Backpacking: Roughing Mom’s Day

THURSDAY, MAY 22, 2014

This is the third in a series of stories from a fledging backpacker’s perspective as he learns what it takes to be a mountaineer.

As it turned out, Riverside State Park was the perfect setting for Mother’s Day brunch.

And I was the chef.

Coffee, my dear? Just let me boil this water with my new liquid-fuel stove. … Yes, that was a big flame, but my eyebrows needed a trim anyway.

The entrée: oatmeal with blueberries, rehydrated and cooked to order. Bon appétit!

Sorry, I forgot to leave a chocolate on your inflatable pillow. Next time, darling.

Whether by accident or design, the Spokane Mountaineers Backpack School chose Mother’s Day weekend for a two-day, one-night getaway at the Bowl and Pitcher, a romantic shakedown cruise of sorts for the novice backpacker.

Not that we didn’t get shaken down already at three retailers as we prepared for the first hands-on event of the six-week course.

Don’t get me wrong: The prices were reasonable and the service impeccable. And just as she does at Nordstrom, my wife has a personal shopping assistant at REI.

His name is Kurt, and he patiently showed us all the stuff … and the stuff where you put your stuff: ditty sacks, compression sacks, dry sacks, wet sacks – none of them made of cellophane.

That only added to the final price tag, so we opted to rent our tent, a two-person half-dome complete with poles. That was the first thing I checked, since my first family camping trip – in Seattle – I brought the kitchen sink but forgot the tent stakes.

Soon we were on the trail. As 20 of us embarked on a 3-mile hike, I finally noticed, after 30 years of life in Spokane, that the two rock formations in front of me really do resemble a bowl and a pitcher.

I also realized that a backpack is nothing more than a gigantic purse. How else to explain how women seem to have every space filled with just what they need, while I still can’t remember where I put my trail mix?

The trip was easy enough. It was “undulating,” to coin a favorite backpacking word. That means I managed not to fall on my keister while carrying a 32-pound pack – which would have been doubly embarrassing, as some truly petite women were carrying at least that much.

Mountaineers also carry a can-do attitude. When we hit the 2-mile mark – which was the original plan – everyone shouted, “Let’s keep going!”

Two hours later we returned to the trailhead, conveniently located about 20 yards from our car. We picked a nice spot, grabbed our tent parts and then stood helpless to figure out how they fit together.

But mountaineers are helpful folk. Miles, Greg and Susan all helped us pitch the tent before I had a chance to pitch a fit.

Next: the final steps

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