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22 November 2009 @ 01:26 am
The Tale of Hiking... with giant packs on your back.  

I should have written this earlier when my mind was more fresh but I’ll try.

Jesse and I have been wanting to go backpacking for a long time, but always just stuck to camping because it was much, much easier. We got more serious about it this year and began our quest to find all the equipment we needed. We ended up getting everything at ridiculously low sale prices at REI and on Craigslist at also pretty good prices.

We went October 17th, 18th and 19th. Our first choice was Pedernales State Park, but since apparently everyone and their mother heard that it was going to be an actual decent weekend, ALL the state parks in Texas were booked, except for two. We went to Georgetown Lake, not an actual state park as it is "maintained" by the Army Corps of Engineers. Took us about 45 minutes to drive there and we talked with some nice, old guy to check in. The awesome part? We didn’t have to pay a dime for backpacking to a primitive spot and there was no park entry fee or anything! The not so awesome part? He warned us about staying on the trail because they had just found and killed a coral snake that week, so we should watch out. FYI: "New World coral snakes possess the second most potent venom of any North American snake." We drove around and parked in the backpacking/trail hiking lot. While gearing up, I noticed a sign at the beginning of the trail that said "Hunting In Progress, Stay on Trail." This did NOT make me happy. The last thing I wanted to do that weekend was get shot by some dumbass hick Texan hunter and become another statistic of the many friendly fires that occur while hunting. :DDD I tried to forget about it and we started on our way and at first everything was great.

Lauren: Hey! This isn’t so bad!
Jesse: Yeah! I know I’m carrying like 30 pounds right on my back, but this is pretty fun!
(I know 30 pounds doesn't sound like much, but imagine carrying 6 of those giant 5 pound bags of potatoes. Those are pretty heavy on their own.)

About 10 minutes in, things started to feel uncomfortable. We kept stopping to adjust, which is a big ordeal, because you can’t just swing your backpack around on your back to adjust. It’s a PROCESS. Unclip chest buckle, unclip belt buckle, move bag, clip everything back up, pull this rope to tighten, pull that rope to tighten, etc. Not to mention the fact that we thought the campsite was only 2 miles away, only to discover later (AND MUCH TO OUR DISMAY) that the campsite was, in fact, 4.5 miles away.

I want you to stop and close your eyes and imagine walking 4.5 miles.
Now imagine that you’re carrying a giant 30 lb backpack on your back that is VERY heavy and is also digging right into your hip bones and most likely bruising your bones.
Now imagine that you’re walking on a trail that is not a state park and not really maintained. There are trees in your way that you have to step over or crouch/walk under trying to hold your bag in front of you because there’s no way you would make it with it on your back. And also areas where you could literally walk right off a cliff and fall to your death.
And now imagine that you’ve been walking for a mile and are already ready to quit when you then discover that instead of one more mile to go, you have THREE POINT FIVE.

But! The body is an amazing thing. Thanks to adrenalin and sheer mental suppression of pain and anxiety, we made it! Yaaay! There were mile markers, which were very reassuring. I started off the trip taking lots of pictures, but by the second mile, Jesse had the camera and I was ready to keep walking and not stop for anything. In fact, I was pretty much a huge grouch the last three miles of the hike. haha

However, the trail was beautiful. It felt like we were walking through multiple climate zones without the weather change. First we were walking through what looked like a pretty average forest and trail, then we were walking through this prairie grass with a tiny, tiny trail. This changed into a CRAZY forest with dense pine tree looking trees. Then lots of flat ground with huge rocks and cactus everywhere. After that was another huge prairie grassland with actual RUINS from some old stone houses. It looked awesome, but was really, really weird and unexpected. From there we hit an actual waterfall with a beautiful little opening and bench. More normal trail hiking and then we found the campsite! I think the whole hike took about 4 hours. Besides the mind-numbing pain, I felt pretty comfortable otherwise (REI garage sale nylon clothes FTW! I actually got more clothes at another REI garage sale this morning, but I’ll write a separate post about that later :D).

