My brother, Jim, is an outdoor stud. He also has been adventuring around Idaho for all of his adult life. So when we wanted to make sure I went on my first backpacking trip ever as part of our #North2Future adventure through Idaho, we knew who to call.
Jim did a ton of research for us to make sure we were heading out on a trip that would not scare me away from backpacking forever. He decided on a one mile hike down to a lake that we could use for a base camp for longer hikes. Awesome.
We headed out on Sunday morning, day seven of our trip, and left the boys with my mom in Boise and headed out with Jim and his wife, Sophie. All good. But as we drove up, up to the trail head for Blue Lake outside Cascade, Idaho, we realized something very quickly: there was an awful lot of snow on the ground. And by “a lot” I mean around five feet in many places.
The trail head had plenty of folks parked around it, and after asking around we decided that a 500 foot hike straight down to the lake would be fine. Plus it was probably not snowy down there, anyway.
Except … that it was.
Per Jim: “There’s about 90 percent more snow than I anticipated.”
Also: frozen lake. Ha.
We still had a simply fantastic time, and I’d rule my first backpacking trip a total success.
… And that’s where the real adventure started.
Since day hikes weren’t in the cards due to snow, we decided to hike out of Blue Lake after one night, rather than just sit around and look at each other and a frozen lake.
Jim found a spot known as Bomber Lake, or, more officially, Loon Lake, where a B-23 famously crash landed. It was a 10 mile round-trip hike from the camp ground we decided to use for the night. No big deal, hiking 10 miles is nothing.
The hike started out with hot, sunny weather. We saw rain clouds in the distance, but whatever. Here we are about four miles in. Don’t we look nice? It was starting to sprinkle.
And look how pretty the river is.
The next mile-plus was all uphill. We neared the top of the ridge which covered in dead trees leftover from a fire several years ago (as was the entire hike). That was all good and picturesque until what turned out not to be just rain moving in.
First came the wind, then the thunder and lightening. Those aren’t terribly comforting things when you’re surrounded by standing dead trees. They are even less comforting when you can hear trees falling around you.
Next came the torrential rain. Also fine — whatever, rain passes. Hopefully quickly.
(Not this rain.)
(We have no photos of this adventure because drowning my phone didn’t seem like a super good idea given the circumstances.)
Then came the hail. First it was pea-sized. Then it was chickpea sized.
Lightening still cracking. Wind still blowing. Tress still falling. People still wearing tank tops and now soaking wet and quickly getting very cold.
We quickly convened with Jim and Sophie behind the only living nearby tree. Please imagine your typical Christmas tree, but one that has branches that start at your waist. Now imagine four people using its tiny trunk as a hail shield. Now you can see what was happening.
“We need to get out of here,” I said.
“No bomber?” asked Jim.
“No bomber,” said Luke.
“Let’s start running.”
Jim and Sophie are awesome hikers, but they aren’t runners. I am not an awesome hiker, but I can run. Plus I was wearing my trail shoes. And Luke is an Army Ranger, so he can do anything, even in hiking boots with a small backpack.
He gave me his wind jacket. He checked to make sure Jim and Sophie, who had packed a little better and had both a coat and a rain jacket on hand, had emergency supplies — you know, just in case.
And then we ran. We ran across the ridge to get away from the lightening in the open field. We ran through pelting hail. We ran to keep our feet and chests warm. We ran over trails that had become rivers covered in water and hail. We ran down, down, down. (We walked up small ridges. Because our coolness is limited.) And still it rained.
We ran about five miles down the mountain, across the bridge, and back to the campsite. We turned on the car to warm up while Luke worked on a fire and we waited for Jim and Sophie.
They rolled in about 40 minutes later. And we decided — you know what? We’re adults. We don’t have to stay and be wet and cold and camp. We can go home if we want to.
So … we did. Rather than camp in the rain (or until the rain ended — unclear if that was ever going to happen), we put our wet selves in our car, and drove several hours home.
Thus ends the backpacking adventure of Amy, wherein she backpacked for the first time ever, got hailed on during a long hike for the first time ever, and still did not die.
We are here in Boise, Idaho for the next several days until we head out first to Tacoma, Washington then into Canada. More adventures still to come!