Hello flushing toilets, we’re home.
After five glorious days on the Pacific Crest Trail we are back to cushioned couches and electricity. Although I daydreamed about mattressed-beds and a shower a couple of times, I mostly want to live out the rest of my life on the trail. This trip will live on in my best-trips-ever memory bank forever.
The Players: Our family was only half the crowd. We were also Nannie, Papa, and our two awesome nephews. Eight somewhat (or perhaps just right) prepared hikers heading off into the woods.
The Route and Timeline: This little family vaycay was my idea but it rightfully morphed in a group effort with lots of group planning. Whereas I could’ve easily spent 2 + weeks out there, the most feasible plan was 5 days. For the sake of ease we chose a close-to-home obscure loop starting at the Elk Lake Trailhead and ending at the Six Lakes Trailhead. It totaled somewhere between 15-20 miles, but we aren’t exactly sure because the map, trail markers, and GPS, were never quite in agreement. I recently read Zero Days, a true story about the youngest thru-hiker to complete the entire Mexico to Canada 2650 mile trail at age ten, so I had a notion that our tiny section hike would be a breeze. Our route was flexible which was good because my overly optimistic idea of the kids putting in an easy 5 miles/day (whereas the little girl in the book was putting in 20/day) was determined painfully incorrect on mile 3 of day 2 when the whole world came crashing down on four hot and thirsty kids. This is also where I say that by day 4 they put in 7 (mostly complaint-free) miles including a 1000ish foot climb. They’re troopers I’m telling you.
Questions Answered: Five days of walking allows for some serious thinking. I thought about summer coming to an end and the imminence of middle school starting. I thought about the best way to decorate the library. I wondered if there would ever be a way I could actually thru-hike the whole PCT, or even just my beloved Oregon. But most of my thoughts were observations about the people I was hiking with. We talked a lot and a lot can be learned in a single file line. Here is what I came to discover.
- My nephew Jacob is wise beyond his years. I wish I would’ve been that with-it as an eighth grader. He also looks out for his younger brother.
- Papa is a mountain main. Pure and simple.
- Gracie is one helluva hiker. She can keep up with the best of them. She is equally witty and intelligent.
- My nephew Garrett succeeds when he tries new things and his success makes everyone around him happy. He also loves to read and that makes me doubly happy.
- Noah can’t resist a mountain lake, even if it means constantly unpacking and repacking to dig out his swim shorts. His laughter carries for at least a hundred yards on the forested trail which was nice when he and the other boys were up ahead of Gracie and me.
- Nannie can engage even the stinkiest long distance hiker in a sincere conversation about life. She is also a champ at a single burner white gas camp stove.
- My Bradley: he-who-hates-to-backpack. Even though he would prefer to be just about anywhere else, he adds zest to the trip, usually in the form of sarcastically comical observations about the challenging scenarios that accompany the adventures of 8 novice backpackers. He also somehow looks incredible after 5 showerless days sleeping on the rock hard ground.
- Myself. Although I have an absolute appreciation for the creature comforts of home, I have an overriding need to explore. Even when we settled into camp for the night, I wanted to (and sometimes did) take the side trails just to see what was around the corner. I have a need to wander. I have known this about myself but also have a wonderful family life and enjoy the wandering that comes with day-to-day life too. It isn’t a need to get away; it is a need to see what there is to be seen. I also have a life-long and undying love for huckleberries.
One Final Unanswered Question: We learned about all kind of things from each other. We discovered new information about shooting stars, middle school style notebooks, the best way to decipher topography on a Forest Service map, Minecraft, and how to respect each other’s needs for privacy when brushing teeth in the bushes. We gave freedom when things didn’t go to plan and accepted the new plan from that point on. We played games to aid the passing of miles when our skeletons felt like they might collapse under the weight of our packs.
We sampled each other’s dehydrated food packets and rated the lakes and streams as we walked by. But there is one lingering question that we repeatedly asked and was never able to answer…
What in the world is the purpose of mosquitoes?
A few more photos
One very important post script
A few months ago Gracie asked to be baptized out of the clear blue. She had an excellent understanding of such a decision and asked for it to happen on the Pacific Crest Trail. We chose a beautiful little nameless lake and stood on either side of her with the honor of baptizing her in her most sincere and well questioned faith. It was a moment that will remain with us forever.