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Poop Shovels and Potatoes: My First Backpacking Adventure

Go Jules Go Title Graphic_Poop Shovels and Potatoes My first backpacking adventure_18SEP2019

“Guessing everyone will want to bring their own poop shovel,” Kristen commented.

I scanned the Excel spreadsheet. Tarps, cook stove, First Aid kit, Kula cloth, Shee-wee…

Go Jules Go Backpacking Spreadsheet PM
I am not in Kansas Jersey anymore.

Words and phrases I’d never heard filled my eyes and ears last week as I geared up for my very first backpacking trip.

“I have -literally- nothing,” I said. “But I can bring food!”

Never underestimate a project manager in the kitchen.

The group decided it was best to keep our hike short if we had full packs, and do longer day hikes once we’d set up camp. With my experience level somewhere between, “I’m still not entirely sure how to recognize poison ivy” and “I read Wild,” I was grateful for the modest expectations. Not to mention the other four women had enough outdoor prowess to vote me off the island the minute I asked who was bringing hair spray.

If there’s one thing a native New Jerseysian can tell you about moving to Oregon, it’s this:

Buckle up. No, really. Really really.

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And bring whiskey.

Back east, I was one of the more outdoorsy people I knew. Day hiking, road cycling and the occasional marathon were my jam. By moving to Bend, Oregon in June, I quickly dropped several thousand notches. I had to trade my heels for headlamps if I wanted to survive.

Jules: Before and After Oregon. (Pssst, that’s not soup in that bowl.)

Nevertheless, backpacking was on my bucket list, and I’d be damned if I was going to let poop shovels throw me off course. I wanted tents, campfires and starlit skies, and I wanted them stat.

“Oh man, we should have consulted beforehand; this is way too much food,” Kristen said as I unloaded our provisions at our campsite, three and a half hours east of Bend.

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Just because the potatoes required their own baby Bjorn…

“Don’t you worry,” I assured her. “Uncle Jesse and I can eat our weight in tubers.”

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Including tots.

We didn’t have much time to explore before nightfall, but drank in the scenery (and the whiskey) before avocado quesadillas and the full moon took center stage.

Around 9 o’clock, long before I felt any urge to sleep, we called it a night. I tried to stay perfectly still in my borrowed sleeping bag, lest the swish-swish-swish of the “certified 18 below” fabric wake my tent mate. The temperature plummeted, my teeth rattled and my bladder screamed. And what is up with this inflatable pillow? My neck was at an exact 90 degree angle; I could see my blue toes perfectly.

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Where’s your puffy, Mom?

Eventually I gave up.

ZZZZZZZZIPPPPPPPP. “I’m so sorry,” I whispered to Erin. “I have to pee.” Uncle Jesse caused a commotion trying to follow me in the dark, and after burying my toilet paper in a “carry out bag,” I put on every item of clothing I’d brought. Eventually I managed a few hours of fitful sleep.

By 9 o’clock the next morning, after some blood (and almost tear) shed, I was ready to call it quits, along with two of the other women.

Uncle Jesse, after thinking dogs twice his size liked sharing their food.

“If you’re leaving, I think I’ll go with you,” I said, trying to sound as calm as possible. Get me the f*@& out of here!!!!!! “I’m just a little cold.”

“I don’t think we can have both dogs in the car,” the getaway car driver gently explained.

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Coffee. At least there was coffee.

I decided to stick it out, and within a couple of hours, the two remaining campers and I hit the trails and all seemed right again.

In fact, when I zipped up my sleeping bag for the second, and final, night, I thought, “I could get used to this.”

It wasn’t until the next afternoon that we found out a cougar had been roaming our camp.

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Are you more of a backpacker or a back-to-Netflix-and-running-water type? Also, is a poop shovel just a regular shovel with an R.E.I. logo? Discuss.

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humor

This Wasn’t the Plan

Go Jules Go Title Graphic This Wasnt the Plan_4SEP2019

“We’re just gonna gun it,” Erin said.

The three of us stared up the hill from the safety of Erin’s Jeep.

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“If that Sprinter van could do it, we can do it,” Other Erin said.

Less off-road-worthy vehicles lined the road, their passengers watching to see who would tackle the beast next. On the other side of the cavernous potholes sat one of the best hikes in the area.

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And in central Oregon, that’s saying something.

Erin floored it and in a matter of seconds we knew: this wasn’t happening. Other Erin hopped out of the car.

“Okay, turn your wheels this way!” she shouted, motioning with her arms. My heart raced. We were dangerously close to rolling off the edge of the road.

“Don’t worry, the trees will stop a fall,” Erin assured me.

I peered over the side of the car, clutching Uncle Jesse. I am not ready to die.

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Well, you’ve done it again, Mom.

By the time Other Erin said, “Okay, your front wheel is off the ground,” I wanted to cry.

“I’m sorry, I need to get out,” I blurted and quickly grabbed Uncle Jesse’s leash, fleeing for solid ground.

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As I scurried down the hill to join the other onlookers, overhearing Other Erin say, “Okay, now three wheels are off the ground,” I thought back to the weekend’s adventures. It was Monday, Labor Day, and I was certain I couldn’t have crammed anymore excitement into a three-day period.

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I’M GOOD.

First, there was Uncle Jesse’s inaugural 10k, after which I drank a free hard cider (because this is Oregon), promptly vomited, then hiked uphill to a picture perfect lake where a new friend floated in a unicorn raft while I watched from a hammock strung between two Ponderosa pines.

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Then I picked up some Pacific Crest Trail hitchhikers who needed a lift and ran into a family whose raft tipped in the Deschutes River rapids, waiting with them until help arrived, followed by an impromptu sing-a-long at a friend’s house. That was Saturday.

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Uncle Jesse post-10k. Show off.

Speckled between those moments were more live music, planning my first backpacking trip, skinny dipping in a lake (okay, maybe that was a spectator sport for some), and hard cider – that I did manage to keep down.

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A year ago, I was slogging away on a Masters thesis, working full-time in Corporate America, hauling my $25-a-week Trader Joe’s groceries to a third floor walk-up into a 350 square foot apartment in suburban New Jersey, scrimping and saving every penny I could. I had planned to stay in my hometown for at least three more years, until I had just the right number stockpiled in my checking account.

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Uncle Jesse finds the only place he can spread out in the tiny apartment.

A year ago, the idea of living in a place where I could hike to a new lake every day, make instant friends, and bump into neighbors on the top of a mountain (more than once), was unfathomable.

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Hey, I know you!

A year ago, I hadn’t even met the friends who would help convince me to move to Bend, Oregon, sight unseen.

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They’re very persuasive.

As I watched Steve, a stranger and Patron Saint of Pothole Navigating, climb into Erin’s Jeep and expertly back us away from certain death, I knew life had many more twists and turns in store.

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Did someone say “twists and turns”?

A short while later, the Erins and some of my other new friends toasted on the shoreline of a beautiful, almost completely private, lake. While it wasn’t the hike we’d set out to do, we couldn’t argue against our good fortune.

“To Plan B,” we said in unison.

“And Steve!”

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Steve, you really missed out. (They’re naked.)

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How has life surprised you?

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