Gear Shakedown #3…Tent and Food!

You would not believe it, but we have acquired another, lighter tent! Plus, I have prepared the food I will be taking on trail and explaining how it pertains to my anxiety. Finally, here is my Gear Shakedown #3…Tent and Food.

I know what you might be thinking, wasn’t there already a Gear Shakedown about what tent we are carrying? Why yes, Gear Shakedown…#1? However, while our Coleman 2 person sundome is a great tent, it is heavy and bulky. My sister, Rachel (you met here in her point of view backpacking Pictured Rocks for the first time), sent us her new backpacking tent and it is a darn game changer!

I have sought out advice when deciding to carry our 7lb Coleman tent and decided to go with the people telling me “hike your own hike” and “pack what you have.” And what we had was a heavy, bulky tent. However, in an amazing sale, Rachel got her hands on a Nemo Hornet Elite. Rachel and I are always hyping each other up when it comes to our outdoor adventures and are not shy about sharing our gear. Rachel was even the person that introduced me to the idea of hammock camping! When discussing my tent dilemma, Rachel offered too send me her brand-spanking-new tent!

Rachel’s backpacking tent
Our first practice setting up Rachel’s tent

The Nemo Hornet Elite Ultralight Backpacking tent is 3lbs and packs smaller than our sleeping bags! On top of being so much liter, Charlie agreed that he will carry the tent body and rain fly, while I will carry the poles and stakes. SO CONVEINENT. We have practiced setting up the tent and it is a darn dream. If you can get your hands on this tent I really encourage it!

On top of acquiring an amazing backspacing tent, we are to the point where we have packed our food bags!…a few different times! This is a big deal from me because backpackers are known to “pack their fears” and my fear is being hungry. Originally this meant that I had 2-3 days of extra food including too many snacks.

Backpacking food
Before

This might look like not a lot of food to some people, but I was definitely overcompensating for a four day trip. While a day before our hike I removed food, I did buy one backpacking meal while in Marquette at Downwind Sports that made a huge difference in how I cooked all my dinners.

Revised food packed for backpacking
After

In my after picture you can see that I added the Good to Go – kale and white bean stew and removed the mushroom Marsala meals. This made a huge difference for weight and cooking/cleaning. The mushroom Marsala meals were the heaviest things in my food bag, removing these and one ramen meal made my bag lighter. The addition of the backpacking meal gave me a vessel to hot soak my ramen meals that was lite and compact – plus, no dishes since I was just boiling water in our one pot!

In the end this is what I packed in my food bag:

  • 4 ramen meals
  • 4 packets of dinosaur oatmeal
  • 4 packets of single-serve instant coffee
  • 1 resealable snack bag of powdered milk
  • 5 packs of gushers (never enough gushers)
  • 5 cliff bars
  • 5 little Debbie oatmeal cream pies (another item i wished I had more of)
  • Pack of 10 tortillas
  • 1 reusable squeeze pouch of peanut butter (should have also packed jelly!)
  • 8 single-serve bags of Jerquee
  • 1 Good to Go – Kale and White Bean Stew

Thank you for sharing my excitement as we plan our 2021 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore backpacking trip. We are getting down to the wire and next I will sharing our 2021 Pictured Rocks Backpacking trip!

Love,

Sara

4 Sustainable Alternatives for Backpacking Gear

Please be aware that clicking any links or purchasing from links may result in Sara receiving compensation. This is at no cost to you and helps Sara continue to share on Sustaining Sara. Thank you!

When obtaining backpacking gear it is important to consider quality, weight, and cost. While I do my best to avoid creating additional waste in my everyday life, it is just as hard to do so on backpacking trips. I want my gear to be lite when possible, but if that means excessive trash or that items may break sooner than later, then I want to find a sustainable alternative. Here are my 4 Sustainable Alternatives for Backpacking Gear!

#1
Alternative: Reusable Food Pouches
Replacing: Single-use nut butter pouches

I love taking peanut or almond butter on the trail, but a full jar is too heavy and single-use pouches and containers create a lot of [unnecessary] waste. Instead I use these pouches and even add my own mix-ins to the nut butter!