We walked up all excited like "Yeah!!! We can take our backpacks off! I’m so hungry omg!" And the closer we got and the more we investigated, the more disappointed we became. There were only three primitive sites, even though the sign said four. Two of them were like RIGHT next to each other (really guys? You had all this land and... really?) and a couple was already at one of them! So we kept walking to the next ones only to find one more a little farther away that was completely trashed. I’m talking half-burned trash in the firepit, an actual rolling cooler that had been left on the picnic table and was filled with old, smelly hot dogs and water, a giant bottle of vodka and little Snapple cranberry drinks left on the ground... oh yeah and the picnic table was literally missing a WHOLE SEAT. How does that even happen??? Anyhow. Things were not looking good. We stopped at the campsite next to our neighbors and Jesse decided to be social and go over to talk to them and ask if there were other sites. I was hesitant and decided to stay back and pretend text on my phone when I decided I was being stupid and joined Jesse. They were really nice. I can’t remember their names, but she did cancer research and he was a consultant on wildlife management. And they had two dogs with them. We bitched about the lack of maintenance for awhile and after talking to them, discovered that there was actually a much faster way to get there from some road through the trees.. Nice.

We decided we wanted more privacy and ended up taking our stuff down by the lake and setting up camp there in the grass. Now, we didn’t know this was going to be the situation. When Jesse had spoken to someone on the phone, they made it sound like we needed to bring our own water because they weren’t sure if we’d be able to reach the lake or something to fill up. This was because we were still trying to get over the biggest drought Texas has had since the 1950’s at that time, so the lake level had reduced significantly. We have a filtering system but ended up packing two giant bags FULL of filled water bottles with us. Yeah. So that added some weight. And we were a little.. put off by the fact that we had carried those all the way to the campsite only to discover the giant LAKE that we had perfect and easy access to. We quickly set up the tent, some other stuff and started making food. We have these freeze-dried food packs from Mountain House which we eat and are seriously delicious. Omg you have no idea. It’s basically just prepared meals but freeze fried and all you have to do is add boiling water to the pouch, close it up and let it sit for 8-12 minutes and then it’s done and ready to eat! Jesse and I eat these things at home sometimes when we’re feeling lazy/tired. They are so delicious, it tastes just like something you’d make at home. They have full entrees, just veggies, some breakfast meals and even desserts! We have chocolate strawberry crunch which I’m excited to try eventually. Pasta Primavera, Beef Stroganoff and Beef Chili Mac remain my favorites. Mmmmm....

It felt good to just sit and relax. We took lots of pictures of our "site" and the lake and the surrounding area. It was absolutely beautiful and we were practically completely alone. We went to bed but couldn’t sleep. My hip bones were hurting so bad, I had to lie on my back because they literally stung. And Jesse felt all nasty and sweaty (we didn’t have time to wash off or anything before the sun went down). We started talking about our experiences that day and finally I think we both knew what we were thinking and Jesse said "Yeah this isn’t really fun." And without hesitation, I followed up with "YEAH I’ve been thinking that today too. I don’t really want to do this again. Haha" After talking and whatnot for awhile, we were FINALLY able to fall asleep.

