REI

Car Backpacking? Walupt Lake and Nannie Ridge Trail

Kim and I have been doing a bit of hiking lately, and we’ve decided to take it to the next level and do some backpacking.  So, we went to REI spent a ton of money on gear.  Now we need to go use it! 

To ease into things, and to try out the new gear, we decided to go car camping and do a hike that originated near the campground.  After doing a bit of research, the campground at Walupt Lake and the Nannie Ridge Trail looked like an ideal setup for this task.

We loaded up our packs (my new REI pack) as if we were going to go backpacking and tossed them in the truck.  The total weight of my gear was 35# while Kim’s was 27#.   Much of the gear that we are using I actually purchased for camping on my motorcycle.  Since I have a bit more room and can carry a bit more weight on the motorcycle, the gear is a bit on the heavier side.  I could trim this down quite a bit, but it would be spending some $$$ on a new sleeping bag and tent.

In addition to the new backpacking gear, I’m looking for a better camera to take hiking with me. I’ve been using my canon point and shoot, but I want to get something that takes higher quality pictures, but isn’t as large as bringing my Canon 1dmkii. I managed to borrow a Sony NEX 5N from my brother to try out.

Walupt Lake

The goal for the first day was to get to the campground, set up the tent and go kayaking in the lake with our inflatable kayak.  Since we are taking the truck, the kayak is a bonus that we get since we aren’t actually backpacking.

Many of the trail reviews discussed all of the berries along the trail, and how lucky you are if you can eat them because other hikers and bears tend to nab them first.  So, I decide that we need to bring my bear spray just to be safe.  Normally I keep the spray in the garage with my motorcycle camping gear, but I couldn’t find it there.  I ended up searching the entire house for it, and never found it…so, we stopped at REI in Issaquah on the way down and picked up another canister.

The estimated drive time to the campground was about 3 hours.  With our detour to REI, lunch in Enumclaw, and driving down the dirt portions FS 21 (which is part of the WABDR as well) it took closer to 4 hours to actually get to the campsite.

The campground was quite a bit larger than I expected, and more crowded too!  We had hoped to get a spot right on the lake, but all of the lake sites were full.  The lake sites were also crowded together.  We ended up with a secluded site on the far side of the campground.  While it was a little bit of a walk to the lake (and the trailhead) we couldn’t see our neighbors on either side! Setting up the tent went pretty quickly and easily – I’ve done it many times on motorcycle trips.  The weather forecast was for hot dry weather, so I decided to skip putting up the rainfly.

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(note the chairs in the picture were “bonus” items that we brought because we were car camping, they were not included in the pack weights above).

Once we had the camp set up, we drove the truck to the lake and inflated the kayak.  Of course we needed to fish while we were kayaking!  There were fish jumping everywhere – unfortunately I did not have my fly fishing gear with me, but I did have my packable fishing rod (also not included in the pack weight above).  We spent a couple of hours touring around the lake with the fishing rod.  We lost one small trout about ten minutes after we started.

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After kayaking, it was time for dinner and a fire.  We brought some crappy fire starters that we couldn’t get to light, so Kim went back to the truck to scavenge for paper.  Not only did she come back with some paper, but she found my bear spray as well!  Once we had the fire started, we settled down for dinner.  Again we cheated a bit and brought some appetizers with us…but we did eat freeze dried food for our main course.

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After dinner we sat around the fire until after dark and then climbed into bed.

Nannie Ridge Trail

We were up early the next morning – neither of us slept very well.  Started chatting about 5:30a and actually rolled out of the tent around 6:30.  We made a quick breakfast and then loaded up our packs.  Since this hike was about 9 miles, and we hadn’t really been backpacking yet, we decided to “lightly” load our packs so we could start to get a feel for things.  We ended up with the packs in the 15#-20# range.

The first task was finding the trailhead from our campsite.  We had driven by it while picking out a campsite, but didn’t pay that much attention.  Fortunately it wasn’t too hard.  Where the trail exits the campground, there was a typical trailhead sign that said we needed a permit or face a $100 fine.  However, there were no permits or a box to place them once filled out.  We decide to continue on without a permit.  It turns out that the trailhead is for two different trails, and the permit station was where the trails split apart – about 100yds from the campground.

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Most of the elevation gain is in the first two miles of the hike.  It starts out as a nice hike through the forest.  The trail is fairly wide and there are plenty of signs that people take horses on the trail.  On the way up, there was a small creek crossing, and the remnants of several seasonal creeks that were now mostly dry.

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As we went up in altitude, the trail narrowed and the trees became a little more sparse.  Tons of wildflowers started popping up.  No evidence of any of the berries that I had read about.  After a little more than two miles, the trail comes to a crest.  At this point, there is a small trail that takes off to the summit of Nannie Peak, which is hidden from us by the trees.  We decide to go check it out.  After a short hike, the peak comes into view and we decide that it is beyond our ambition for the day.  We take a short break near a meadow with spectacular views of Mt Adams, and unfortunately a bazillion mosquitos.