#2
Alternative: Camping Spork
Replacing: Single-use plastic cutlery

The Humangear GoBites Duo is a deep-reach spoon/fork alternative to bringing single-use plastic or your [heavier] metal spoons and forks. Honestly, a lot of backpackers already use specific cutlery, so pat yourself on the back!

#3
Alternative: Pee Cloth
Replacing: Extra toilet paper

A reusable pee cloth is an alternative to toilet paper for urination ONLY. They dry quick and most have anti-bacterial properties.

#4
Alternative: Reusable water bottle/bladder
Replacing: Singleiuse plastic water bottle

Now some people (I will tease and call them “gram weenies”) may tell me that reusable water bottles are “too heavy” and there are benefits to using single-use plastic, but I say too bad! A single-use water bottle will always end in a landfill and we can do our best to keep reusable water bottles with us for years and years.

These are just 4 sustainable alternatives for backpacking gear, and I hope that these items inspire you to make more sustainable choices for your next backpacking trip and in your everyday life. Make sure ou comment your favorite sustainable alternatives below and thank you for checking out my list!

Love,

Sara

Gear Shakedown #2 and My Gear Checklist

Please be aware that clicking any links or purchasing from links may result in Sara receiving compensation. This is at no cost to you and helps Sara continue to share on Sustaining Sara. Thank you!

There are two things in backpacking that can make your trip miserable; forgetting something or packing too much! A great way to make sure you avoid either of those scenarios is to have a Backpacking Gear Checklist! This is my personal gear checklist I have created for backpacking the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. You can write down your gear checklist, create an online sheet like I did, or even use specific sites to track your gear and base weight. Furthermore, as I have checked items off my list, I have also recently changed my water-system and thought I would share with you what I am doing to filter my water!

Checklist of backpacking items and their weight
Sample of my Backpacking Gear Checklist, click the link above to see everything I am packing!

Last year Charlie and I used the Sawyer One Gallon Gravity System, but have decided that the bag that comes with it is difficult to catch water from the waves of Lake Superior and that the tubing was just annoying and took up space. THIS YEAR we are using the filter and hookup from the gravity set up and collecting water with the CNOC 3 liter water bag.

With this system we will collect water with the CNOC bag, filter through the Sawyer Mini, and into the Platypus 3 liter bladder that we drink our water from. This is still a gravity process of filtering, but just will a better collection bag and no extra tubing. Below is a picture of what the filtering process will look like!

Gravity-fed water filtration
Our gravity-fed, water filtration system!

We are still “perfecting” our gear checklist, but I am very happy with how far along we have come. Thank you for taking part in our journey as we get ready for our backpacking adventure! Make sure to check back every Saturday for seeing how we prepare for and backpack Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Love,

Sara

Top 3 Things to See and Do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

I am going to be frank with you, while these are very popular things I will be listing, I am definitely listing my favorites at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. While these are things that are popular all around, these are my Top3 3 Things to See and Do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore based on my hiking experiences.

  1. Au Sable Lighthouse
Took this picture on a girls trip in fall 2020

I LOVE lighthouses and this one is gorgeous! You can reach this beauty from the Hurricane River campground along a short 1.5 mile hike. Just make sure to park in a day-use spot and not in a campsite!

This is an amazing landmark, but what makes it so special for me is that I have not seen it on my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hiking trips yet. I have hiked from Hurricane River campground to see it, but since last year we had to start our hike at Chapel Beach parking we missed this beauty (see my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hiking experience in Part 1 and Part 2). I am so excited that this year we will be starting our trip at Au Sable Visitor center and will be marveling at this light station on day 2!

  1. Chapel Beach
Lake Superior beach
How we were welcomed to Chapel beach

I had never seen true beauty until I had seen the beautiful Chapel beach waters and cliff views. The water is so blue and clear.

We celebrated our first break at Chapel beach and it quickly became our favorite spot after a sweaty hike. If you can only hike one area of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore make sure it is the Chapel Loop!…just make sure to get to the parking area before 8am to get a good spot! This is a popular loop since the sights and beach are so worth it!

  1. Miner’s Castle

Miner’s Castle is just cool! The Miner’s Castle Rock is awesome and one of the only things on the lakeshore that are accessible from the parking lot. Not to mention there are bathrooms and educational materials for curious families and sea kayakers!