The next morning I was awoken by boats. Oh, that’s right. People apparently like to boat around on the lake very early Sunday morning. Jesse and I ended up both waking up and going outside to a beautiful, beautiful day. We made breakfast (freeze-dried scrambled eggs and bacon- yummy!) and decided we needed to bathe. I had brought my swimsuit in preparation for having to bathe in front of others, but at this point, I really didn’t care anymore. Jesse and I filtered some lake water, slowly boiled it up a few cups at a time and stripped down naked. There were lots of boaters, yes. And a lot of them did have binoculars, yes. But, like I said, I had stopped caring the day before. If they wanted to see my big, naked ass, then so be it. We used lots of cool backpacking gear like shampoo soap flakes and quick-dry towels (they were seriously drying WHILE we were using them to dry off our bodies- crazy!), so that was a lot of fun. After showering, brushing our teeth, and getting dressed, I felt so much better. We packed up and got ready to hike the other two miles (WITHOUT our gear) to the next primitive campsite just to hike around and see what it was like. We made it down the lake a little bit and up the hill before we realized that it wasn’t happening. We were still exhausted from the day before and we didn’t want to overdo it since we had to hike back the next day with all that same stuff. The other couple had left by this point, so we sat at the table at their campsite for awhile and relaxed.
We decided we wanted to be up at their site so we would have an actual place to sit at and do stuff/eat. But we were too lazy to disassemble the tent, so we just un-staked it, took some stuff out and carried it all put together up the hill to the site. Haha We were actually able to build a fire despite the ban burn because we had a firepit. Then we proceeded to spend probably two hours playing the 21 question game. I was so bored and we were trying to think of something to do and I half-jokingly suggested that. We laughed about it... but started playing. And it was really fun! Apparently Jesse saw an actual scorpion come out of one of the logs he was using to build the fire, but I was just heading back from walking around a bit. I actually tried to kick the log he said he went by around to see if it would crawl back out, so I could get its picture, but was unsuccessful. So my total count for scorpion sightings in Texas remains at zero. :o( But I guess that’s a good thing too. (My tarantula count is NOT at zero, however… *is still creeped out*)

After dinner and sitting around the fire trying to stay warm. It gets frickin cold at night in Texas. People don’t think so, because it’s Texas and like 90 every day during the day, but when the sun goes down, it’s freakin desert weather. It commonly drops 40+ degrees from the day to the night. The sun is amazing.

Unfortunately, we situated our tent in a way that we were on a very, very small angle sloping downward to our right. This led to me not being able to fall asleep for hours because I felt like I was going to slide down to the side of the tent.

The next morning, we packed up, I doped up on Advil and off we went back home! The hike back was SIGNIFICANTLY better since we knew what to expect and were more prepared (ie: not carrying two big bags of filled water bottles with us). When we stopped back at the cute little waterfall area again to rest and fill up our water bottles, Jesse went exploring and found a geocache! And it had marijuana in it! Lol! We took pictures and smoked a doobie put it back. I got lots more pictures on the way back, including pictures of the mile markers to PROVE HOW LONG IT WAS OMG.

When we finally reached the end of the trail, we rejoiced in song and dance (mentally, physically we were much too tired) and took pictures.

Then we went home and FELL DOWN DEAD a.k.a. slept for a really long time.

All in all, it was a really horrible and really great experience. Besides the pain and other craziness, it was very relaxing when we finally reached the lake. It was so calm and serene and just beautiful. I know I sound like a total tree-hugging hippy, but being in nature is extremely therapeutic for me. Despite all the catastrophes, it was one of the best vacations/trips I have ever taken with Jesse. I actually had some personal breakthroughs on the trip, which are a big deal to me. And I felt very de-stressed that following week. I definitely learned some things and want to go backpacking again, just never at Georgetown Lake... ever... ever... again. Oh, and added bonus? I didn’t have to poo the entire weekend, so I never had to dig my own poohole with the trowel we brought! Ha HA! Take THAT Gastrointestinal System! Yeah! How you like me now?!

So FINALLY, here is a link to all the backpacking pictures. There’s a lot shared- 153 to be exact... but I took 334 the entire trip so yeah. Holy crap. Enjoy!

And now it's time for sleep.
Current Mood: tiredtired
Now I Am Sixnowiamsix on November 25th, 2009 05:25 pm (UTC)
Everything you mentioned is why I don't like to go camping! Haha! I would like to go hiking itself, possibly, but the day has to have a) running water and b) a bed at the end of it. :)

I'm glad that you both had a good time, even if it wasn't as much fun as you anticipated. Either way, now you know officially that you guys are total badasses who can handle anything that it thrown at you.

I am off to look a pictures. :) Hope you're doing all right. <3