Backpacking: Stumped for Entertain-ment

We usually pack light for any long backpacking adventure, but bringing along a book or a pack of cards is worth the small additional weight, even if it turns out there is no table to play on at the top.

For whatever one photo is worth:

In 2018 we did a multi-day backpacking trip up over the pass at Skoki Mountain near Lake Louise, Alberta. Three of us, two adults and a pre-teen, lugged our full kit up about eighteen kilometers of service road, trail accent, lakeside hike, summit climb, and winding approach.

The bugs were brutal and aggressive, as was the murky smoke from a far off forest fire. So, when we were not working through the never-ending routine of chores to cook, clean and keep camp, we spent the better part of our time wrapped up in mosquito hoods or hiding in our tents.

Luckily we brought along some cards.

Backpacking is all about weight. Every gram is yet another gram one needs to squish into the bag and lug with every step up a steep, dangerous climb. Too little weight means you may be unprepared. Too much and you could end up injured atop a mountain.

There is necessary weight for things that you will likely suffer or need to bail without, such as food, cooking gear, clean water tools, your tent, sleeping equipment, first aid, and at least one pair of dry socks.

There is also important weight accounting for the really nice to have gear that will provide comfort and success, like full changes of clothes, toilet paper, tooth brushes and soap, groundsheets, clotheslines, a phone (or other GPS & communications device) and a little bit of bug spray.

Then there is the luxury weight itemizing the stuff (sparingly) brought along because there is more to life than mere survival. My list often includes cameras, a paperback book, a (very lightweight) folding chair (which I will write about soon!) and of course a pack of cards.

So between cooking and cleaning and hiking and sleeping we hid from the bugs, read our books, and played some card games … even though we neglected to bring a table and were left balancing it all on a small stump.

Backpacking: Lakeside Cookout

Thirty seconds after I took this photo, I took a second version using the panorama picture mode on my iPhone. That second photo is the desktop wallpaper on my computer monitor as I started writing this post.

For whatever one photo is worth:

In the summer of 2017 we trekked up the skirt of Mount Robson (pictured) to camp for four nights in the woods beside Berg Lake (also pictured). Four adults, two kids, and all the appropriate gear to sleep, cook, and enjoy a backpacking adventure in the Canadian wilderness.

The glacial lake, named for the ice berg patiently crumbling into it, pulled a brisk wind across its barely-thawed waters. The wind could shift, and did multiple times per day while we were visiting, and bring brilliantly clear skies or creeping clouds, or even a soaking rain that left us running for shelter and drying out our gear for hours afterwards.

One particular evening the wind stopped for long enough for someone to suggest that instead of cooking in the sheltered safety of our campsite, that hauling our cooking gear and food the hundred meters or so from the campsite down to the beach was a feasible idea.

A trio of roughly-milled log benches made for hacky seating and smallish tables for our kerosene stoves, and an unusually beautiful place to boil the water to rehydrate our dinner.

As we sat beside the lake. Watched the kids throw rocks. Traced the flights of the birds swooping nearby. Listened for the distinctive crack of a bit of ice escaping the glacier across the water.

We boiled our creek-filtered water and broke the silence of the mountain valley with the jet engine roar of our cooking tools, scarfed our dinners, and by the time we had dropped our empty bowls back to the bench the wind had shifted once again and the frozen air was sweeping off the lake to disturb our beach picnic.

In all we stole perhaps thirty minutes from the unpredictable weather to enjoy a rare and random experience, and all from an unplanned suggestion in the still of a peaceful moment.