25 Lessons Learned On My Latest Backpacking Trip

When the book Wild came out a few years ago, I picked it up and was inspired to do the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Life got busy and my plans fell to the wayside. Then the movie came out this year and I bought it and watched it several times, each time getting more excited about the prospect of doing a long distance hike. In March I began training to get into better shape, planning to do one State of the PCT next summer. I began hiking easy hikes 2-3 times per week. I was doing this for 7 weeks when I decided I was ready for my first overnighter. Destination; Baker Lake trail East.  

It was Thursday and I was at work when I decided to go. That night I went through my backpacking stuff and found that I had most of what I needed to go and what I did not have I could borrow, besides food and clothing. I packed up my backpack and weighed it without the food and water, 23 pounds. Great!! Way less than last time I went 20 years ago when I packed cans of chili and corned beef hash for a total of around 50 lbs. for one night.

I spent most of Friday with my daughter and grandson then tried to get my food and clothing together at the last minute Friday evening. I was planning on leaving for the trail early Saturday morning. After I thought I had what I needed, I weighed the backpack and it weighed 35 pounds now, which is still less than before but the problem was that I couldn’t get it all in the pack. Conferring with my husband, I decided to leave a bag of food out and my sleeping clothing. Finally, I stuffed it all in and the final weight was still around 35 pounds with food and water. I was satisfied. After all, it was 15 pounds less than last time. The plan was to only take one of the two dogs with me for ease of control. Rion had been having issues with his left hip so I decided to take Mister with me. Apparently, Rion realized this early and as soon as I put my backpack into the back of the 4Runner he was in the back seat and refused to get out.  I didn’t have the heart to not take him so I took both.  Off we went. We got to the trailhead at 9:40 am, which is a bit of a late start.  We did the hike as planned and the following are lessons this trip taught me.

Lesson 1 – Planning your first hike in a very long time cannot be done in 8 hours.

Lesson 2 – Don’t pack a 3-man tent if you are the only “man”.

Lesson 3 – Food planning should include every meal and snacks for every day.

Lesson 4 – When trying to reduce your backpack weight after lesson 3, food should never be left out.

Lesson 5 – Water dogs and down sleeping bags do not mix well.

Lesson 6 – Wet down does not keep you warm at night.

Lesson 7 – Don’t read about bear attacks before going into bear country.

Lesson 8 – Know your distance limits and respect them. No, 9 miles in one day is not within your limits at this time. Neither is 7 miles!

Lesson 9 – Know how to use the water filter and any other equipment before you leave for the trail.

Lesson 10 – To save you from unneeded pain, know how to wear your backpack.

Lesson 11 – Being picky about your campsite increases your distance travelled.

Lesson 12 – Every campsite on a lake hike has mosquitoes.

Lesson 13 – Saying F### you to the next hill you have to climb does not lessen the altitude but increases the stress. Every trail has hills, get over it!

Lesson 14 – Planning a hike on the John Muir trail in the high Sierra mountains is pointless before you hike your first overnighter in 20 years.

Lesson 15 – Don’t park your tent next to a swamp if you brought water dogs…see lesson 6.

Lesson 16 – Don’t carry the 2 lb. stove if you left behind all of the food that needs cooking.

Lesson 17 – Dogs are not limitless hikers.

Lesson 18 – Bears and mosquitoes exist, get over it.

Lesson 19 – Not every sound you here at night is a bear that is stalking you.

Lesson 20 – No, the hiker next to you does not want to buy your filled backpack from you.

Lesson 21 – A nylon pillow tends to wander when placed on a nylon sleeping bag.

Lesson 22 -Never say you’ll never do this again, there’s always tomorrow when you have to hike back to the car.

Lesson 23 – Just because your gluteus maximus is so sore you can’t sit on the toilet doesn’t mean you can skip work on Monday morning.

Lesson 24 – Live, learn and do it better next time.

Lesson 25 – There is no substitute for spending time in nature’s beauty!

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  1. Looks beautiful! Way to stick with it! It takes a lot of courage to head into the woods alone and if you an take that first step you can work up to anything!! Keep on trekking!

    • Vicki's blog

      Thanks tandemtrekking! I have a bit more confidence now but need to figure out whether the backpack was too small or whether I was carrying inessentials.

      • Well I run a gear advice service off my blog, I’m always down to chat about those topics and help people figure out what they don’t have and what they have too much of but it sounded like you were on the right track! I just love talking about gear if you ever want to email about it! Especially gear for thru hiking 🙂

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