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We just returned this evening from our first Best Family Backpacking trip - and, oh, what a fabulous first it was! While we've all camped quite a bit, the girls have never camped away from a vehicle, and the last time I did it I was 5, my parents carried my stuff, and I held the dog's leash. I did backpack into camp once in my adulthood, but we met up at a back country camp where family and friends had Jeeped in earlier in the week, bringing the tri-tip, canoe and other luxuries not typically found on in a backpacking camp.
In an effort to make this experience fun for the girls, Mr. B and I carried heavy packs so the girls' loads were light. Their Camelbak Scout'\s (this CamelBak Mini-M.U.L.E. is as close as you can get now) carried their regular day hiking load of water and snacks, plus their clothes and some special items they each chose to bring along. (V brought a stuffed animal, one small plastic horse and three very small plastic kitties. E brought along one stuffed animal, her pillowcase, a set of watercolor paints and a book.) We carried the rest, at 55 pounds for me, and 62 pounds for Mr. B.
The hike in to First Dinkey Lake, our home away from home, was only about 3 miles of gentle climbing with about a 500 foot elevation gain. We took our time, stopped to check out the wildflowers and giant mushrooms, took water breaks and had a nice lunch break along the creek before finally making it to camp some 3 hours after we started. Just as it would be for the next four days, the weather couldn't have been nicer. (OK, at night it could have been a BIT warmer given our 36-degree first night.) Skies were clear and sunny with white fluffy clouds ideal for daydreaming each afternoon. Slight breezes kicked up now and again, but overall we experienced shorts-and-T-shirt weather throughout. After setting up camp, we cozied up to the fire with spaghetti complete with frozen sauce that had thawed on our hike in, per our menu plan.
On our first full day in the wilderness, we opted to take a short hike to South Lake, a beautiful little lake perhaps a quarter mile from the campsite we called home on the west side of First Dinkey. We all tried our hand at fishing there, all of the catch-and-release variety. Mr. B caught one. V had nibbles. E had no luck. I lost 3 flies to fish including 2 I actually managed to get my hands on before they flopped away with fly and all. I lost my last good fly to a tree. (All the rest are too big for the small Sierra brook trout.) We played on the shore, splashed about for a bit, then finally returned to our camp in time for a dinner of Freezer Bag Orange Chicken.
These recipes are great for backpacking because you prep them at home, then simply boil water in camp, pour into prepped freezer-thickness bags, then let them steep for a few minutes and eat right out of the bag. Only thing to clean - our spoons or forks. Granted, it requires the use of plastic bags, but backpacking without THOSE would be a bear! We've had this recipe before, so I knew that the kids would like it better with out the red chili pepper. Mr. B and I, however, appreciated the added kick. It could also use some sort of veggie, though we took care of our fresh fruits & veggies needs throughout this trip with either fresh apples (heavy) or dried fruit (not exactly fresh, but at least fruit) and Fig Newtons. (Hey! They do so have FRUIT!)
The next day, we took a slightly longer hike to Second Dinkey Lake, yet another wonderful Sierra pool carved by glaciation and filled by spring's snow melt. Fishing here was unsuccessful, but we had a nice family picnic, and V found plenty of wood that served as boats of varying descriptions. E and I were more interested in exploring than floating wood, so we walked the few hundred feet further to Rock Lake where the water and breezes were both warmer, the lake was deeper and there wasn't another soul in sight. After a swim, we fished for awhile, then headed further uphill to catch a glimpse of Dogtooth Peak.
I've seen Dogtooth Peak from the Dusy-Ershim Trail for nearly 20 years now. My dad, othermom and their best friend all made the hike very shortly after E was born, but I'd never been this close. Once I realized just how close to the peak we were camped I had hoped to make a family hike of it, but I couldn't talk anyone into it. E was game enough to enjoy the lakes and a bit of a longer hike with me, but wasn't quite up to the whole adventure, so we saw fantastic views from the nob less than 1/4 mile away. Then we had a nice walk and talk back down the mountain to rejoin Mr. B and V for our return to camp where the backpackers' standard - Top Ramen - awaited us.
Today's hike out was quick and relatively easy. The girls were keen on returning to civilization in time for pizza lunch in Shaver, so they boogied down the trail. (It may have helped that Mr. B and I lightened their loads by half by carrying their clothes for them.) We made it back with only one water stop in just under two hours.
Backpacking with our 6 year old and 9 year old - FANTASTIC!
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