While you will appreciate the majesty of this rock formation, you know I have a selfish and personal reason for liking Miner’s Castle best. It’s the end for me. Minor’s Castle is where we park the car and celebrate completing the trail. While I look forward to being on trail, ending the trail is a great feeling of accomplishment and I love that feeling just as much as the journey to get there!

I hope you enjoyed my Top 3 Things to See and Do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Let me know which one location you want to visit the most and please check out the links below as I prepare for my second Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hiking trip!

Love,

Sara

Gear Shakedown….#1?

Please be aware that clicking any links or purchasing from links may result in Sara receiving compensation. This is at no cost to you and helps Sara continue to share on Sustaining Sara. Thank you!

Last time I spoke to you on the blog I talked about starting to prepare your backpacking trip (see post here) and I talked about the gear I am taking with me for my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore trip. I even talked about some items I may switch around, and if you follow the Sustaining Sara socials (see above), then you already know an item I have been pondering over.

Charlie and I have decided to move away from our hammock shelters and move toward a tent shelter. I have heard from many sources that your tent should be under 3.5 lbs and there are so many tents available in that range. However, I will be the first to say that I do not want to spend that much money and I’d prefer to work with what we have, and what we have is a Coleman 2 Person Dome Tent. In the 2 person model this entire tent system is 7 lbs. and I dare say no one wants to add a 7 lb. shelter to their pack. HOWEVER, Charlie and I can split the weight together AND save money.

Tent in backyard
Our Coleman 2 Person Dome Tent!

Now I went to some Facebook hiking and backpacking groups to see what they thought about this plan and the perspectives were mixed to say the least. One person told me that taking this tent into the back country was “a terrible idea” with no other context. Others said it is a great idea to work with what we have and some agreed but also offered better options. I am happy I got perspectives for people but I have figured that this comes down to three main points in our case:

  1. Availability – we already have this tent. I already set it up once this season to make sure all pieces are accounted for and in good working order!
  2. Cost – there is no extra cost to us to use a tent we already have. We may even use some money we would have used on a new tent on getting better sleeping pads (yes, now I need to add “sleeping pad” to my updated gear list).
  3. Splitting Weight – yes, this tent would be way too heavy for one person to carry. However, since Charlie and I can split the weight together we should be at a reasonable ~3.5 lbs.! There is nothing wrong with that!

So Charlie and I are pretty set on using our heavy tent, no matter what others say. I am very happy that we have this opportunity and can see how our shelter system evolves as we continue our backcountry journeys! Make sure to check out my socials below to see our Pictured Rocks Trip as it rolls out!

Thank you!

Sara

How to Prepare for a Backpacking Trip

Please be aware that clicking any links or purchasing from links may result in Sara receiving compensation. This is at no cost to you and helps Sara continue to share on Sustaining Sara. Thank you!

Hi all! Now that is it May, I need to start preparing for my second trip backpacking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Last year we were able to reserve a few backcountry sites to backpack the lakeshore, but this time around we prepared ahead of time (see Top 5 Things to Know Before Hiking Pictured Rocks) to reserve backcountry permits to make sure we hike from Grand Sable Visitor Center to Minors Castle (almost the whole lakeshore)!  There are a few things I am doing to make sure I am ready for this trip and I had better start now rather than later. Here are my tips to prepare for your backpacking trip!

  1. Get in shape

I was in a lot better shape last year and I was still tired after each day of hiking. This year…I need to start taking on more mileage before I hike 7.3 miles a day for fun. On top of just in general needing to get in shape, taking on so many miles consecutively and so soon can lead to injury if not properly prepared. Everyone is different, do your research and prepare your own body accordingly. I know that for myself, I need to do something to get in shape and prepare my body for my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore trip.

If you are planning a longer hiking trip make sure your body can handle the work-load involved in your scenic hike!

  1. Get your gear together
The fellas use our gear as a bed is we leave it out for them to play with.
The Fellas cuddling with our backpacking gear when it’s not in storage.

