Despite a minor siblings scuffle, day one of our backpacking trip was pretty darn easy. Well, I can say that now I guess, at the time I didn’t necessarily think so. But, I realize that it is especially true as I look back on our second day.
Miles covered: 17
Just thinking back on this day exhausts me. To start our day we did a little off-road climb. Unintentionally. We figured that the trail curved around the lake, but as we started to follow it, the trail was completely overtaken by marsh and some pretty dense brush-type-plants to work through. And it got to be so hard to stick with the trail that we assumed we couldn’t possibly be on it. So, we backtracked and took a different fork in the trail that we had seen the day before. That started leading us right up to a peak in the opposite direction we were headed. It was a serious vertical climb. We realized that this couldn’t possibly be right either before we got to the actual peak. But, we decided to use our elevation advantage to try and spot the trail we needed to be on. We took of in the general direction we needed to be going and kept our eyes peeled for other hikers who were on the trail we should be on. Again, with my direction-ability I was little to no help. I mean I was pretty sure I could see Lake Tahoe from that ridge despite Stetson’s not-so-gentle reminders that it was impossible. Mostly I was just attempting to keep my eyes looking the same direction that Stetson’s were. It took us about a good hour from the start of our little detour, but eventually Stetson spotted some hikers that were on the trail. We, very slowly and carefully, made our way back down these ridges we were on and met up with the trail. Turns out the original trail we were on was most likely the correct one. It was just overgrown. That’s something Stetson explained would probably be in a guidebook, which we did not have.
And that was just to start our day. We had also decided that we were going to add a little extra loop to our route. We had talked with an incredibly helpful guy when we bought our map—he was awesome because he spent a lot of time helping us decide on a route that would be perfect for us (even though he was only making a $12 sale) and he didn’t talk down to us, which can happen fairly often if you’re a tourist in a resort town and clearly new to backpacking. He had shown us a nice little loop that could easily be done in 3 days. But, we were covering more ground than expected and he had told us about a pretty loop we could add if we wanted. Good ol’ Bryan’s Meadow. It was about 3 added miles: half of it downhill and the other half uphill. The way in was absolutely beautiful and definitely not overly challenging. But, the further we got in and lower in elevation, Stetson kept saying it was going to be a climb out. And honestly that didn’t really register with me. I mean the first half had been so pleasant, I assumed the second half would be as well. Definitely not. We had to seriously work our way uphill to get out of that meadow. Now, the uphill is not exactly where I was an all-star. I would think I was really killing it, then look up to see Stets and Camden 2 switchbacks in front of me. Finally, when we made it out and sat down for a snack, all I could say was “F- you Bryan” and Stetson agreed.
At this point, we were close to a respectable number of miles for a full hiking day (for newbies, not those hardcore PCTers). A loose goal that we had in mind was 13 miles. 13 is a lucky number for our family, so we thought that would be pretty cool. Our plans didn’t quite pan out, however.
The next stretch of trail I like to refer to as “Jam-Your-Toes-Into-The-End-Of-Your-Shoes Ridge.” It was switchback after switchback of rocky mess. For this day I had switched to my Patagonia hiking shoes, just to try them out mostly (always a great idea on a day where you are hiking double digit miles), and I was actually surprised at how great my feet felt. I hadn’t broken them in as much as I needed to before the trip. But, as I was ramming my foot into some jagged rock every 3 steps, I really appreciated them.
During this stretch we were both, very casually looking for camping spots. We both had our hearts set on getting to the next lake for camping, but we were still looking just in case a great spot popped up. Really, I think the spot would have had to come equipped with an ice cream stand and two king sized beds for us to take it though. We did pass a nice, flat spot really right on the edge of stream, that we thought about for a few seconds, but decided to press on.
And we kept pressing. And pressing. And pressing. We were looking for the sign to turn off for the next lake, but we knew that it seemed to be taking us a much longer time than it should have. Finally, we came along a man who had just set up his camp. We asked if we were headed towards the highway (we knew that the turn-off was in that direction and just wanted to make sure we were on the right trail). He said ‘yes’ and that we were actually just about to run right into the highway. Which means we were way, way passed our turn off…
Once, we hit the highway we knew that there was another lake- Frog Lake. We did have to trek up a bit on the highway, a bit up a little road with cabins, and FINALLY we caught a glimpse of Frog Lake. And it looked so unbelievably gorgeous. Not that it was actually that pretty; it was pretty mucky, buggy, and full of marsh. But, we had had such a ridiculous time getting there, it was breathtaking.
Until we tried to get water. Stets headed into the marsh and our filter was broken (we had discovered this a bit earlier, but waited until we hit the lake to spend the time to fix it). As he was washing it out, he realized that leeches were starting to swarm at his feet. So, he hightailed it out of there. We had no water to drink for the night. No water to boil and make dinner. And our campsite next to the lake was insanely buggy. We decided to move our camp up and away from the bugs. We ate whatever snacks we had that didn’t require cooking and hit the hay. It was still decently early–maybe 8ish– but, we were exhausted and wanted to get out of there as early as possible the next morning.
We chatted quite a bit, this day, about not absolutely loving every step we take while out backpacking. Yes, we were in beautiful areas. The sights were unbelievable. We were getting to spend time together as just brother and sister, which hadn’t happened in a pretty long time. The weather was perfect. But, honestly, for me, sometimes the actual act of carrying a pack full of all the essentials up the sides of mountains and down rocky switchbacks was kind of miserable. But, I loved the feeling of accomplishment I had as I lay there in the tent. Even on this day, which turned out to be much tougher than we had planned. I felt so proud of myself, and happy that my body (whatever superficial issues I may have with it) was able to do this. It was worth it.
Thanks for reading,