Friday, September 23, 2011

It was time

A few weeks ago we decided it was time for Abel's first multi-night backpacking trip. A milestone for all eleven month old babes' right?

The original plan was a thru hike, from Cascade Pass to Thunder Creek Trailhead. Four days, three nights in the heart of the North Cascades. High country camps, solitude, alpenglow, water from glacial fed streams, star filled skies, autumn colors; I couldn't wait. I also couldn't commit. What if Abel didn't want to backpack for more than two days in a row? What if it rained? What if it got really cold at night? What if 8 miles was really all we could cover with Abel in a day (not 10-14 like the hike required)? What if we couldn't burn/bury/compost his diapers like we planned and we had to carry them out?

All of these worries were too much for Mama Rae. In the end we decided on a three day, base camp style backpack into Horseshoe Basin, in the Pasayten Wilderness, it was a good choice. To start, the forecast on the east side was drier and warmer than the west side. The trail into Horseshoe Basin was also much mellower than pretty much any other trail we'd considered. The second fact was of at least equal importance to the first. Despite our efforts to go as light as possible we were carrying a 24 pound Abel Rae, in an 8 pound pack into an area with questionable water sources (hence the fact that we each carried 3 liters of water, weighing 12 pounds). Jointly our packs weighed nearly 80 pounds! That is alot more than normal.

The plan for the trip was to drive to the east side and camp as far east as possible (Abel doesn't exactly love car rides). Head to the Tonasket Coop for coffee and pastries and then hit the trail. Hike for three days (spending two nights at whichever campsite struck our fancy) and then making our way home in whatever way possible!

All went well until night two, our first night backpacking. It was chilly. So we bundled Abel up, really well. So well in fact that he couldn't really roll over or scratch his nose and he let us know that this was unacceptable. He actually made it known all night long that it was unacceptable, not continually, but rather intermittently, seemingly each moment I feel back asleep. Another layering system wasn't really possible and in our dead of the night haze we just kept hoping he would fall asleep and stay asleep. That didn't exactly happen. Lets just say it was a rough night for the Rae clan.

The next morning as we slowly rolled out of our tent Ian and I realized we couldn't stay another night. Could not. The huge meadows in their fall glory; the heavy gray clouds that were beautiful without feeling threatening; the endless sky; the crisp, fresh air; the serenity the only the mountains can grant were not enough.

Before heading out we spent a slow morning in camp. Abel found ground squirrel holes to dig in, rocks to chew on, and huckleberry leaves to nibble on. Ian and I savored more than one cup of green tea, laughed as Abel explored a world that adults so often overlook (only 3 inches tall and below!), gave thanks for the high country, congratulated ourselves on even making it into the backcountry with an eleven month old babe and planned future backpacking trips through the Pasayten.

As we headed out, bound for coffee and sleep, I questioned if Abel likes being in his pack, in the backcountry. And while we can't know exactly how he feels I have to believe that he also feels at peace in wild places, that he feels at home among the huckleberries and meadow grasses and that some day he may share my deep love of wild places.

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  1. Beautiful. He is lucky that you take him to such special places. To feel the wind on his cheeks instead of the flat air of a house. He will love the places you love. xo

  2. Thats awesome jenny. Its so cool your starting him at such a young age. How can he not grow up to love the outdoors? Whats also cool, is not only did i grow up in Tonasket, but know the coop very well. As well as Horseshoe Basin where me and my friends grew up hiking to in high school. Reading this gave me a deja vu moment in a way. Thanks for sharing!