Kathy and I had not backpacked for at least 12 years when the idea of “why not” popped into our heads. Although some of you might think us insane (we do too at times), for wanting to return to this mode of travel and wonder why old folks want to sleep on the ground. We will try to explain as this post moves along. The idea started to come together in May while we were in Burlington, Vermont visiting Neil and Lori. Neil had taken us to a great outdoor gear store and we decided Kathy needed a new pack and if we got one it should be big enough for backpacking. Of course after buying the pack we were obligated to give it a try.
We had a trip to Grand Teton National Park planned and decided we would take the tents and the car instead of the motor home. Some might say that voluntarily leaving all the creature comforts behind and roughing it is the second sign of insanity. We dug out all our camping and backpack gear and made the 10-hour drive to the Tetons.
Our favorite campground in the Tetons is Jenny Lake, but by the time we arrived it was full so we spent the first night at Gros Ventre and then moved to Jenny Lake in the morning. It is our favorite because it is small and allows only tents. We spent the first day getting our packs together and obtaining our back country camping permit for Bear Paw Lake.
The next morning we loaded up and headed for Bear Paw. The hike to the campsite was about four miles and we picked this one because it is a mostly level trail. The trail follows the shores of String and Leigh Lakes before crossing an open meadow and then arriving at Bear Paw. Bear Paw is a small lake with only three campsites and we were blessed to be the only ones there. We did meet a group of hikers that were canoe camping and had sites on Leigh Lake. The group consisted of 3 couples and about six kids including a 5-month old who was on his fourth camping trip (yes, Torey and Kerry, kids can camp). We had a nice conversation with them and as they left we set about getting our tent set up and fresh coffee and tea brewing.
We had a lazy afternoon that included watching a family of ducks swim, play and fish. After dinner we had a brief thunderstorm with lighting and dime-sized hail. The thunder as it echoed between the high peaks was marvelous and the lighting was pretty impressive also (except for several very near strikes–the kind that go bang-crash with no time in between.) We also heard some grunting and barking noises from the willows across the lake and we want to believe it was an elk. I say want to because grizzly bears are known to make similar noises. We considered purchasing bear spray, but since the campsite was equipped with a bear proof food storage box and the spray cost $65.00 we decided not to buy it. If we lived in an area with a bear population or lots of car jackings, we might have made a different decision. Before turning in for the night, we watched a great moonrise through the pines for a while and then it was morning.
After a walk along the lake for some great early morning photos, we brewed fresh coffee and tea to go with breakfast. Then we, sort of sadly, packed our gear, threw it on our backs and headed back down the trail. We took several breaks along the way and enjoyed sitting on the shore of the lakes and viewing the mountains. We also got to revisit with the canoe campers as we passed their campsite along the trail.
As I said earlier we had not done this in about twelve years. We had in the past made about seven backpack trips in Shenandoah National Park, three in West VA and one in Canada. The one in Canada included Torey, Leigh and Neil and as for the girls it was their first and last. They put up with our wishes to take them into the back country, but were not overly impressed with being pack mules. It is sad to say, but I think I’ve raised “Children of the Marriot.” We not only enjoyed our night in the wilderness, but were really excited over the fact that we could still accomplish this type of camping. Backpacking will certainly be included in our future travel plans. We also fantasize that some day all the kids will “ask” to join us.