Seems almost silly to share this week of sunny mountain-living when snow has settled in the tops of these peaks and a cold blanket of frost is glistening on the grass this morning. But I have to capture our last hurrah from Summer. Then it will be on to more current things.
We had grand plans to head to California this summer for our family vacation, spend it relaxing on the beach. But we never could catch a minute to sit down and plan. I was so busy caring for my Mom and work was crazy for Doug. When we finally got our act together and started looking seriously at a place to stay, everything was booked. So we opted for plan B. Actually, it was more like plan G for the kids, but it was something Doug and I had been waiting (and wanting) to do for years. We decided to take our kids backpacking.
Doug and I love packing into the wilderness and camping alone, carrying everything we need to survive on our backs. It’s empowering. And it lands you right in the middle of some of God’s most spectacular earth.
Here we are, first day, ⬆️ standing at the wrong trailhead. Yep. Quite the way to start our adventure. Good thing Doug figured out we were on the wrong trail! Look how fresh and dewy-eyed we look. We had no idea how this would go down, but we had high hopes for an awesome trip.
We took the kids up into the High Uinta wilderness. Destination? Ibantik Lake. A four mile trip in. Everyone would carry their own pack, which meant clothes, eating utensils, some of our food and a handful of other tools or supplies. Each carrying 20-25% of their body weight. This ⬆️ is a little more than one mile in at beautiful Wall Lake.
Now before I get too far into this, let’s talk prep. First, the physical prep. Holy Moly. (Let me say that one more time.) Holy Moly. The prep was a ton of work. Almost entirely for Doug. We took the money we would have spent on our family vacation and used it to buy gear, so we could suit everyone up for future backpacks. This meant lots of time online for Doug, figuring out the best gear for our kids, getting an extra tent, then filling everyone’s packs, which he did with amazing boy scout thoroughness. He had a system and I just let him do his thing. He worked SO hard on this trip. Before. During. And after. He was logistics, strategy, and supplies. I was maintenance and entertainment. He definitely did the lion-share of the work.
Second, the mental prep.
This is Doug giving everyone a pep talk at the top of The Notch. Everyone in Kamas and the surrounding areas knows about The Notch. In fact, there’s a pub outside of Kamas called The Notch, named after this landmark. The Notch is the top of a two mile ascent that puts you on top of a ridge where you can look down into the next basin or back towards the Mirror Lake area.
Doug is trying to get them revved for the next two miles of trekking down to Ibantik. The boys’ packs were the smallest Doug could find, but even that size was a little big, so their packs were sitting heavy on their shoulders. But when your physical strength begins to tap out, mental strength can take you farther, right?
Knowing it would be hard, our family choose two mantras we would have on the trip.
1 – Take the high road. When you’re tempted to bicker, fight or say something unkind, don’t. Choose not to be offended. Take the high road.
2 – Put your positive pants on. This one we got from my sister, Deb, who is focusing on positivity this year.
Everybody’s world spins better on positivity, right? We knew if our backpack was going to be a success, it would take everyone putting their positive pants on.
Or there’s this version ⬇️ Deb. Do you like this one? ☺️
Sami was my hiking buddy on the way in. At some points we had one leg in our positive pants and one leg out. But as we crested over The Notch everyone was wearing their pants of optimism.
We found a snow field just below The Notch. Snowballs in summer made for a fun detour.
Also helpful? Doug’s gorp mix with M&Ms and salty chex mix, tucked into a zipper pouch on everyone’s pack belt.
Finally. When everyone was pretty sure they couldn’t go any further, we made it to Ibantik Lake.
As everyone peeled off their packs to scout out the best campsite, I felt pretty darn proud of these kids. Four miles with a pack is no small thing.
We picked a spot on the north side of the lake and set up camp.
First priority? Filter water.
It’s been a few years since Doug and I have been backpacking and let me tell you: THE best filtration system we’ve ever seen is the Platypus. It is super slick, fast, and almost zero energy expenditure. It has two bladders. One for clean water, one for dirty, and it works on gravity. You fill the dirty bag with water, then hang it in a high location with the clean bag below the dirty bag. A tube and filtration system, with the help of gravity, automatically filters water into the clean bag. And as you use water from the clean bag, the dirty bag, due to pressure and displacement, will automatically filter clean water into the clean bag. It’s fantastic! And great for traveling overseas as it does not just purify but filters out all bacteria and viruses.
We also used the MSR Guardian purifier system. This one you can adapt so it screws right onto your water bottle and you can pump clean agua right into your water bottle.
