It’s that time of year! Here are 10 picks, whether you are going back to school or not.
Back to School Standards
Daybeds are the new futon
Last week, my family vacationed in Alberta, Canada. I would like to walk you through our travels in this photo-journey!
My siblings and I flew out 4 days earlier than the rest of the family for our second annual backpacking trip. We stayed in the Lake Louise Village of Banff National Park. The photos above are of the famous turquoise lake herself.
We got a late start on our backpacking trip, and after hiking up a highway for hours and hitchhiking the same distance in 15 minutes, we finally made it to the trailhead. Our first hour was spent on lunch and packing up to the halfway hut, where we hid from the sun and mosquitos and accidentally took a nap.
When we were finally loaded up and ready for the next 4 hours of our hike, it was late afternoon and we were anticipating some hiking in the dark. (Although, as we learned, the sun doesn’t set until 10 p.m. up there!) Just as we set out on the trail, it started raining, and more concerning, it started lightning. There had recently been wildfires in the area, and there was a strong fire risk at the time. Feeling uneasy about our late start and the storm, we regrouped and decided to camp at the site near the halfway hut. Even though it was not the site we had reserved, we felt much safer and there ended up being extra tent sites there.
The campsite we stayed at was a short hike away from Hidden Lake, and as advised by other backpackers, we set up our tent and then hiked our dinner out over a kilometer to cook and eat bug-free in the tranquil space by the lake. It was a beautiful spot that felt like a secret, and the bear tracks on the trail meant that we were the only people crazy enough to head out there. Our only regret was not taking our sleeping clothes and blankets, because it was frigid and very windy.
The next day, determined not to repeat the day before, we were out on the trail by 8 a.m.. My patient brother and sister stopped at least 5 times so that I could adjust my layers. It was too cold to wear shorts, but too hot to wear sweatpants. We were on sheer and windy mountainsides, and I finally found the right combination of long and thin layers. The rest of the morning was spent in the etherial beauty of the Skoki valley. The meadow between the mountains was in the full bloom of alpine spring.
Much to the surprise of last night’s campers, we arrived at Baker Lake campground by noon! We had lunch and a nap, then took a tip from some other early morning hikers and wandered down the path less traveled in search of two small waterfalls.
The hikers told us that we would first see a small waterfall. Even though it was beautiful, they insisted that it is quite small and unimpressive compared to our actual destination. Just past it, there would be much larger falls.
Photos don’t capture the sheer scale of what we encountered. This photo of Kendra and Thor shows them right next to the falls, which are blocked by the boulders they are standing on. You can see how far up we are, standing where the river turns to waterfall.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing. We took in the view of Baker Lake, made dinner, and played cards. We should have packed a book of card games, because basically all we could remember how to play was Blackjack and Go Fish.
We were out even earlier for our return hike the last day, leaving by 7 and stopping for second breakfast and coffee by 9 or 10.
The last part of our hike was down an access road, which kind of a crappy ending to backcountry camping deep in the park, far from roads. We were fortunate to catch a ride and hitchhike again, which saved us hours skidding down gravel roads. Our Canadian driver was listening to a public radio program about wolves in Indiana and drove us all the way to our campsite in the park.
We each made ourselves an easy feast. Thor bought a bag of raw vegetables and a half-baked baguette with a big hunk of cheese. Kendra has rosemary crackers with cheddar. I learned you can stick a can of chili right on the pocket stove and it heats through faster than a microwave! After a shower and an evening walk along the river, we slept through a night of rainstorms full and happy.
This is just the first 4 days of an 11 day trip! On day 5, we took an amazing hike up to the Lake Agnes Teahouse, and I will share that story tomorrow. Following that, I will share our adventures from Jasper National Park, where we spent the next 5 days of our trip. There we visited hot springs and met families of elk!
The one thing you can’t go hiking without: Chacos, they’re great for a light hike or for crossing through streams. They are my go-to shoe for everything.
A mistake you learned from on the trail: Don’t wait to go to the bathroom.
The surprising thing that saved you from a bad day: Once I used a bungee cord for a belt.
Best song to keep the bears away: Just singing “No bears, no bears no bears no bears.”
Favorite food for car camping: Build your own burritos bar
Favorite food on the trail: Clif bars
Most important planning detail: A minimalist mindset- pack light, but pack the essentials.
What is your signature move on the trail? Stopping to take pictures every two seconds because I am so amazed at every turn.
First memory of camping: I remember breakfast more than the actual sleeping part. Mom making eggs and bacon over the campfire.
What to do after camp is set up: Go for a sunset hike.
Top Three Best Trips:
1. Glacier National Park
2. Going out west for work as a trip leader
3. Went rafting in New River Gorge in West Virginia, also for work
Most wow moment on the trail: Waking up at Arrow Lake in Montana, and seeing the sun rise over the lake.
Best book about outdoors: “How to Shit in the Woods”
Best book to read outdoors: “The Hobbit.” It’s pocket sized!
What do you enjoy about hiking? The view. Being outside.
Why do you hike? To explore places you can only get to on foot.
What’s the most developed trail you’ve ever walked that’s still difficult? The steps leading up to Red Rock Amphitheater. Or really, any hill.
Question I should have asked: How do you choose a trail?
Your answer to that question: I look at the mileage, water sources along the way, and experience of others on the hike.
As you are reading this, my brother, sister and I are loading our packs and headed out on a three day backpacking journey in Banff, Canada! We are so excited about this, but it took a lot of planning. I wanted to give you a glimpse of what we did to make this happen.
