This weekend I went backpacking alone…ooh..
Our hero had recently bought a new backpack and cookset, and with plans for a weeklong backpacking trip forming in his mind, he decided that he would put his new gear to the test and also see if that freeze-dried food was palatable.
For quite some time he has had a desire to be alone in the wilderness. Years of reading writings by Thoreau and visiting Walden pond himself a year prior, his longing for solitude had to be appeased. The opportunity presented itself on July 11, after work he was going to get a ride to the trailhead, and hike in 5.5 miles to Williwaw lakes.
Josh got off work at 4:00, packed his new Gregory Shasta full of camping gear and hopped in the car. Eric drove him to the Glen Alps trailhead to which they arrived at 6:00, but the Alaska sun was still high in the sky. The hike started out on an access road that followed a powerline cutting through the valley. Josh had traveled this road 2 weeks prior with Ryan where they spotted 14 moose on the opposite side of the valley. While the moose were so far that they appeared to be only as large as a pinkie-nail held at arms length, the sheer number outweighed their distance. Enough about that hike, back to the mountain solitare. Josh turned off the access road and onto the first leg of the trail. the trail led to a large bridge that spanned the flowing waters of the South Fork Campbell Creek. The book in which this particular hike was found stated that after the creek crossing the trail could be quite soggy, the author was right. Josh squiched through muddy soil and across planks laid down on the trail. tracks of previous hikers, dogs and moose scattered the muddy trail as Josh hiked. As he walked along a plank and neared the end, he noticed that the next plank was not within stepping distance, and between these two planks sat a gloppy mass of mud. Josh jumped from the edge of the plank that he was on and soared towards the plank in front of him. his foot landed and slipped out from under him on a thick layer of mud that covered the plank. He fell backwards and plunged his arm deep into the thick mud. His backpack loaded with about 40 lbs of gear landed behind him on the plank, keeping the rest of his body from tipping into the surrounding mud. the mud slurped as Josh pulled his arm out, he stood up and opened his Nalgene water bottle to wash the mud off his elbow, wrist, watch, and hand. As he hiked on, he eventually reached a small stream and spotted the crisp footprint of a black bear in the stream bank. Josh recalled the sign that stated: “YOU ARE IN BEAR COUNTRY, HIKE AT YOUR OWN RISK” Knowing that in order to avoid an encounter with a bear, you must let them be aware of your presence, he sang outloud as he hiked through a patch of alders. the trail winded on, and Josh saw a pair of Backpackers setting up camp on a hillside. He reached the intersection of 2 trails and followed the one to Williwaw lakes. The trail marker said that it was still 3 miles to the lakes, which meant that Josh had hiked 2 miles in about 50 minutes. The trail wound over hills, over streams, and past dried up ponds, which were now just pits of dark rocks. As Josh hiked over the crest of a hill, he spotted the first of the chain of Williwaw lakes, he hiked closer. Josh hiked over boulders and as he neared the lake, the sound of seagulls echoed in his ears. The gulls flew closer and screeched with anger in their voices. As Josh hiked along the banks of the lakes, the seagulls swooped closer and closer, they must have been protecting their territory because they were coming within inches of his head. Josh began to run from the gulls and away from the lakes. He found a suitable camp site, complete with a fire-pit made of rocks by previous hikers. He decided that this would be the place that he would spend the night.
Josh pulled the tent from his backpack and unfurled the nylon sanctuary. He inserted the poles into the sleeves and pushed the tent into being. The golden dome shone bright in the setting sun but was abruptly muted with the addition of the rattan colored rain-fly. After the tent was set up, Josh moved on to dinner, he retrieved the foil pouch of freeze dried beef stew, the fuel cartridge,the stove, and his new MSR cookset. he screwed the stove onto the fuel cartridge and attempted to light it. Either it was the fact that this cartridge was new and had not been given the opportunity to allow the isobutane to work it’s way through the inner workings, or perhaps it was just too windy, either way the stove would not light while even remotely out in the open. Josh took his pots, food, stove and spoon up a hill and hid close to an exposed rock face. Nestled between the rock wall and a large boulder, he lit the stove with a stormproof match, the stove sputtered and then, in a jet-stream of fury bellowed out a constant flame. He put his pot, which contained only 1.5 cups of water,over the flame. he ripped open the foil package and opened the mouth of the plastic bag within. Upon opening the lid of the pot, Josh was surprised to see the water was already boiling, he quickly poured in the steaming water and closed up the plastic bag. Josh shut off the stove, gathered up his things and made his way back to the campsite. Josh opened up the bag of stew, poured it into an empty pot and started skarfing it down. Perhaps it was the fact that he haden’t eaten since lunch, and now it was already 9:30, that made the stew seem so palatable, Either way at that moment it tasted great. He ate the remaining bits of beef, peas, potatoes, and carrots and washed his pot in the Midle Fork Campbell Creek that cut through the valley and laid next to his campsite. After dinner he decided that since there already was a firepit constructed complete with firewood strewn about the site, he would make a fire. He broke some small twigs and placed them between the charred skeletons of two logs that sat within the ring of stones. Striking a stormproof match (the only kind he had brought) he attempted to set the twigs aflame. He had no luck. A second try turned out to be even less fruitfull than his first. The wind had been too strong, and the lack of tinder was not helping the situation. Josh decided to give it one final try. Sheltering the pile of twigs with the Thermarest sleeping pad (which he had borrowed from the Tans’s, Along with the stove and tent) he leaned in and lit two matches. the flame died down, but then miraculously started to blaze, the flame turned into flames, and flames into fire, then fire into a blazing fountain of heat, light, and dancing tounges of fire. the smell of smoke was heavy in the air, keeping all mosquitos at bay. Josh thought to himself, as he does every time he smells campfire smoke “why can’t they make a cologne that smells like this?” Josh sat down on the sleeping pad, and then pushed his body into his sleeping bag. Enjoying the heat, and bug protection of the fire he laid down and started to read from a book about backpacking that he had borrowed from a friend at church. The sun started to dip behind the mountainside that sheltered the valley. He looked at the face of Williwaw peak lit up with the golden rays of a setting sun. The shadow line, formed by the mountain blocking the sun, traveled several feet within a matter of minutes. Josh filled his water bottle with the cool flowing water from the creek and doused the fire with it. He covered his gear with the pack rain-cover, put his sleeping bag and pad into the tent and crawled in for a night of uninterupted slumber. He read a chapter of Desert Solitare by Edward abbey, and then shut his eyes. The raging winds pushed the walls of the tent inward, the rain-fly creaked against the poles, and the floor bubbled around him. Though the light of the sun still glowed in the sky, it was the wind that kept him up. Even though it was 12:30 he couldn’t fall asleep, he decided to read another chapter, a chapter full of excitement kept him up late putting his eyes into a state of weariness. Josh set his watch alarm for 9:00 and closed his eyes. He drifted off as the wind shook his temporary shelter.