The Unsuccessful Backpacking Trip

tents set up at church lake

Craig and “the guys” take trips up to his parents’ cabin in the mountains a couple of times a year as little weekend getaways with the guys. I made that sound far more romantic than it is. During these trips, they go on long drives up logging roads in an attempt to find something exciting. One time they explored an abandoned gold mine (it is very creepy, from what I’ve been told) and this spring, they happened upon a hike to Church Lake, which is near the summit of Bearpaw Mountain in the North Cascades. Being spring in the mountains, it was mostly a snow field, but they decided that it would be a fun adventure for everyone (including the ladies) to be invited on. Magically, we all managed to figure out a time that worked for everyone, and despite one of the couples backing out last minute, 6 of us headed up a few weeks ago.

The forecast was for clear skies and highs around 60, and lows in the low 30’s. Everyone packed warm clothes, and we thought we were ready for it. The night before, we all drove up to the cabin and spent the night, and got an early start around 8am to head up to the trailhead. As soon as we got out of the truck, it started sprinkling. Unfazed (we live in the PNW – everyone’s used to rain), we headed in. It started off as a pretty flat walk with a bunch of squishy pools (they actually looked incredibly similar to the Dead Marshes from Lord of the Rings), and then the incline started. This is primarily me being supremely out of shape, but it was compounded by the other 2 couples that were camping with us being in quite good shape, but I thought I was going to die. Huge steep hill, tiny flat spot, followed by another huge steep hill. It’s not exactly my jam. And then it started snowing, because really, the only thing better than rain while you’re gasping for air, your lungs hurt, and your legs feel like jello, is all of that in the snow. And so we trudged on. And one of our friends lent me his trekking poles, which, despite being strikingly dorky, were total lifesavers, and I have them on my “list” now.

Hike to church lake

By the time we made it to Church Lake, the rain and snow had stopped, and we were able to find an area that was flat enough to pitch some tents on (the really good spot right next to the lake already had some campers there) and got camp set up. And as soon as the fly was up over the tent, it started snow/raining again! Without a good place to get out of the rain, we all huddled under a stand of trees, which eventually became our home base for the afternoon. It was pretty cold (not anywhere near 60 degrees). We heated up some water on a camp stove and made instant coffee. By then it was close to lunch time, so we also added boiling water to pouches of freeze dried camping food and ate. Laura was cold, and we had many pouches of hot camping food waiting the recommended 10-15 minutes to rehydrate, so we stacked them on her. I passed out hand warmers, and when the rain let up, the menfolk went to go collect firewood and us ladies went to check out the lake. We were going to come in the RV but we needed to buy a new RV Battery so we just decided to camp. It was super fun anyway and we did enjoy it.

Church Lake & Bearpaw Mountain

Church Lake & Bearpaw Mountain Church Lake & Bearpaw Mountain

Unfortunately, the weather was so changing/unpredictable, we weren’t able to even make an attempt at summitting Bearpaw Mountain. We wouldn’t have been able to see anything and the combo of snow, rain, and fog would have made the scramble up to the top pretty dangerous. So we hung out for a few hours. We filtered some water from the lake, made more coffee, popped the bottle of super fancy champagne that I brought to celebrate the engagement of Laura & Ian, and got a fire started. The fire was magnificent. Not in scale or grandiosity, but more like it was warm, and we were not, so it was pretty great. But when the snow started coming into our tree fort sideways and then kind of upside down, and we didn’t think there would be enough firewood to last us into the night, we decided to cut our losses and pack it in. We had hoped to summit Bearpaw Mountain, and to do some exploring, but we were so socked in, we couldn’t see anything, and just didn’t expect the weather to improve much.

unsuccessful camping trip

So we agreed that as soon as the snow let up, we would pack up camp and hike back out. And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we were putting the finishing touches on our packs, the sky cleared up, there were breaks of blue, and we saw some stinking sun, in addition to seeing the top of Bearpaw for the first time! Jerk weather.

Church Lake & Bearpaw Mountain

But we hiked back out, down the ridiculously steep hills this time. And we almost made it out without a spill! Craig bit it pretty hard coming down one of the last little hills that was really slippery and muddy, but only ended up with mud all over his trousers. We made it back down the mountain and headed to the place across the highway from the cabin that has pizza and great cocktails.

Despite the failure of the trip and my unparalleled lack of ability to make it up those hills, I actually had a ton of fun. We are planning to do the same trip in late July/early August next year to hopefully avoid some of the snow! This time, we will be giving the guys at Auto Finance Online a call, and financing a caravan or motorhome to assist with this – as going in a car is just too time consuming.

But because I haven’t gone on any backpacking trips as an adult, I don’t have any real gear. Craig has a light 2 man tent and a handful of other gear, plus a few things borrowed from his dad, and I had nothing, so I borrowed a ton of stuff from my mom, who has great backpacking skills. But I don’t want to be the person who borrows someone else’s gear (and I’m sure my mom doesn’t want me to be that person too!) so I immediately started searching ebay for a used pack. After finding a few that seemed like they’d work, only to research them and find out that they weren’t that great, I found an older version of my mom’s pack (which is awesome) that had been used only a couple of times for about half the price that they sell for new. And I won it! And it arrived yesterday. I was very pleased! Now to find a good deal on a really warm sleeping bag, a sleeping mat, and a handful of other small gear. We live on the side of this crazy huge hill, so I’ve started doing walks up and down it. The dogs are coming along. Boris is loving them, and Helo seems to kind of hate me, but it’s exercise that we all need, and I really want to not feel like I’m going to die on a hike that the rest of our friends seem to be able to handle just fine, so it’s necessary. I also a decent cooler that is capable of storing frozen food for a good period of time whilst maintaining its quality. My friend has just found one on, so I’m half tempted to have a look and see if there is one that will suit me. Anyway, see you soon!

new backpack

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