East Fork River: Losing My Backpacking Virginity

July 17, 2014

There are two kinds of backpacking, the traveling kind where you carry a backpack as you travel the world, plane, train, boat, or bus jumping from hostel to couch to hotel, then there is backpacking backpacking.  The kind where you carry your shelter, food, and clothes on your back as you traverse the natural landscape, trudging through rivers, over boulders, bush waking your own path.

This week I did the later… and it was amazing.

I have done quite a bit of hiking, but this was my first ever rugged backpacking experience.  We started out our hike on the PCT right at the trail head up to Baden Powell in the San Gabriel Mountains.  We got there late Sunday night after leaving one of our cars at the end of the trail or the normal start to the Bridge to no-where hike.

After setting up camp next to the road, we headed to bed although I don’t think any of us really slept.  Between being woken up by late night Baden Powell hikers to Big Horn Sheep coming down from the mountain, we got little shut eye.

Ether way we were up around 7 or so, and after eating and packing up, we hit the trail around 8:30.  The first couple of miles of trail were easy as we descended into the river valley.  We stopped by an old cabin that had once been occupied by a prospector/big-game hunter/murder who lived there for 50 years to escape the law.

Once we reached the valley we zig-zagged along the dry and rocky river bed thanking god for the overcast sky and little bit of drizzle we were getting.  My friend Kyle, our fearless leader, was rocking his bug net in style while the rest of us suffered some minor bites, probably brought on by the “bug repellent” that Jack kept spraying.

After heading down river a few miles we came across an old plane crash from the 60’s (I think) An old two seat glider had crashed years ago, and although both people walked away with minor injuries, the plane was unsalvageable and its remains sit scattered among the rocks of the river bed. A perfect spot for some lunch (aka a tuna party) and some bug watching (giant ants love beef jerky apparently.)

Heading on we reached a 4 mile stretch which now I am fondly calling hell.  With absolutely no path and lots of overgrown trees with little back worms all over them, we bolder jumped and bush waked our way down the increasingly wet river.  Now I don’t know what kind of worms these were but I’m gonna take an educated guess and say they are not natural for this eco-system because they were literally destroying everything! All the trees and plants were literally (being used in the literal meaning of literally) being consumed by these worms. And lucky for us they were now in our hair, on our clothes and down our neck (YAY!)

After about 3 of the 4 miles the trees started getting supper sticky adding a nice little option for us, do I let the worm tree hit my face or the sap tree, awesome! Haha but eventually the 4 miles ended and we were at our beautiful campsite.

We arrived around 4 and we were wrecked, after getting a fire started and setting up camp I think most of us took naps, I know I did.  After a little down time we filtered and refilled our water from the handy little river and we made some dehydrated spag bols, and chili mac and cheese.  For dehydrated space food they were actually excellent and I would definitely recommend both of those meals.

Sleeping that night was so much easier, at least for me.  I hit my tent and was out.  But all did not go so well for the rest.  Jim, who had decided to make his hammock as high as he could, realized he had to pee at 3 in the am.  Carefully descending from his bat cave he landed on the ground right next to a raccoon who freaked out and started running in circles.  Eventually this ended when the coon figured out how to run away from the tall, long haired, mountain man in front of him, and the camp settled back to sleep.

The next morning was a bit rougher then the previous as we were all tired, and I know I was sore as fuck.  Starting off I had the balance and ability of a two year old learning to walk, and , as a result, flung my body and my unbalance center of gravity nearly into the river a few times.  Finally getting sick of rock jumping, I followed Jim’s lead and just walked straight through the shallow river.  Aided by my new Gandalf stick, We traversed through another 4 and half miles of no trail till we reached the Bridge to Nowhere.

After taking a nice relaxing dip in the water, and another tuna powered lunch, finished the last 4 miles, got our in-n-out victory burgers, and shuttled back to our cars.

Such an amazing hike, it was very hard at some points, and carrying a heavy pack only made the trek more difficult. Personally I felt like I really pushed myself on this one and am very proud to have accomplished it.  I know I eventually want to do bigger and bader things, and taking these first steps is the beginning to accomplishing those goals.

My friend Kyle and the organizer of this hike made an awesome video of our adventures.  He has gopro’ed many of our hikes in the past and is very talented, if you get a chance you should check out his videos.

What I learned:

1. I need to hydrate more all the time and not just on hikes.

2.  I need to do Yoga or some kind of stretching regiment to keep by body limber and keep my self from getting hurt.

3. I need to eat more fruits and veggies, cutting out processed foods and sugars.

4.  I need to invest in good shoes and a sleeping pad.

5.  I need to do this regularly so I can stay in shape and build up my stamina to go further and longer.

6.  Bring fruit on the trail, nothing is better at the end of the day.

7. Pack smart, pack less.

8.  Eat something small when you get to camp, wait a few hours then eat your dinner (this is just for me personally) I waste more by eating my dinner right away and not being fully hungry because I am still calming down from the days hike.

9.  Tuna is great on the go.

Erica
More about Erica

Californian living in the UK. Erica is currently pursuing her PhD in Historical Geography at the University of Sussex. She is a writer and a researcher, a dirtbag and an explorer. Heart of the Nomad is her creative space to contemplate the complexities of life and share pictures and videos from adventures.

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