First Solo Backpack Trip 1974

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My proposed backpack trip had to be postponed several times and Bob suggested I take an extra day to make up for it, a Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

We were out at the ranch that Tuesday. I mowed the lawn while Clarke napped. Bob went into town late afternoon but got back around 7:30. The children and I had taken a walk around the loop after putting a roast in the oven, and then had warm roast-beef sandwiches for dinner. I watched the children out the window and enjoyed them. They were really silly that afternoon—lots of bathroom talk, plays on words, hysterical giggles. After dinner Bob told them that a jay in the barn had pooped on his shoulder and this set them off again.

“Jeffrey, this morning, very casually, very manfully, offered to go on my trip with me—“if you want me to”. I wept tonight telling Bob about it.”

Rebecca was re-reading The Yearling to herself, now that I finished reading it to her. “She is such a complicated child—so grown up in some ways, yet very vulnerable in others. She looked willow-the-wispy tonight—shiny, soft hair, dreamy-eyed, holding her blanket and her frog. And yet there is a great inner strength there too I think.”

Clarke had been cheerful and silly, alternating with wanting to be cuddled. He had a nap which helped a lot with overcoming his crossness of the last few days. The inconsistencies of naps made life difficult for him sometimes.

“I wish I could let the children know how pleased I am to know them so well—their marvelous uniqueness as well as their faults—without getting them all self-conscious about it. I think they know I love them well, even when I nag. I dread their being hurt by the cruelties life offers—I just hope there are enough good things to make it worthwhile for them.”

I was reading another of Ann Lindbergh’s books-Locked Rooms, Open Doors.

“July 12th–I am writing this at the head of Deer Creek Meadows, sitting beside a waterfall in the sun, just below the Luella Lake Trail junction. Kinnik-Kinnick and I got here about 3:30. I drove into Weaverville from the ranch yesterday afternoon—got there about 4:30 and really had to hurry to buy groceries for the ranch plus what I needed for this trip. After dinner I packed (called the ranch once and talked to each child and asked Bob a couple of things). Got packed round 9:00 and then vacuumed the house for some weird reason. Played our John Denver record a lot.

Got up at 5:15 and was at the trail around 8:00. Met lots of people going in. Kinnik-Kinnick got confused at Granite Creek Bridge and started following two teenage girls. I didn’t catch up with her again till we reached Granite Lake.

It is a beautiful trip in here—lots of water, azaleas still blooming (on the Granite Lake side)-pitcher plants at the beginning of the trail. Granite Lake lies at the end of a long meadow and over some rocks—big snow slide still at the end. I arrived there at the same time as the two girls, who had managed to pick up about six fellows. I ran right into the camp of a family who told me I’d missed the Deer Creek Meadows turnoff so I went back a couple of hundred feet and found it. Had been worried about snow but ran into a couple of patrolmen (one was Rod Duncan whom I’d taught in 5th grade at Big Bar) who said it was mostly melted off. Ate lunch by a little trickle of a stream looking out over Granite Lake.

That’s a very steep climb up out of there. I’d never have made it if it were a hot August day with no water. It’s 1.5 miles to the pass. Came down the switchbacks from the pass in about an hour, going slowly because my legs, feet and shoulders are very sore. My pack is much too heavy. Coming down there were some long green meadows—at the top of these tiger lilies were all in tight green buds—at the bottom some were in bloom. The 4-Lakes area has a lot of snow in it still. Passable probably but I don’t think I’ll go there. Peter built those switchbacks down from the pass about eight years ago. I was going to stop at their old camp but this looks pretty good and I’m tired.

Kinnik-Kinnick just came and curled up with me. I think she’s tired too! My shoulders are so sore. I hope I can make it to Long’s Cabin tomorrow. Am supposed to stay there tomorrow night and come out Bear Basin Sunday. I think I’ll try to eat around 5:00. (I was trying to stay at the places I’d talked about with Bob so if I needed to be found someone would know where to look.)

Alice Jones’ painting of Deer Creek area.

