A Mother-Daughter Backpacking Trip Reveals Unexplored Territory

backpacking trip

The new ways of learning humility never cease to amaze me. Most recently my lesson occurred on a backpacking trip  with my youngest adult child, Olivia, and my friend, Laura. My definition of a backpacking trip meant hiking into the forest/wilderness/mountains several miles and spending at least one night in an area that isn’t considered a campground. It was on my bucket list.

The adventure in humility began with a simple conversation with a friend from junior high. She said, “Why don’t you come visit and we’ll go backpacking?” I said okay, thinking it would not transpire. I sent a text to my youngest daughter, assuming she would decline the opportunity to backpack for the first time with her mother and her mother’s friend. She’s 19 years old. She’s a swimmer. She’s only been hiking a few times. She probably only liked half of those hikes. Surprisingly, though, she said yes. We bought plane tickets to Idaho to begin our adventure.

My friend is like the big sister I never had. She is smart, safe and confident. She’s also very strong and tough. The day after we arrived we were set to go on an acclimatization hike. We met seven other women who were all around the age of 50. The hike was about eight miles at approximately 7500 feet. I figured this would be no problem for my daughter, and I thought of it as a bunch of old ladies going on a “short” hike. I consider myself to be pretty tough. I’m not that big, but I am in shape enough to play soccer. I can carry a paddle board, and I’ve hiked many times.

We started the hike in the drizzling rain. It was cold. The trail seemed normal, at least until we got to a boulder field. I asked my friend where the trail was and she said we were going to climb through the boulders. By now, the rest of the “old ladies” were about ten minutes ahead of us. I could see a few on the outer edges of the boulders. My daughter and I looked at each other in that way that only mothers and daughters can in these types of situations and started climbing. My friend was a little in front of us.

About an hour into the crossing, I mean 15 minutes into the crossing, a rockslide started behind us. My daughter and I again looked at each other, but not for very long because we both were probably ready to cry. I looked at my friend and said, “What are you thinking, right now? What are we supposed to do?” She said, “Keep moving.” Fortunately, the rock slide stopped and we finished with the boulders and went up the trail to beautiful Delta Lake. I was ready for a rest and to relax a little, but the old ladies had other plans.

They had waited long enough to take a picture with us. My daughter and I barely had time to catch our breath and collect ourselves before we headed down the mountain. The bouldering was so traumatic that when we neared the end of the trail and and saw a huge black bear my daughter said, “Who cares? Let’s go; I have to go to the bathroom.”

When we got back to the house I had more to think about for the upcoming “real” backpack trip. I imagine my friend had more to think about than I did. I cannot imagine what my daughter was thinking. As a way to further acclimatize, the next day we took a trip to Yellowstone National Park. No hiking that day; just sightseeing. That night, we packed our backpacks. Then, my friend did what all experienced backpackers do with inexperienced backpackers: went through my stuff and took half of it out. No special soap for me; we were all going to stink the same. You only need one “poop” shovel because we won’t all have to go at the same time. I actually wrote in my journal the night before that I hoped we’d all make it out alive and well.

We started our hike at a parking lot in Targhee National Forest, so I figured I’d be fine. How rugged could a backpack trip be if it was close to a parking lot? I humped my backpack on and we started hiking. I had my Apple watch, so I could see our pace. I was blazing at 45 minute miles. We made it five miles. Five miles. The plan was to camp there, then day hike the next day ten miles with a 2,000 foot altitude gain. After that, we’d spend the night again, then hike out the long way to make it a 10 mile hike out.

We made camp. Actually, Laura made most of the camp and Olivia and I collected firewood. When Laura showed us how to tie the tent down, we did it, then she redid it. We spent the night in a small, three person tent. It was cozy.

The next day, we set out on our day hike. We stopped for lunch at this beautiful lake in the middle of an amazing area covered in all kinds of flowers with streams coming on from several directions. I asked Laura if we were going to go ahead and do “the big hike” on Hurricane Pass. Laura said “No.” She thought it might be too windy. In actuality, I have a feeling she thought we might get stuck on Hurricane Pass considering our blazing pace. We hiked back to camp using another trail. Everything we saw was beautiful, regardless of the fact that I no longer considered myself Grizzly Adams.

We made a campfire and ate our “backpack” food. I checked backpacking off my bucket list. Olivia laid in her hammock and only jumped a little when I sneaked up on her and scared her. She was great! She’d hiked the whole way with blisters forming on her heels and carried the extra weight of the bear canister.

The next day, we made our plan to hike out and this plan included not adding on the longer route. We really enjoyed the trip, but I’d also learned my limit. I can only carry about ten pounds comfortably on my back. My daughter can only carry her pack AND my extras for so long. My friend carried a 30 pound pack.

Ultimately, my daughter and I came home with awesome memories. We also came home with a stronger relationship created by being in a situation where we had to navigate many challenges we hadn’t experienced before. We learned our levels of “toughness.” I think we both came away with a new kind of respect for each other. She shouldered a lot of the physical burden just so we could have an adventure, and I swallowed my pride and let her so that I didn’t risk overdoing it and getting hurt. We both gained the confidence of getting out of our comfort zones.

We both feel lucky.

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