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The mosquitoes forced this rest to be a quick one, so it was back down to the main trail to continue on.  The trail gives up a bit of altitude to skirt around some cliffs that weren’t really evident until further along the way.  We did come to one small snow crossing which didn’t prove to be too difficult.

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Hiking along the ridge was nice – not a lot of ups and downs, and the scenery was fairly open so you could get a good look around at things. 

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Eventually, we passed Sheep Lake and shortly thereafter  intersected with the Pacific Crest Trail, which was our turnaround point.  Near the intersection, there was a tent set up with nobody around.  This was the first evidence of people that we had seen on the entire hike.

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We hiked back to Sheep Lake and had a nice leisurely lunch.DSC02555

After lunch, we hiked back down the same way we came up.  The views on the way back were much more interesting. Mt Adams was a constant backdrop in this direction.

We finally saw our first hiker with about a mile and a half to go on the trip…we were hoping to not see anyone, but we couldn’t complain too much.

Once we were back to the campsite, we dropped off our gear and went for a quick swim in the lake.

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Then it was some wine (another advantage of car camping), dinner, and off to bed early.

The next day was pretty straightforward – wake up, eat breakfast, break camp an drive home!  Good first backpacking test for us.

Overall, hiking with the pack on was a bit harder than I had expected.  Starting off with the pack on felt easy, and it didn’t bother me much during the hike. My knees got a bit sore coming down the hill at the end.  I really noticed the weight (or lack thereof) was when I would take it off at a break.

As for the camera, I’m still unsure.  I mostly used it in the various automatic modes since I didn’t really have time to become familiar with it.  In these modes, it seemed to be really aggressive about shifting the ISO up – as a result, a lot of the pictures were very noisy when viewed full size.  The advantage was that you could take photos in extremely low light.  I’ll have to play with it more in the manual modes before I decide if it is the right choice for me.

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Cameras, Underwear, and Luggage

We are starting to plan our packing strategy for our anniversary trip.  Our main goal for this trip is going to be – no checked baggage.  We are going to be on 8 different flights this trip, and dealing w/checked baggage for each will be a pain in the butt.  However, given our previous history (and the fact that I like to bring lots of gadgets) this may be a bit of a challenge for a 3 week trip, but we are going to go for it.

Cameras

Cameras are going to be the first challenge that pop up for me.  My 1Dmkii plus lenses and accessories have a dedicated carry-on bag – that doesn’t leave much room for clothes.  So, I need to come up with another option for a camera. 

I currently have a Canon SD850IS for a point and shoot camera – it is several years old,  which is a lifetime in camera tech, so I figure I should be able to get something way better than this.  That being said, I do have a dive housing for this camera, so I might be able to convince myself that this will be good enough for the trip.  The size is certainly right.

My brother has a Sony NEX-5N.  This is a very compact “SLR”.  I borrowed it for a couple of weeks to try it out.  The carry case he has holds the camera + 3 lenses, and the size is comparable to my 1Dmkii plus one lens.  It takes good photos and also has an option to shoot RAW, so I can do megatweaking in software.  It also takes very nice videos – it is a little hard to hold the camera steady, but once you get used to it, you get very good results.  Still not sure that this meets the size criteria though.

I started looking into new point and shoot cameras and there is a new class of “travel” compact cameras.  These are P&S camera that have extra large zoom capabilities.  Reviews of several can be found here.  The Canon SX230 HS looks to be a promising choice.  I may have to go track one down and try it out.

I will also be bringing my ContourGPS w/dive housing along.  Not sure if I’ll actually be doing any diving on the trip, but will probably get some snorkeling in.  I also have a headband mount for it, so if I do any other interesting things,  I should be able to get some videos.

Underwear (and other clothes)

Well, fortunately it is going to be summer where we are heading, so packing light should be a bit easier.  My plan is to bring one workout outfit (need to at least keep running while I’m there), and then four-ish other sets of clothes.  My plan is to bring two sets of Columbia “convertible” pants  – they’ll function as long pants or shorts.  They are also made of quick drying material, so I should be able to wash them in a hotel room sink if needed.   Also got some quick-drying underwear as well.

Luggage

Went to REI today to look for a small backpack that I could use as my “personal” bag carryon.  Of course I ended up buying more luggage as well.  Got a cool, small, carry-on sized piece of luggage that has a backpack that attaches to it.  Got home and started to pack things in it and looks like it should work.

Misc Electronics.

This is where I start getting in trouble.  I’m going to bring my Kindle Fire, of course I’m concerned that it will be difficult to read while I’m laying on the beach, so I’m planning on bringing my old Kindle as well.  I also have to bring my Garmin watch so I can record all of my runs while I’m there.  On the fence about bringing my netbook.  It’ll be easier to blog from the netbook, plus I can use it to download the workout data from my watch.  And of course, I’ll bring my spot – never know when I’ll have to hit the big red button (and if I don’t, the tracking function will remind my friends and family that I’m someplace fun and sunny and they aren’t).