Backpacking, Round 1 (part 1)

Sarah and I went on our first of three backpacking trips we have planned for the summer.  After acquiring all the necessary equipment, it was time to set out into the wild.  This trip was on the Middle Fork Trail in Sequoia National Park, California.  We set out on Friday morning and were going to camp at the Lodgepole campground our first night and then head down into the Valley to backpack Saturday and Sunday nights.  We spotted our first bear of the trip not too far from the entrance of the park.

There he is to the left.  He took off when he accelerated after stopping for this picture.  When we picked up our wilderness permit, we were told we would definitely see bears where we were backpacking.  I think we were both a bit apprehensive about this part of the backpacking experience, and this wasn’t welcome news.  Though black bears are supposed to be less aggressive than grizzlies, we weren’t relishing running into one in our campsite or on the trails.  We had the bear canister required for the trip, as well as bear spray (which though technically illegal, the ranger said just don’t tell us about it, so we didn’t).

It was still quite cold in the Lodgepole area, and the Topokah Falls trail we had hoped to walk in the afternoon was supposedly impassable.  We set up camp and decided to investigate the trail.  There was snow, but it was definitely walkable.  We soon saw our next two bears, at a distance.  Apparently some others had been about 10 feet from a mother and her cub, and the bears had retreated further away from the trail when we got there.  We were on high alert now for bears.

However, our next encounter was of the human kind.  We found an Indian family of three who apparently had been wandering around for 30 minutes and looked very happy to find us.  They asked if we knew where the falls were.  We hadn’t been there, but the trail seemed pretty straightforward, so we told them they could follow us.  We finally made it and because of the heavy snows this year in the mountains, the falls were raging (more on the effects of the heavy snow later).  Here’s a picture of the falls:

It was pretty impressive when we got up close too and you could feel the spray from the falls.  It was starting to get cold and we wanted to get back to camp to start a fire to cook dinner.  The Indian family that had been following us asked if they could follow us back out.  We said sure, though we knew this was going to slow the exit process.  They were moving slowly and the 12 year old daughter was having difficulty on the snowy parts of the trail in her tennis shoes.  Eventually there was crying and I knew the mother had her fill when she (wearing cotton slips on with no socks) trudged through one ice-cold stream without even attempting to cross on the rocks that we used.  Then we saw bear number 4.  Or more accurately the family saw it.  They were behind us a bit and we had gone down the path so that the were above us.  The girl started yelling that there was a bear, so we yelled back to not run, since we thought they had seen it further back on the trail.  Actually, it was ten to fifteen feet behind us and  he loped by and stopped at a nearby tree.  I snapped this shot and then we slowly moved on away from him.

We finally got out and left the family to find their car (which they were not sure where it was; I wouldn’t have been surprised to find them frozen huddled together like this the next morning, but we felt our responsibility for them was over).  After some struggles with wet wood, we got a fire started and cooked a salmon filet on the fire.  We also heated some water and made some couscous and had an appetizer of cucumber/tomato salad.  The salmon turned out perfectly, a little crispy on the top but juicy on the inside.  Matched with the couscous it was delicious.  We then had a few smores.  With night time temperatures supposed to reach 23 degrees, we bundled up in our zero degree bags and hit the hay.  This was my first real test of the bag, and it passed with flying colors.  I was not cold and slept relatively well.  Next, on to the backpacking…..[Part 2 to follow]

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One Response to “Backpacking, Round 1 (part 1)”

  1. Backpacking, Round 1 (Part 3) « Nothing to Write Home About Says:

    […] to continue writing about our first backpacking trip to Sequoia National Park.  Parts 1 and 2 here and here.  So our goal for our second day was to do an out-and-back to a grove of Sequoias called […]

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