I’ve decided that solitude is all very well and good but I think if Bob were along I’d enjoy it more—or even one of the kids if they could walk this far. Sharing an experience enriches it. I thought it probably would be this way. I’m enjoying not having to respond to anyone but I miss the response to me! This is really kind of a pretty spot—foamy waterfall about eight feet high, hellebore and tiger lilies—but not in bloom. A kind of yellow lupine is just beginning to bloom and there are columbines blooming along the creek and on the rock by the waterfall. A few yellow violets in bloom next to the rocks. We may have picked a spot under a Stellar’s Jay nest for our campsite—at least they’ve really been squawking at the dog and one pooped on the air mattress. The trees look like white fir and white pine.

It’s 7:30 now. I’m in my sleeping bag—face washed, teeth brushed, hair brushed and small drink of peach brandy consumed. After dinner (primus stove worked beautifully) I read down by the creek for about an hour—a book that Jeannie Meyer loaned me. The sound of the creek is not consistent—sometimes the falls seem to slap the rocks—not unlike the sound of movement through underbrush.

I think I’m going to be consumed by carpenter ants tonight. Many big ones crawling around. I’ve blisters on the balls of both feet. Will try putting gauze pads on them tomorrow. Sun is off the meadow now but still on the cliffs at the head and on the mountains across from me—cliffs are a silver grey but the opposite mountain is quite red. Saw a couple of Steer’s Head Bleeding Hearts in bloom—many, many plants–just a few blossoms. Also saw a couple of leftover shooting stars.

Saturday—6:00 p.m.—Am later tonight making camp. Slept off and on last night waking frequently to hear the roar of the creek and once when a deer bounded off. Woke around 7:00. After breakfast I packed everything so it was all ready to go. Had a brief encounter with the stove. Wanted to fill it so all would be ready for tonight but took about 20 minutes to get the lid unscrewed. Was afraid for a while I’d have to have sandwiches for dinner and no lunch tomorrow—or breakfast!

Anyhow, around 10:00 the dog and I started up the trail with the idea of hiking to Diamond Lake since Bob had recommended it so highly—left the pack at camp. Really hard on my muscles at first. It is a lovely hike all the way—having to be conservative with pictures was agony. The trail climbs up almost as high as I was yesterday coming into Deer Creek only on the opposite side—very alpine, very spectacular–jagged peaks, fields of snow on them, bright green meadow with little ponds. One incident occurred which really made things grey for a while. Kinnik-Kinnick stirred up a fawn. It was bleating and she was yelping and I’m afraid she probably killed it. I whipped her with the leash when she got back and put her on the leash for most of the rest of the trip.

Luella Lake nests up in red rock above the Deer Creek Canyon—there was snow covering about 1/5 of it, and lots of snow around it. We zig-zagged on up the trail and had no problem till we got to the top of the ridge. Just below the top was a small cornice of snow–too steep in most places for me to climb over. Found a good spot to kick holes and then, right where the snow meets the rock, one foot went in. Fortunately the other foot was firm and I grabbed rock–could have been nasty as obviously no one had been over the trail recently and several days at that altitude with a broken leg would be yucky. From there to Diamond Lake took about 15 minutes.

Diamond Lake lies at the foot of steep talus slopes up which a trail winds but there was lots of snow on the trail. No wonder Bob wanted me to see this lake. Along the upper side is sloping green meadow with daisies and shooting stars, and hellebore is just beginning to poke up spikes along the melting snow, and has tightly bundled leaves, up about two feet elsewhere. A reddish rim rock sticks out on one side of the opposite shore. The rest of that shore is a look straight out at jagged, snow-covered peaks. I ate lunch there and was more full from the scenery I think than from the food.

Took 15 minutes to get back to the top of the hill, no trouble getting off the snow and was back in camp at 1:30. Left camp about 2:00 and, after traveling down Deer Creek about 15-20 minutes, had to take my boots off to get across. Think I saw where Deer Creek Camp is but am not sure about Peter’s old camp, which is supposed to be in that area. Started up the hill where the sign said Black Basin-3 Miles. It has many more switchbacks than are shown on the contour map. Quite a steep climb up and no water. We finally hit water in Black Basin and stopped for a drink and snack. There’s a beautiful little green meadow and a little pond, which looks out at the Sawtooth Range. Thought about staying there but decided to go further. A few hundred yards on there’s a kind of barren willowy camp with cut logs for stools and the trail to Mumford Basin takes off there as does the one to Bear Basin. I took the Bear Basin one and am camped, I guess, at Long’s Cabin. I told Bob I’d camp there but just happened upon it as it looked like a good spot. I guess there are two trails up to Bear Basin and I took the one that Long’s Cabin isn’t on—didn’t see a forks or anything, and looking over from the together trail saw this spot. So far today I’ve seen no one. Saw some fairly fresh tracks on the Deer Creek Trail and this one to Bear Basin looks like someone came out on a horse and maybe went to Mumford Basin. (After I got home I learned that yes, this was the remains of Long’s Cabin.)

