Our First Backpacking Trip

Allwildup’s backpacking trip 9/3 – 9/5 2021 Packwood Lake & Lost Lake in the North Cascades

As someone who likes to be in control of any given situation, planning for backpacking was an exercise in patience and letting go of control. Being unsure if there would be a dispersed campsite at the lake, if there would be a parking spot at the trailhead, if the weather would pan out, made me feel overwhelmed. Yet, all the unknowns that turned out totally fine. 

My partner Jess had been on one backpacking trip before this adventure, but with a rolling suitcase, when she was much younger. Needless to say, I don’t think that counts. We were both going out on our first backpacking trip together.

Leading up to the trip, we rounded up what gear we had and what we would need to buy. I ended up buying a pack from the Garage Sale section at REI and it fit perfectly. We bought food and a lightweight tent (ours was too heavy to carry out), among a handful of other things. We booked an Airbnb with our friends in Packwood for the night before so that we could get an early start the next morning.

I wrote about four packing lists to ensure we didn’t miss anything, and for the most part during our trip, we were good to go! We invited a couple of friends to come along with us who saved the day in terms of snacks and a water filtration system, oh, and good company. 

We decided on a trail that didn’t require us to get a permit ahead of time and was relatively simple in terms of difficulty and navigation. Packwood lake trail is about 4.5 miles to the lake from the trailhead and 1,800 ft elevation gain to the far end of the lake. 

We all woke up at 5:00 am, made breakfast and coffee, and got out the door by 6:00 am. Our Airbnb was about 15 minutes from the trailhead, which was an easy drive. The hike was beautiful, we came across a wide diversity of landscapes, saw fall colors emerging (in early September!), and passed a few friendly folks along the way. Our first views of Mt Rainier were with the sun rising directly behind it at about 6:30 am on Friday. We gradually descended to the lake, where we got our first peek. The four of us sat there in awe of the blue water, the calmness of the lake, and the stunning views of Rainier. We hiked about another half mile to a campsite that was right on the water. 

The second day, Jess and I ventured out to hike up to Lost Lake, which Alltrails said was difficult, but relatively close in terms of mileage. What we thought would be 2.5 miles to the lake, turned into 5 pretty rough, steep, miles for a 10-mile round trip.

We passed through a meadow full of wildflowers and berries where you could see Rainier through the trees, got a brief break from the steep incline, then went on for our final mile. The lake was beautiful, we warmed up some lunch, dipped our toes in, then headed back. The real reward awaited us back at camp in the form of a cold mountain lake bath and an ice-cold Sierra Nevada beer that we had put in the stream before heading up the mountain. 

On Sunday morning, we packed our gear up and headed back out to our cars. After 4.5 miles, with tired feet, we hopped in the car and stopped for a coffee and lunch on the way home. All in all, it was a fun trip with good friends, good beer, and beautiful views. 

Lessons Learned from Our First Backpacking Trip

  • We didn’t need to wake up that early to get a parking spot, but, seeing the sunrise above Rainier was well worth it. 
  • If we did it again, we would have probably just driven up that morning as opposed to getting an Airbnb the night before. 
  • I would’ve brought more, and tastier snacks, they’re worth the weight on an easier hike. We brought dried mangoes, jerky, and trail mix, but our friends’ summer sausage, Tillamook cheddar, and crackers really hit the spot. 
  • We brought powdered lemonade and that was a game-changer. Next time, I would bring some powdered hot cider mix. 
  • We did a mix of pasta sides with tuna and or chicken, and some Mountain House meals. Mountain House meals are worth the splurge. There are fewer dishes, and they’re tasty and filling on a chilly night. Make sure to pick up a chicken and dumplings one, 10/10.
  • Soap, an extra towel, and wipes are worth the weight, in our opinion. We also enjoyed having a change of clothes.
  • Buy a sleeping pad that doesn’t crinkle when you move. I bought a new sleeping pad for this trip thinking it would be comfier and more lightweight, but it was loud. Next time, I would splurge for something that attaches to the outside of my pack, or self-inflates. 

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