more the following summer. Then the scooter crash happened. About the time I was healed up from that and ready to give it another go, The Medical Ordeal happened. Then, just as I was getting out of surgery #2, some virus started going around.
And on June 12th, 2020, the National Parks Service opened up the North Cascades National Park for backcountry camping. Well, there’s a lot of pent-up outdoorsiness going on in Washington at that time, so I decided to skip the first weekend. In fact, I skipped the weekends altogether and played hooky from work mid-week. Good forecast, and the online permit system (permits are required to camp back in the woods up there) said good seats were still available. Two hours from departure I had a permit for June 23rd/24th, and then another half hour to the trailhead.
Given the shape I am currently in (read: not), I figured the two miles to the Neve Camp would be sufficient for the first trip. On an 80F degree day, that was just about right, at least with a pack on my back.
The camps are off the main trail, and the sites are separated enough that if one is careful, one never need know anyone else is camping with you.
Okay, two miles wasn’t really enough walking for one day. I arrived and was setup by like one o’clock. So I went to go walk some more. At first I was going to head up to Fourth of July Pass, where my originally-selected campground was. Well, that was last year. This year, even with the backpack sitting at camp and not on my back, after a few switchbacks I decided that a 2000 foot elevation gain just wasn’t in me. So back down, and out the main trail. Five more miles down that main trail there is another campground that was going to be my fallback should Neve be full. That campground I could have made it to, and will be the one I stay at next time. I gave it a few miles, then turned around. Along that hike, I saw:
Did I bring water? Mmm, not really. I brought a water filter. See those pictures of mountain streams? Yeah, I’m not hoofing many pounds of water down a trail when it runs literally under my feet. But at camp, where to get water? The following photo would illustrate what seems to be an obvious choice.
That roaring river behind me? Thunder “Creek”. Come back in August, I’ll bet it’s a trickle. But right now, while the snow is melting, it’s a raging river. Right below me, out of the shot, are some big rocks one would not want to bust a skull on. But when I followed the “water -> this way” sign, this is where it lead me. No way, people could literally die getting water from here. Well, they could use better signage, as I finally found the the burbling brook from whence one was intended to get water. Filled my big one gallon bag full of filtered water, and back to camp.
The rest of the day was unsurprising: finsih setting up, cook supper, hang food so as to not tempt the bears and other critters. Meditation time, reading time, bed time when the sun finally started heading down about 9:00. Up at 6:00, pack up and head out. It had been lightly raining most of the night, and it continued into the morning. But it was light enough, and I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest long enough, that I just wore a t-shirt on the way out. Otherwise I would fry in my Gortex rain jacket. And a t-shirt was enough. The wide-brimmed Tilley hat acts enough as an umbrella to keep things mostly dry.
I met two groups of folks on the way out as they were heading in for a day hike. It was otherwise all to myself. The rain was light all the way out, and literally as I pressed the “unlock” button on the car remote, the skies let loose. Popped the hatch as fast as it would open and threw the stuff in the car. I’ll sort it when I get home.
Eight months in the making, and well worth it to get outside for a bit. And the trip gave me the confidence to know what I can now do when the time comes to do it again. So Tricouni Camp next time, seven miles in. As I told Katherine when I got home, I guess if I can carry a 35 pound pack into the woods, The Medical Ordeal is officially over.