The sun is still shining into here. Am wondering if it will shine in here early in the morning. I kind of doubt it. This camp is about 20 feet from a small stream. The area is used for snow surveys and there is an orange sign on one of the trees and one up about 20 feet in a tree across the meadow. The trees here look like mountain hemlock, red fir and white pine. It’s a pretty spot, patches of snow still around, lichens on fallen trees are a bright chartreuse. The peaks I’ll be going toward in the morning look like those at the head of Deer Creek—grey with reddish tinges-snow, a few patches of chartreuse lichens-not the furry kind as on the trees.

The breeze is cool in the shade I keep moving with the sun. Lots of old garbage here rusty cans, broken bottles, etc., pieces of what look like an old cabin—logs and boards with nails in them. Many carpenter ants here. One was into the stroganoff spoon as soon as I put it down.

Taking this trip has been a good thing for me—I’ve proved to myself that I can do it, have enjoyed my own company (it’s not much different from the long day hikes I’ve taken)—the dog has been kind of a nuisance—trying to keep her with me. I really must admit though that I can’t keep from thinking about the children and Bob. Like when I saw a parent Clark’s Nutcracker feeding a young one today I thought, “I must tell Clarke about that.”

I guess it means that once one has a family these individuals become a part of oneself. And one of the things, I enjoy about hiking—although I never realized it till this trip—is sharing the experience by talking about it…and sharing it with someone who cares about you.

I am really looking forward to our taking the children into Hall’s Gulch. I do hope they will enjoy camping as much as I do as time goes on. It will be fun having someone to go with when they’re older during the times that Bob can’t—or maybe we can all go a lot or Bob and I can take just one at different times as Foreros have done.

I thought I’d be poetic, bringing this paper but I’m so tired by evening it’s all I can do to write down the facts! I see now another sign in my cluster of trees—up about 20 feet.

Creeks are funny. It’s no wonder poets have talked about babbling brooks. I often think I hear children’s voices and my mother used to say she would hear our voices in creeks. Rebecca thought I was calling her the other day when we were down at Little French Creek but I wasn’t. I think Jeffrey would like this spot with the big green meadow across the creek and all the rounded rocky outcroppings to climb on. The sun must be going down but it doesn’t seem to have lowered at all since we got here—it’s just moved around a bit.

Morning of July 14th–Am nearly packed. I notice that my writing in the evening is very home oriented—mornings I feel so free! I think this kind of existence could really grow on one. By the third night one should sleep soundly—from the exhaustion of not sleeping the other two nights if nothing else. Probably one stops listening to the creeks talk by then. I have all the routines down now and everything goes smoothly—meal preparation, packing up, etc. and I’m sure my muscles are stronger—as well as the pack being a little lighter.

I wonder if that “evening family” thing is a primitive instinct of mankind. To draw together at night for protection. I think I’d like to do something like this for a couple of days every summer. Almost packed now and it’s 8:45. The sun came up in a totally different place than I expected this morning. Have had full sunlight since about 7:30. Robins were singing until after 9:00 last night and started at 5:00 this morning.

I ran out of film in the upper part of Bear Basin. Large patches of snow on the cliffs, but the trail was clear. Wound down into Bear Basin, crossed the creek on some short logs. I’d forgotten how beautiful the lower meadow is. Of course I’d seen it only in the fall before. A full quarter of a mile of pitcher plants, rein orchis, etc. Looking back up the canyon toward the snow– splotched peaks it was really spectacular. I lost the dog’s leash somewhere here. Ate lunch by a little spring along the stretch where azaleas grow in such abundance—air filled with their fragrance—maidenhair ferns, spairea, tiger lilies, deep moss, tiny pools, bright yellow monkey flowers. We didn’t meet any people until we were beyond Parker Creek where we met a teenage boy with a pack. Over 48 hours without another human. “

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