Back in the day, I used to go backpacking quite a lot. Even though Joe is not-quite-six, it’s important that he start learning some of his cultural heritage and get a sense of who his dad was back in his wild and crazy single days. Parenthood is all about ego projection, right? Anyway, with much assistance from Chris and his twin 8-year-olds, we did some backcountry camping. Chris is the master at ultralight backcountry gear and custom makes a good deal of his stuff. Thanks to his loan of a 2-pound tent and a ridiculously light sleeping bag, I was able to fit enough gear in my big purple pack for both Joe and I to carry.
We hiked in from the popular Rollins Tunnel/East Portal trailhead amongst many fellow hikers and righteous wildflowers. One and a half miles from the car, there is a large meadow and this seemed like the most likely destination for the night. There was a bit of complaining from the younger set, but mostly they did pretty well.
All the way in, we heard warnings of a large moose up in the meadow we were aimed for. Sure enough, when we arrived, I saw a big brown rump sticking out from behind some bushes. We detoured through the field to give the moose some room and also to check out the likely-looking camping spots on the south side of the meadow. We watched as other hikers detoured through the field to get around the moose.
After about ten minutes of watching the moose munching on plants at the far edge of the field, a woman with a small dog hiked blithely down the trail. Seeing me pointing rather animatedly at the moose standing not 20’ away from her, she yelled, “HEY! FYI, there was a BIG moose over there this morning! You might want to watch out!”
“Yeah,” I yelled back, “He’s right behind you!” I will cherish her reaction until the end of my days.
After a short and restless night in the constant roar of the nearby creek, Joe and I got up at first light and cooked a nice breakfast. A few hours later, we embarked on a short day hike up to Crater Lakes another 1.5 miles and 1000’ up the trail. I had never been to Crater Lakes in the summer before and didn’t quite realize how steep and rough the trail was. The kids tended to complain about how hard it was and had to be lured along with treats of various sorts with which I’d come fully stocked. Of course, when there was a steep rock to climb up or a log bridge to walk across, the kids lead the charge with surprising energy and speed.
When we finally reached the first of the lakes, everyone grudgingly admitted that it had been worth the steep, hot hike. It’s a nice lake with good views of the Divide and lots of rocks and sticks to throw in the water. Lunch was had and everyone relaxed for about an hour before heading back down. Gravity helped greatly on the initial descent, but there was eventually a great deal of grumbling before we regained the trailhead.
It was a good introduction to backcountry camping for Joe and a good reminder about how nice it is to relax and take it slow every once in a while. Total distance was about 6 miles with about 1500′ of elevation gain. I look forward to lots more of this once the kids are older and stronger and, most importantly, have a longer attention span for slow-twitch recreation.