After months of preparation, the time for our first backpacking trip was finally upon us.
I spent the better part of the day before packing everyone’s packs and checking things off my list. I like to keep checklists for packing because otherwise I go crazy worrying that I forgot some random item. Lists help me stay sane. I also had my eye on the weather forecast, but what was showing up earlier in the week as potential thunderstorms had diminished into possible scattered showers and summery temperatures, so things seemed good to go.
When I took out his backpack and loaded it up with treats, dog food, poop bags, and his favorite bone, Patronus started to get excited. When I took his sleeping bag out of its storage sack to put into its stuff sack, he pretty much went crazy. Patronus has a weird obsession with sleeping bags, and he knows that the pink one is his. As soon as I laid it out on the floor he pounced onto it, rolled around, and refused to move. Never underestimate his love for sleeping bags.
After work we loaded up the car and hit up the Taco Bell drive thru for me and then Burger King for Luke. It was a long day and we needed a quick meal that we could easily eat before setting out to hike. Finally, we were on our way!
Since this was our first backpacking trip together, I chose a trail that wasn’t ridiculously far away and had relatively short distances (just a few miles) between the different campsites.
When we finally arrived at the parking lot and got checked in, we took a few minutes to get all three of our packs situated and our trekking poles deployed before hitting the trail.
Unfortunately, one thing we did forget to do was apply our bug spray, and there were copious amounts of mosquitoes along the trail. Luckily, we only had about one mile to hike before reaching our first campground.
There was still just enough daylight left to set up camp when we arrived at our campsite. Patronus drank some water, hunted for bugs, and munched on some dog food and treats while Luke and I made quick work of getting our tent set up and the gear laid out inside. The three of us spent some time hanging out at the picnic table before getting annoyed enough with the bugs to call it a night.
I was a little unsure of how Patronus was going to handle sleeping in a tent, as Great Pyrenees are known to be big time “night barkers”, but luckily he slept like a rock and only barked once, when some kind of giant bird made a loud noise right outside our tent early in the morning. I will say, though, that he is a MAJOR tent hog.
Nobody was really hungry in the morning, so Luke and I settled for instant coffee and stashed a couple granola bars into the hipbelt pockets of our packs in case we wanted a snack on the trail. (Spoiler alert: we never got to eat them.) After making friends with a few of the other campers, Patronus enjoyed a quick breakfast while the two of us got everything packed up before hitting the trail for our longest mileage day of the trip. This time, we remembered to use bug spray!
For the most part the trail was sandy and rocky with lots of rolling hills. The path wound deep into a forest, skirted small lakes, and had a few wooden footbridges over creeks and rivers.
The air was muggy and the woods were full of mosquitoes, but the sky was overcast for most of the day, which helped a little. Patronus probably enjoyed exploring the woods the most out of all of us. Being a type of mountain dog, and having lots of day hikes under his belt, the hills seemed like hardly any effort for him. Every so often we stopped and made sure to give him a drink of water and maybe a treat or two.
There was a water pump listed on our map a little more than halfway through the day’s hike. Luke and I decided that once we got to the pump, we would break for lunch. We filled up Patronus’ collapsible bowl with some cold pump water, gave him another bowl of dog food, took off our hiking boots, and sat down to enjoy some food. Just as soon as we all got situated, it suddenly began to downpour. There was nowhere particularly good to set up a shelter, and it was only raining, so Luke decided that we should put on our rain gear, pack up, and keep hiking until it cleared up or we reached our next campsite.
After hiking a little further we reached our last road crossing for the trip, then checked the weather report and discovered that a heat advisory and air quality warning would be in effect for the following day. Now we were faced with making a really hard decision. Should we keep hiking or should we bail?
As much as I really wanted to camp one more night and hike the rest of the trail, I decided to follow Luke’s judgment call and bail out on the rest of the hike. While I had zero complaints about any of my gear and I really would have loved to keep going, plus Patronus seemed to be having a blast, it wasn’t worth putting him at risk by hiking in dangerous conditions.
The air quality the next day was extremely awful, so bailing was probably the right decision.
We definitely do look forward to coming back another time to hike the entire trail, though.