If you are just starting out on your first backpacking trip you have A LOT to prepare for. Even if you are a seasoned backpacker you know how much planning it takes to make sure you are ready for comfort in the backcountry. You should do plenty of research on what others take into the backcountry and even think about additional things that would make yourself comfortable and happy! Here are things I take backpacking with me:

If you have your gear organized year round then this is not too much of a problem. Personally I use totes to put all my things in except my sleeping bag which I don’t want to squish. I keep my sleeping bag outside of storage because my dogs love cuddling it. People may use more, less, or liter gear but the above is what I take with me into the backcountry.

  1. Upgrade gear as needed

While I am loving my gear, there are a few things that we are upgrading/ changing based on different desires or needs:

  • Charlie is looking at getting a tent instead of bringing out his hammock setup again. He just decided that the hammock surrounded by the bug net and tarp was too constricting and did not provide enough privacy.
  • I am looking at changing or nixing my pillow. With my hammock I just don’t need it and I just wake up cuddling it like a teddy bear anyway.

Changing up your gear list is up to you and your preferences, don’t let anyone tell you different!

  1. Shakedown Hike

Now you have your gear together. You’re packed up and eager. Now it is time for a practice run. 

Hike with your bag. Overnight with your supplies. Is your bag too heavy for you? Did you pack some unnecessary items? Forget something you really need? Figure this out now and get rid of anything you don’t need. This is also a great way to practice wearing your backpack and make sure it is the right one for you! See Rachel’s How Not to Pack for A Pictured Rock Hiking Trip to really understand the importance of packing.

  1. Prepare a main point of contact 

I have said this before and I will say it again; make sure someone knows where you are and your itinerary! When Charlie and I leave for any type of trip we need to get a dog sitter and that is normally a family member. When we leave for a trip we know we may have limited cell service we make sure that this family member is prepared with our itinerary with notes on when we will be able to contact them and what to do if we do not contact them. A satellite phone would also help in these situation and hopefully by the time we do this trip we will have a Garmin InReach or InReach Mini. STILL, these phones are not always 100 percent reliable and your point of contact should be told that!

These tips for preparing for your backpacking trip are only the things primarily on my mind right now. Make sure to always do your own research and to make sure you are comfortable with your plans and your gear before isolating yourself in the backcountry. I wish you the best of luck and I hope you have so much fun!

Once on trail I will make sure to share as many photos and tips as possible! I will let you know how the trip went right here on the blog and don’t forget to read my first experience hiking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore; Part 1 and Part 2. And follow my adventures on Instagram!

Love,

Sara

Four Best Ways to Enjoy Joshua Tree National Park

Hey, all! A huge part of my personal reset was a desert getaway/girls trip that I was blessed to take with some of my best girlfriends. While just being with this group of high-achieving women is enough to recharge my soul, the activities and adventures we went on put me in the moment and taught me to appreciate that. In this post I want to share with you some of the things we did to accomplish a sense of adventure and piece-of-mind.

  1. Treat yourself to a Desert Oasis Airbnb

For our trip to Joshua Tree we chose to rent an Airbnb in Twenty Nine Palms which came out to a reasonable price for three nights when split between four people. We made sure to choose a rental home that allowed privacy, beauty, and of course a hot tub. The landscaping was beautiful at this home and in the evenings we enjoyed watching the sunset, gossiping around a campfire, and drinking wine in the hot tub.

Cactus, desert landscaping, oasis
Rock garden, cacti, and ornaments that beatified the outdoor space of our Airbnb.

The property was fenced in to deter animals and protect the fragile plants. The home was surrounded by rock gardens and the most beautiful golden barrel cacti. While the outside of the home was scattered with beautiful rocks, chimes, and scavenged pieces of metal and glass, the inside was a time capsule of Joshua Tree/Palm Springs turn-of-the-century memorabilia. Given this beauty and detail we had just as much interest staying at our “home” as we did exploring the National Park.

Such solitude with a group of best friends is a gift and allowed me to rest and reflect on my life.

  1. Go Bouldering and Hiking at Joshua Tree National Park

While there are a million designated hiking trails at Joshua Tree National Park, finding a good boulder to climb is just as important as finding a trail to trek. That is why we stopped at Jumbo Rock Campground! We were able to find a non-intrusive parking spot and walked to some HUGE boulders to climb and take pictures at. What was great was some of the girls were very adventurous while I was able to take some easier climbs and sit back. It was lovely and a great spot to meditate alone and also get together to chat about our next moves for the day.

