Post Sunday Tailgate, I went out with a couple friends for a late afternoon hike. We did just shy of 6 miles, starting near North Lake, WI and hiking the Monches segment of the Ice Age Trail.
We trucked the nearly 6 miles in just over 2 hours. We were moving at a pretty good clip (considering we had 2 dogs, and numerous stops for photos).
The segment spent most of the time along the darting in and out of view of the stream running between a couple of millponds.
A couple really pretty boardwalks kept our feet dry, as did a really nice log bridge.
The trail was amazingly peaceful as the sun was setting, and we didn't see anyone else hiking that evening. Once we crossed the highway intersection, we slowly climbed up onto the ridge, and then dropped down to the river again.
After zig-zagging around some farmland (the Ice Age Trail has a ton of private lands which gracious people have allowed the trail to go through), and a short roadwalk we found ourselves walking up on a ridge, with a great view of Holy Hill.
I snapped a couple of pictures, wishing I had a better camera, as the sun on the church looked absolutely spectacular. We made it back to the car just short of darkness, split ourselves an ice cold Hamms (left over from the tailgate) and then headed our separate ways.
I'm a planner. I'm someone who likes to have things fairly well planned ahead of time, while allowing enough flexibility for things that might come up. A lot of people might say that I over plan things. Sometimes I spend too much time on logistics or I worry too much about fitting everything into a specific timebox, however, I've found this has allowed me to get more out of what little free time I have and it makes everything go smoothly during that free time, allowing me to relax more knowing what I have to do and where I have to be.
I'm pretty sure I got this trait from my Mom, who was always pouring over guide books and reading for ideas of where to go and what to do on our family vacations. For you young kids, this was the early 1980's until the mid 1990's. Library trips and 300 page guide books were the norm. Not 250 words on trip advisor or yelp.
With the amazing trips I've taken, and amazing places I've shown my friends and family have made me so glad she passed this down to me.
While preparing for this trip, I've enlisted the help of friends, blabbered on for hours to anyone who'd listen and gotten a lot of random advice from a lot of people, ranging from "Don't forget water," to "Watch out for mountain lions, " I was even told that I need to write a book (I was also told that being attacked by a bear would greatly increase the sales of this book).
While pouring over my Harrison's maps with friends, I couldn't help but think back to those days as a kid when my Dad would call me over and show me a map of someplace I'd never dreamed of visiting (they always seemed to show up with a National Geographic too).
So, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who's helped, inspired, pushed and told me to shut up about my trip already. 4 weeks from today I fly to California.
I was fortunate enough to grow up with parents who instilled in me a love of the outdoors. I grew up camping, hiking, and going on family vacations centered around those things, the first of which I remember is a trip to the Rockies when I was almost 5 years old.
I don't remember much from the trip, but I do remember a couple things. First, I recall losing a little toy airplane (and being very, very upset about it) -- which my Dad reminds me of at least once a year.
Secondly, I remember how excited I was when I was told we'd be "Hiking up a mountain." While I'm sure we walked about a mile, in my young mind I was wandering the peaks in complete awe of my surroundings.
Since that day, I've traveled all over the US with my family, from the Black Hills in South Dakota, the Bighorns in Wyoming, Yellowstone in Montana and the beautiful red rocks of southern Utah and northern Arizona.
It wasn't until almost 20 years later that I finally made it back to the Rockies again. A friend called me up, asking if we wanted to spend a week in Breckenridge in August. I went, hiked a bunch, slept a bunch, and fell in love with the mountains again.
I went back 2 years later.... and 4 years after that.... and 2 years after that... and again last summer. To say I'm hooked on Colorado would be an understatement.
The trip in 2012, I dragged my poor sister up the second day we were there, and we hiked towards Pawnee Pass.
She got altitude sickness fairly badly and ended up bailing back to the car (insisting I continue on, despite my protests -- I didn't know how bad she was until I got back to the car).
I made it up to the pass, and sat for a half hour, in awe.
Three days later, I picked another hike, this time my 62 year old father joined me and my sister.
We decided to go find Lost Lake.
Wandering a bit off trail, we followed the stream up, up and up some more. Passing beautiful waterfalls, and over an amazing old log bridge. Not far after the bridge, we got to the lake. It was the first time in a long time I was proud of the old man.
