Andrew's first Wilderness Backpack Trip

Andrew's first Wilderness Backpack Trip

Andrew's first backpack trip 2016.

As seen in the videos and pictures below, Andrew, Ed, the Dogs, and I embarked on a milestone Backpack adventure into the Eagle Cap Wilderness in August of 2016.  This happened to be Andrew's first backpacking trip.  As Andrew's Dad, I wanted him to get a taste of some of the hardships and pain that Ed and I normally experience on all of our trips, but at the same time, I wanted it to be less difficult as to not overwork and scare him away from backpacking altogether. 

To accomplish this, I resorted to something that we rarely ever do. I decided to plan a route that contained a section of an established hiking trail.  This is normally a faux pas in our world simply because we then run the risk of bumping into other humans on the same trail.  I would rather eat my shoe than to see, smell or god forbid have to speak to some random asshole while on my vacation. After all, we go backpacking to get away from people, not to meet or interact with them.  Ed and I normally pick the steepest, nastiest, wind-blown shit-path to our destination just so that we don't run the risk of encountering other people.  Even though this has its perils, it is better than the alternative.

I decided to hike up the trail a few miles then make camp a fair distance from the trail, then take a series of day hikes from there.  The highlight of the trip would be to climb up and photograph a large waterfall that was located a mile up the side of the mountain.  After spotting the waterfall on Google Earth, I came to the conclusion that the terrain looked doable for Andrew and the dogs.  When we reached our destination, we set up camp and the next morning headed for the waterfall. 

From our camp and most of the way up there, we could see the waterfall in the distance however as we approached it, the terrain changed and the waterfall vanished into the steep rugged mountain.  We finally made it to the base and peered up the canyon at the waterfall.  It was still a good distance away so we continued up the mountain.  Giant boulders and foliage lined the creek that flowed down the canyon that we had to climb. The waterfall and creek were supplied by snowmelt and due to the heavy snowpack from the previous winter, the creek was flowing pretty good in some parts.  As we trekked upward, I noticed the terrain getting steeper as we climbed.  We had to multiple times to rest the dogs and plan our routes around the obstructions.  About halfway up, the ground became rockier with a layer of shale on top, then sand on top of that. We found ourselves sliding and the dogs were having trouble getting traction on the loose rocky surface.  The creekbed was lined with slippery granite rock that had green moss around the edges. At some point, Ed's dog Dixie climbed above us and then crawled down to the edge of the creek to get a drink of water.  One step into the moss and she slid down the chute like a rocket.  I just happened to hear the ruckus and turned and reached out and grabbed her collar as she blasted past me. I saw the panic in her eyes as I dragged her out.  

It was at this moment that I looked back down the path that I realized how steep the terrain had become.  We were just feet from the base of the waterfall so we continued.  When we reached the waterfall, we sat and basked in our success.  We took a few videos and photographs.  The waterfall was on the left sidewall of the canyon which continued up the mountain about 100 yards and then turned a corner so we could not see beyond that. As we rested, a small rock came rolling around that corner of the canyon above us and bounced its way down towards us.  I looked around and realized that the canyon walls were high and steep on both sides, therefore, eliminating any possibility of escape from a rock slide or even one boulder coming down the canyon. I told Andrew and Ed that it's time to go.  

We turned and headed down the mountain and quickly realized that it was much easier to come up than to go down.  The foot and handholds that we used to get up were now filled in and covered with loose dirt and shale rock making it a difficult descent.  We ended up going down backward, one step at a time.  I would go down first then dig foot and handholds for Andrew then direct his feet into them while standing firmly to catch him if he were to slip. The dogs also needed assistance so we would get Andrew down to a safe point the go back up for the dogs. It took us an hour to get up to the waterfall, and 5 hours to get back down.  I have to say that Andrew did very well with all of this although I could see the fear in his eyes many times throughout the descent.  At the same time, I could also sense the trust that he had in us that we would get him safely back to flat ground.

When we reached the bottom, we were totally and completely exhausted but relieved.  As we walked back to camp, I explained to Andrew that the situation had evolved from adventurous to extremely dangerous so slowly that I didn't realize until it was too late and that I should have never put him in that situation.  In the end, it was a great experience and we agreed not to tell his Mom.    

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