A rock we saw while bouldering at Jumbo Rock Campground

On this trip and a past trip to Joshua Tree NP I also did some hiking trails! Each trail was fun and I can recommend both:

  • Queen’s Mine Trail
    • 0.7 – 1.6 mile loop
    • Great for viewing a preserved mine (you cannot enter the mine, mines are dangerous!)
  • Barker Dam
    • 1.1 mile loop
    • Also great for bouldering but a must for history buffs
  1. Native Plants and Medicinal Teas guided hike
Medicinal tea and desert plants hike
My tea cup I used on the Native Plants and Medicinal Teas guided hike

Airbnb offers a platform not just for vacation stays, but also a whole world of experiences offered by amazing people wanting to share their knowledge and recreational properties. In this case we found a woman that guides you on a hike to learn about plants native to Joshua Tree NP. She also shared teas made from the plants around her nearby home and showed us how to be conscious of plant life while on trail.

Bonus: we also bought matching teas cups from a craftsman at a Joshua Tree flee market. They are beautiful!

  1. Coffee Break at Joshua Tree Coffee Company
Coffee bags in the wild, Joshua Tree Coffee, hiking at Joshua tree first
Our haul of Joshua Tree Coffee Co after visiting for a iced brew!

One thing I love about my best friends is getting coffee together. Whether it is Starbucks or a cute Inland Empire roaster, we love to sit down and enjoy coffee together. One of my girlfriends on the trip actually first told me about Joshua Tree Coffee Company because she has a subscription for their coffee bags. I got an iced coffee and a bag of the breakfast blend. 

All I am saying is that when you got out, find a local coffee place you like. I am just so happy to know of a coffee roaster I adore in Joshua Tree. Charlie and I have really been enjoying our Joshua Tree Coffee Company breakfast blend at home, get yourself some!

I hope you enjoyed reading about some of my favorite and best things to do while visiting Joshua Tree NP, but I also home that in the future you can enjoy these things as well! Let me know which sounds the best or if you have done any of these things in the comments down below!

Love,

Sara

Sara’s Top 5 Summer 2021 Plans

Every month I write in my bullet journal three things I want to do that month. Some of these things are stuff that has to be done, but more often than not some of these things are left incomplete. However, there are a few things that I will definitely make sure to do this summer! Here we go, my top 5 Summer 2021 Plans!

  1. Kayaking

Last Summer Charlie and I were set on getting kayaks. However, I did not want to do much research OR buy a roof rack, so we did what any lazy person would do. We bought inflatable kayaks. We got a Intex Challenger K1 and a Intex Challenger K2. We got a single person and a two person so that we could take one out together or both kayaks and a friend or Jupiter in his little life jacket (at the time there was no Bingo in the picture).

Charlie has been looking at where we can kayak this year and it seems like there will be plenty of opportunities between the many lakes and rivers in Michigan’s Thumb. Last summer we only used the kayaks on a calm lake (Crego Park), but we will see if the inflatable kayaks will work on other bodies of water. So we will definitely be kayaking this summer!

  1. Gardening
Tomato and Squash Garden at the Lansing House.
Our old, crowded tomato and squash garden.

Our previous living situation was mine and Charlie’s first house we ever rented together, meaning this was our first yard we could start a vegetable garden in! We attempted to grow several vegetables, but the two that lasted (and THRIVED) were beef steak tomatoes and butternut squash. With these two vegetables we were able to prepare and store enough to have them through winter and it was awesome! We had the last of the tomato soup last week even!

Needless to say with only two types of plants fruiting last year out of a whole garden, we have done a little research and will be improving our garden this year. PLUS we have more room this year! I cannot wait to share our new garden with you!

  1. Up North Michigan/Upper Peninsula Vacation
Lake Superior at Au Sable Lighthouse
The rolling waves of Lake Superior (my favorite Great Lake) at Au Sable Light House

After spending so much time Up North last year between hiking and sight-seeing, I cannot wait to cross Mackinac Bridge again (is a Mac Pass in my future!?). I just want to have a beer at Ore Dock Brewery in Marquette, cliff jump at Black Rock, and finally explore Sault Ste Marie! We have plenty planned for this summer, as you will see on numbers 4 and 5!