He made it up the mountain with me.
I'm 6 weeks out from my first trip to California. My 230 mile backpacking trip. I'm excited, and freaked out at the same time.
After spending my REI refund and my 20% off coupon on a new backpack (Osprey Aether 60) in the spring of 2014, I was itching for another trip.
The opportunity came as when I suddenly switched assignments at work, which allowed me to get away on Memorial Day weekend. I decided where I was leaving on Wednesday evening, and left bright and early Friday morning, stopped at the grocery store and made the 6 hour trip to Porcupine Mountains State Park in the U.P. of Michigan.
I planned a few different routes I could take, depending on how my legs felt, knowing my first day would be about 7 miles.... and I ended up with a prime camping spot, right on Lake Superior.
Just being out there that night reset my internal batteries and made me infinitely more confident in my backpacking abilities.
The second day, I did my first real river crossing (The Big Carp River, who's bridge was out) and I walked an extra mile trying to find a shallower and wider spot to cross.
The river came up to mid-thigh on me in spots and I took the crossing very slowly, but it drained me mentally to the point that I took off my pack on the far side and sat down to relax for about an hour.
Hiking up onto the ridge, I followed the Big Carp Trail and ended up camping overlooking a valley above the Big Carp.
I decided with promises of grill outs coming on Memorial Day, to cut my trip a day short, and on Sunday I hiked to Mirror Lake and then back out to my car.
It was just shy of Mirror Lake when I started feeling angry, frustrated and downright exhausted. It's amazing how quickly you can lose that drive when backpacking. I sat down, ate some jerky and some trail mix and finished the last 4 miles of my hike without incident.
Definitely taught me that you have to keep the engine fueled, and I learned the early warning signs of when my engine starts to sputter.
One last trip up onto the ridge, and a crossing of the Little Carp river and I was back to my car for the long drive back to Milwaukee.
What inspired me...
In early 2013, two of my friends asked me if I wanted to go to Glacier National Park with them.
"It's beautiful," they said. "We can backpack," they promised.
I was in, immediately. I committed myself, I started biking more regularly, I started walking and hiking whenever I could, and I played as much Ultimate as my body could stand.
Turns out, at 34, it couldn't stand quite as much as at 24. I sprained an ankle in April, pulled my calf badly in June.
With our trip set for Mid-August, my spirits were still high... but my fitness level was not.
Our backpacking excursion ended up being shorter than we planned, we were only going to spend two nights in the backcountry, and we'd car camp our other 4 nights in Glacier. With day-hikes easy to find and readily available, I was still excited for the trip.
The first day, we hiked to Grinnell Glacier. About 8 miles round trip, with 2000 feet of elevation gain. I'm pretty sure we finished it in about 5 hours.
Day two was Avalanche Lake. A much shorter hike, and a bit of elevation, but not nearly as strenuous as the day before.
I felt great that day. I could've sat at the lake for hours, it was so calm and relaxing and the swim I took really invigorated me.
The next morning, however, my feet betrayed me, and I skipped that days hike (13ish miles round trip to Iceberg Lake).
Then, on Thursday, we were scheduled to begin our hike into the backcountry.
We got up fairly early, packed up all our gear, went to the trailhead and started hiking.
About 2 or 3 miles in, I needed a break, took off my pack and went to fill up my water bottle, and sat down for a few minutes by a stream. When I went to stand up, my left hip flexor gave out on me. With 2000 feet of elevation gain that day, and another 2000 the following day (both up and down), I had to bail on the hike.
I ended up camping at a "rustic" campground in the park (no readily available water) for those two nights, while my friends went on their journey (which I insisted they did).
All that said, it was an amazing trip, one of the best of my life, and it planted the seed for me to become a backpacker.
I learned some very important lessons that trip:
1) Don't try to keep up with people who are in much better shape than you. Hike your own pace. Your feet and body will thank you for it.
2) Take more pictures. They last forever, and help convey the awe of your experience to others.
3) Don't ever, ever, ever buy a backpack because it's on sale. Go get fitted for one, test it out, test it out some more, and if anything doesn't fit or feel right, try another.
Kid A is an avid hiker, backpacker and outdoors enthusiast located in Milwaukee