Gosh, here it is almost the Fourth of July. I suddenly realized that the backpack I had contemplated way back in January was now only a month away. Could I really do a 10-mile backpack in Oregon’s beautiful Eagle Cap Wilderness? Could I really do multiple days of day hikes? Could I really sleep on the ground four nights in a row?
I had hired a mule and wrangler in January and paid a deposit. The balance was due (where was that fine print…?) oh yes, 30 days before departure. Departure was (when did I set this?) August 6, so that means – gulp – I had to make the call by July 6.
Quick! Time for a trial backpack. I looked over every hike on the Washington Trails Association website: too far, too steep, too muddy, too buggy, etc., etc. Finally selected one/ Stuffed the backpack and did a couple walks around the neighborhood – hey, maybe I can do this. Loaded the backpack in the car and then looked out and – it was raining. And there was a suspicious puddle under Paul’s backpack. Whoops- the lid had come off his water bottle, and the inside of his pack was well soaked. So we deferred one day. Picked a new hike that I thought would be easier – the Ingalls Creek hike which, purely by coincidence, happens to be what we call “the scene of the crime”: where we mutually proposed to each other on a backpack some 28 years ago.
With the usual summer construction delays, it took us some three hours to get to the trailhead. This is not a irrelevant comment – that long in a car (even with breaks) means I was already stiff and sore before I started down the trail. My body was reminding me that I had done a 3-mile trial with the pack around the neighborhood the day before.
Finally, we hoisted the packs on our backs and off we went. Immediately I turned into a zombie. Even though the trail had a very mild grade, e-v-e-r-y–s-t-e-p–w-a-s–a-g-o-n-y. The pack weighed a bit more than 22 pounds, not a lot for a backpack, and my Sherpa-For-Life was carrying tent, water filter, cooking pot, stove, and fuel. But I felt like I was carrying a boulder which rested entirely on my right butt and right thigh. I would trudge 4 or 5 steps and then have to stop to rest. When I finally staggered into a clearing and had a little lunch, I was able to check my watch: it had taken me nearly an hour to go…about a half mile.
Pretty easy to make the call – neither this trial backpack nor the one in August were going to happen. Yes, I was disappointed, but frankly mostly I was relieved. I’m still going to Eagle Cap, just need to do some rethinking. I’ll need to focus on being able to cover the 8 miles to Minam River Lodge, another destination in the area. Paul and I will be walking in but don’t need to bring bedding or food. I’ll still have about 10 pounds in clothes and personal items (it’s amazing how much your clothes weigh). But Paul thinks he may be able to carry some of that weight if I turn into a zombie again.
YouTube extra: Yes, there are actually musical selections on YouTube called “March of the Zombies”, but I like this scene from The Wizard of Oz better. I still get scared at all the Wicked Witch of the West scenes.