  1. North Country Trail 100 Challenge

Have you heard about the North Country Trail Challenge? The North Country Trail actually goes across Picture Rocks National Lakshore and once finished will be the longest scenic trail from Vermont to Oregon (the current west terminus is North Dakota)! The North Country Trail 100 Challenge has been going since 2016 and challenges hikers to do 100 miles of the North Country Trail Challenge. After completion you get a cool patch! Check out the North Country Trail website for more information!

You can do multiple sections of the trail to reach your 100 miles or the same sections over and over! I will definitely be getting 35 miles done at Picture Rocks National Lakeshore this summer!

  1. Backpack Picture Rocks National Lakeshore (AGAIN!)
Picture Rocks Nation Lakeshore Chapel Beach
The turquoise water we say backpacking Picture RocKs National Lakeshore near Chapel Beach.

That’s right, 35 miles in 4-5 days on Picture Rocks National Lakeshore! Charlie and I will be doing this hike again and actually we plan to do it every year for as long as we can. This year we are making sure we do the whole lakeshore, but in the future we will be trying to do it faster and faster! It is just a beautiful and rewarding hike, I cannot wait to do it again.

And I cannot wait to tell y’all about our experiences again!

Thank you for checking in on my plans for Summer 2021. Please let me know of any cool plans you have for this summer in the comments! Thank you!

Love,

Sara

Spring Thaw and My Fave Paved Trails

Well last week we were talking about snow days and how cold it is, this week I wanna talk about the Spring Thaw. If you are experiencing snow melt, fog, or anything else that resembles spring then you are also getting the ugly glimpses of earth that the snow was hiding all this time. I hate this part. When the snow melts there is mud and puddles everywhere. While I just in general like to stay off the weak ground at this time, it is actually important too. 

When possible it is important to stay off trails during the spring thaw. The ground is weak and loose, walking on it can damage the trail and cause intense trail maintenance (something a lot of trails have little funding or volunteers for). That being said; here are some paved Michigan trails to frequent while things warm up!

  1. Lansing River Walk

The Lansing River Trail now stretches all the way from Waverly Road to Old Town! You can also catch it from Potter Park into MSU. Altogether, over 16 miles of paved trail pass through numerous parks and natural areas, as well as Downtown Lansing.

https://lansingrivertrail.org
Lansing Park Crego Park Lansing River Walk
Resting with our hammocks out after taking the Fellas on a walk on the Lansing River Walk!

I talked about in Wrapping Up February how I used to live in Lansing and I loved frequenting this trails for a good hike with my sisters or walking the Fellas. It is also a very popular bike route that my fiancé endorses himself! My recommendation is to start at Crego Park (also a great hammock and kayak location!) and take the Lansing River Walk to Potters Park Zoo! Just realize that some areas do get flooded over as spring is birthed!

  1. Blue Water River Walk

The paved pedestrian path rolls along 4,300 feet of shoreline and connects to the Bridge to Bay Trail.  An elevated structure that was once used as an ferry dock provides a fun and different perspective on the river and land.

https://www.bluewater.org/member-detail/blue-water-river-walk/

I have not been able to walk a significant amount of this trail but the views are gorgeous! The Lansing River has nothing on the size of the St. Clair river and while these are both “river walks” they are both so different in their own ways. The Blue Water River Walk is a great example of showing that we can enjoy nature while also returning it back to a more natural state.

All I am saying is that Spring is a beautiful and wonderful time and whenever possible we should be avoiding trails during the spring thaw. Great benefits of the paved trails I talked about today is that many are also bike paths, may have other amenities like picnic or hammock spots, and/or are communities efforts at the rehabilitation and preservation of natural areas. So enjoy and once snowmelt and precipitation take a break we can enjoy the joys and beauty of our favorite hiking trails again!

Love,

Sara

My First Thru-Hike Part 2/Day 2

Thank you all for sticking around for Part Two/Day 2 of my first backpacking trip! If you have not read it, check it out here! When we left off my fiancé had woken up from rain on a night that we did not set up our rain tarps over our hammocks. I was untouched by the rain and overall too tired and sore to wake up…so I didn’t!