First, do you remember all the stuff we packed to hike the Grand Canyon? In case you missed it, here is that breakdown:
Not numbered: trekking poles ($10 used for the PAIR, purchased from Grand Canyon rentals!), 2nd skyn blister kit, Mountain House breakfast, hiking clothes and a trusty red bandana
Not pictured: flight duffle, book, many maps crammed in a sheet protector, food for days, allergy pills.
With three of us, the distribution of stuff is a little different. We share the big and bulky things, like the tent and dry sack of food, but we still have a number of personal things to pack up, like clothes and trail snacks. This is a direct CTRL-C/ CTRL-V straight to you from the backpacking google sheet. You should see our packs. They are LOADED.
|Thor- completed||Thor||Kendra- completed||Kendra||Kelsey- completed||Kelsey|
|Sleeping bag + pad||X||Sleeping bag + pad||X||Sleeping bag + pad|
|X||WARM CLOTHES, 2 pairs||X||WARM CLOTHES, 2 pairs||Emergency Blanket|
|X||All hydration systems||X||All hydration systems||X||TP+ shovel|
|Day pack||X||Day pack||X||Dinner for Thor and Kelsey|
|X||Wound Power + First Aid||X||First Aid||X||Bear bin|
|X||3-5 changes of underwear||X||3-5 changes of underwear/ sports bras||X||WARM CLOTHES|
|X||3-5 sets of athletic clothes||X||3-5 sets of athletic clothes||X||10 L Water Bladder + all others|
|X||hiking boots||X||hiking boots + athletic sandals||X||Water filter|
|X||Lunch for self- 3-5 days||X||Lunch and dinner for 3-5 days||X||Day pack|
|X||Spork + cup||X||Coffee filter/ pour over||X||Suture + Second Skyn|
|X||Sunscreen||X||Spork + cup||X||3-5 changes of underwear/ sports bras|
|X||Dry sack for dirty clothes||X||Sunscreen||X||3-5 sets of athletic clothes|
|X||Dr. Bronner’s, toothbrush||X||Dry sack for food + rope||X||hiking boots + athletic sandals|
|X||3+ wool socks||Dry sack for dirty clothes||X||Breakfast for all|
|X||Deodorant||X||Dr. Bronner’s, toothbrush||X||Lunch for self|
|X||Headlamp||X||3+ wool socks||X||Coffee|
|X||Pack extra clothes with parents||Pack extra clothes with parents||X||Stove, fuel, mess kit, matches|
|X||Rain jacket||X||External charger battery pack||X||Knife|
|X||Towel||X||Deodorant||Alcohol for steralizing wounds, similar|
|X||Long sleeve FOR HIKING||X||Rain jacket||X||Water tablets|
|X||Light jacket||Fuel tablets||X||Dry sack for dirty clothes|
|X||Tevas||Lighter||X||Dr. Bronner’s, toothbrush|
|Retainers||X||Towel||X||3+ wool socks|
|X||Debit card||X||Trekking Poles||X||Deodorant|
|Cash||X||Pack extra clothes with Anthony|
Have you ever heard of this National Park- Isle Royale? I was looking for some backpacking in the Midwest, and I found this gem! A 42 mile one way trip, on a wild island in Lake Superior, with otters and foxes and wolves around! It takes about 4-6 days to cross the island, going one way. This is definitely on my summer bucket list!
In April, I went backpacking in THE GRAND CANYON! It was one of the most awe-inspiring experiences I have ever had. It was dangerous and required a lot of planning. We did a three day loop, lugged heavy packs and traversed in heavy boots, and slept inside the canyon with a full moon overhead. Here are some photos from our experience!
We warmed up before our backcountry trek on the Grand Canyon Rim Hike. We only did a short portion, but it would be a nice hike to do in entirety one day! It is also an easy but long hike, and if I can ever convince my parents to visit the Grand Canyon, it is one they would enjoy. At this point in the hike, we had a clear view of the Colorado River and the strata of the canyon.
The descent is long and arduous, and it is easy to lose track of how far you have come. These are moments where you look down and can’t believe that you are still hours away from the river, but turn around and realize you are days away from the top. We took the South Kaibab trail in.
My favorite view of the hike. I only took this photo, even as the colors and angles continued to open up along our descent, because photos don’t capture even a fraction of the majesty revealed in these rural places. South Kaibab is not for the faint-of-heart or weak-kneed individuals, but the views in the bottom quarter of this trail were my favorite part of the entire hike.
In the dry, rough rock of the canyon, it is hard to believe that there is a river down there, but this vegetation proves it! The interior of the canyon is a small wetland, with a humidity not found in the rest of the west, and leafy trees lining the waters.
Whenever you are not near the river, you are definitely in the arid desert, as demonstrated by these bright flowering cacti and thistles.
We hiked out through the popular Bright Angel trail, and while it started somewhat remote, by the time we were finishing our ascent we were surrounded by day-trippers who were astounded at our accomplishment. We felt like heroes!
It was an amazing trip. I am already plotting more challenging backcountry treks in the Grand Canyon for future trips. We met backpackers inside the canyon who had been down there for weeks, following the Tonto trail. If I found 3 days strengthening and meditative, I wonder how I would be changed by 7 or 20 days.
Even better, we backpacked into the Grand Canyon and camped near Colorado River!
Here’s what we took: