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Have you ever been backpacking before? If so, you probably understand the mixture of pure joy and pain that comes with carrying everything you need to survive out in the wilderness for a few days on your back. I know it sounds absolutely crazy to actually choose to wander away from civilization for a few days in order to walk around for miles with nothing more than 50 pounds of equipment on your back. But the thing is, it is actually a very rewarding and awe-inspiring experience.
One of the best trips I ever went on was with some of my best friends. We decided to hike to Crater Lake, a spot that we had heard a lot of great things about. Nestled in the deep heart of the woods, Crater Lake is said to be an oasis like nothing else. We were very excited to go, even though a few people had never been backpacking before. Growing up in the shadows of the Rockies, I was an experienced backpacker and was therefore elected to take the lead.
I had no idea what a headache that would bring.
As the trip drew closer, I told everyone what they were in charge of bringing, who was driving, and what they should all pack. On the start date, we piled in our cars and drove up to the launch point. We had to leave really early in the morning, so there were some very grumpy people, some people who couldn’t keep their eyes open, and some who were still trying to recover from the night before. After three cups of coffee, two bagels, and one Backstreet Boys CD (strongly requested by my friend Lindsey) we made it to the base. We quickly jumped out, strapped into our packs, and eagerly started up the trail.
That’s when the first challenge started.
My friend who was in charge of bringing the trail map forgot it on his kitchen counter. We had no idea where we were going. Not wanting to abandon the whole trip, we decided to press on without the map, relying instead on landmarks and trail markers. Everything was going remarkably well. The trail was clearly marked and very easy to fallow. After a few hours, we stopped for lunch near a waterfall.
That’s when the second challenge began.
Elk. EVERYWHERE! They came out of nowhere and surrounded us. We were nervous. Elk are not naturally violent creatures, but due to their massive size, we decided to keep as much distance as we could. They were blocking the trail and, not wanting to startle them, we were stuck. We passed the time by taking photos and playing card games. Eventually the elk passed and we were able to continue on, but we were severely off schedule. We pressed forward at a much faster rate, stopping for breaks only when completely necessary. We reached the campsite at about 8:00pm and began to make camp in the pitch black.
That’s when the final challenge began.
RAIN! Pouring, pouring rain. It came down so fast and so hard that we struggled to pitch our tents. We were slipping and sliding in the mud, tripping over branches, and running into each other. I tried to keep calm and direct people, but with all the chaos I started to get aggravated myself. At one point I fell off a small rock that I didn’t see and landed in the lake. I was soaked, but we eventually made camp and scrambled into our tents. Once we got warm and dry again, we started to laugh about everything. We spent the rest of the night joking, talking, playing games, and listening to the thunderstorm.
As day broke the next morning, we finally got to see the true beauty of Crater Lake. It was amazing. We made breakfast and spent the rest of the morning playing in the lake and exploring the forest.
While it wasn’t exactly one of the most problem free trips I had ever taken, it was by far the most memorable. I loved being with my friends in one of the most beautiful places in the Rockies and cannot wait to go again this summer.