The next day we slept in and left camp late (11am). I was still very sore and alarmed at our dwindling supply of toilet paper. Fortunately the day ahead was shorter than the day previous at 6.9 miles to the Cliffs campground…or just 5 miles to Miner’s Castle where Rachel’s car was parked…? We had pep in our steps as we left camp after an oatmeal breakfast. We quickly came upon Mosquito Falls and even pondered a water crossing. However, Charlie and I decided to find a bridge we were sure was around the well manicured trail while Rachel continued down to the water. 

Once across the bridge we waited for Rachel. Worried, we eventually started to walk down river to find her, and to my dismay she was walking away from the trail. Annoyed I yelled to here and she told us about how she fell on her butt in the water. Poor luck, but I did not feel remorse with her accidental fall off of trail. I was reacting too harshly in the moment and should have had more consideration for her sense of adventure. After all she was quickly corrected and we were back off on trail!

This section of the trail was mostly under the forest canopy with small outlets to overlooks. The leaves in the trees where lush and light peaked through like little  beams from heaven. I looked eagerly to see critters in the forest, maybe even a bear in the distance, but had to settle for the less dangerous forest chipmunks. The views were different from seeing the spectacular cliffs, but the beauty was still aw inspiring.

We started to go down a steep hill, telling each other that we were happy we were not going up it. After descending the monstrous hill we passed the Potato Patch campsite and made it a parking lot where kayak tours were being dropped off and  the van driver told us that the ladies he’s seen on the trail ran the 42 miles in one day.  We even got to talking to another backpacker that gave us the last of their bug repellent and told us to make sure we hit up Picture Rocks Pizza after our hike.

At the terminus of the steep hill!

It was great to talk to new people that had interest in our hike, however the best part was what was in the parking lot…a port-a-potty. I was sooo excited to not have to dig a hole to relieve myself. Besides, since I smelled so bad already there was nothing in that small building that could bother me. This was a bit of trail magic in my mind.

Then we headed for the 1 mile walk to Miner’s beach ahead of the kayakers. It felt like a short mile but I was relieved to take my backpack off again and sit on the sand. Mind you, this break was only a mile after my “port-a-potty break,” but there is nothing like a beach break. After we watched the kayak instructor show the kayakers how to paddle we got back onto the trail. 

This part of the trail was different from the cliffs and canopy we had previously trekked. On our right there was the beach and to the left a million blueberry bushes. We reached a busier part of the beach and the sign that got us together to decide the future of our hike. “1.0 [mile] Miners Castle.” At this point we were out of TP, Rachel’s monster backpack and sandals were taking their toll, and I was just tired. Note; while Rachel and I were reaching our limits, I think Charlie was in the zone and experiencing his own hiker’s high! This is where we brought up just getting to the car and ending our hike. We were not thru hikers yet but just getting our toes soaked in backpacking, but we all agreed. We had one mile to go. Just. One. More. Mile.

The beloved 1 mile sign!

THE HARDEST MILE. Remember when we were so vocal about how nice it was to be going downhill? After twisting and turning around water sources we made it to the final boss of our hike. There rest of the hike was plagued by hills and roots so exposed that they created abstract stairways. To me Charlie appeared to ascend these obstacles with ease. I was pushing myself to a physical limit, stopping for a few breathes after I felt myself deserving. Poor Rachel was being held-back by her huge pack. 

The pain of each heavy step felt never ending until we finally saw the Miner’s Castle visitors center. I almost lost it when I saw Rachel’s car and was excited to get to it but was stopped a little early when Rachel stopped at the first bench she came to. I begged her to give me her keys from the depths of her pack. I wanted to ditch my backpack into her car and find a T-shirt that was not saturated in the day’s determination.  This was the hardest thing I have done to date. The best thing I have done to date.

This hike was a turning point in my life. The accomplishment I felt was intoxicating. The peace I was granted in giving myself permission to feel so many different emotions on this hike was something I had never done before and now I was hooked. As cliché as it may be, my first backpacking trip has made such an impression on how I live my life now and was a turning point in my life. I hope I can convey that to everyone as this blog goes on. That you can see how happy I am since I fell in love with hiking. Thank you.

Love,

Sara