When we were filtering water, a light rain began. Look closely and you can see tiny droplets shimmering in the sunlight.
Next up? Set up tents.
Girls tent. With a view.
Then we gathered firewood.
And this became Home Sweet Home for the next couple days.
Doug packed in steak for our first night which he cooked over a camp stove. We thoroughly enjoyed our first meal as we watched the moon rise over the peaks.
There are some things I can watch forever. Like the stars, the ocean, a baby, and a campfire.
Eventually, after many sleepless tosses and turns, everyone fell asleep. Tired and happy.
Breakfast was hot chocolate and pancakes.
Bless his big mountain heart, Doug did all the cooking on this trip.
I kept the kids busy collecting firewood, tending to camp duties, or exploring. We had lessons on wildflower names, types of trees, lichen vs. moss, treelines and rocks.
We discussed survival tips, and how to be a safe hiker.
Gordon did his best Little Mermaid impression.
Then we filled our daypacks with snacks and hiked down to Meadow Lake for better fishing.
We saw a few people at Ibantik. But down at Meadow, we were all alone. Didn’t see a single person outside our family the entire day.
Almost everyone caught a fish. This is Spencer’s catch. Mostly brown trouts, as far as we could tell. Just rod and reel with a gold lure.
Most were small enough we removed the hook and sent them swimming. Gordon ⬆️
Sami. Look at that smile of success!
Liza caught our two biggest trouts, which I carried back to camp on a stick and Doug fried them up for dinner.
Ali, bless her heart, caught the one that got away. She tried longer than anyone else and never did reel one in. It’s all luck some days.
It was a late dinner that night, but it sure tasted good.
That night, as the stars crept out from behind that dome of blue, we sat around the campfire and shared things we were grateful for. Like being together, the wildflowers, the trees, the stars, the mountains themselves, our Heavenly Father and Jesus, our healthy bodies, Grandma and her love for the mountains, Grandparents, and family.
The next morning we broke camp and began the hike out. Look at the enthusiasm exploding out of them. Especially Gordon. Boy was he jazzed. 🙄
Props to the girls for putting on their positive pants. Our hike out would prove to be the toughest part of the trip. We thought about staying an extra day but literally ran out of food. We were down to a few granola bars and that was it.
Ali was my buddy trekking out. Coming in I brought up the rear, but heading out, Doug and I decided to swap places and he hung back with the tail end charlies. Once again, I’m sure he had the harder job.
Bluebells were in full bloom.
Ali was a little mountain goat heading up to The Notch. Pretty soon Liza caught up with us and took the lead.
Here we are top of The Notch where Doug gave one more pep talk.
And there goes Liza. Horse to the barn I tell you. By this point we were all hankering for a burger. And a shower!
Ali, making her way through the bachelor’s buttons.
Wall Lake. (You can see here how it got it’s name.) One more mile to go.
Now, unbeknownst to the three of us who were ahead, the boys, somewhere after The Notch, had thrown down their packs and refused to go any further. Later, when I saw the rash rubbed raw on Gordon’s low back, I couldn’t blame them. Apparently there was yelling and crying from these two irrational desperados as they sprawled themselves on the trail. Doug thought search and rescue might have to send a helicopter in for them because they would not take another step. I don’t know exactly how he coerced them on. I think he bicep-curled their packs for a stretch of trail.
Somehow, the wonder twin boys made it out.
This was Spencer’s face when I backtracked to tell him he only had 100 feet to go!
And here’s our vanguard company. Done! Don’t we look so seasoned and sunburnt, and happy. Like we just did something big!
When we got all the packs loaded and I climbed into the passenger seat next to Doug, I said, “Wanna do that again next summer?” 😉 He said, “Nope.” But time softens challenges like this. And now that Doug did all that crazy hard work, going next year won’t be so demanding. And that’s our plan. One backpack each summer.
We overshot a bit with this first one. The kids are good hikers and we assumed they could handle it just fine. But our advice for first time backpackers is to start easy. A mile or two in. That’s it. Enjoy the stay. Make it so much fun your kids want to do it again.
Literally five minutes after we walked in the house, we found Gordon asleep in our log holder, tucked under Rebecca’s plush blanket, completely zonked. Look how scrunched up he is. He must be in fetal position. Doug and I should have joined him. Our feet were killing us and our bodies were spent.
But ask the kids if they want to go next year. It’s a resounding yes. It was no walk in the park. No stroll on the beach. But they realized hard is good. Worn best, in a comfortable pair of positive pants.
NOTE 💌: Please be patient with me. Blog under construction. Hard hat required. Glitches expected. xoxo