The last weekend in May was the first one that my husband and I went on an actual backpacking trip. Truly the first trip of the season – our shakedown trip.

We drove out to Sheep Creek on Friday after I got off of work. We hiked out one mile along Sheep Creek and set up our new backpacking tent. The plan was to spend two nights there, taking a nice long day hike on Saturday.

Looking down towards the Middle Fork on the way up to Sheep Creek.

One of my last glimpses of Ambrose until he made it to camp.

Some genius decided to completely ignore the established fire pit in favor of digging a new one right where I would normally be pitching my tent. Grrrr!

The new tent! A Hexmid Duplex by Z-packs. Expensive, lightweight and, so far, awesome. Also my sleeping pad is inside and the not strictly necessary groundcloth Ambrose made from birdseed bags is underneath.

I was glad, though not surprised, to see that the spot near the creek was available. Even when summer is in full swing, we don’t often see people camped in this area. The new fire pit, about five feet from the old fire pit, was annoying, but I got the tent set up started before Ambrose joined me.

Once the tent was up and our gear arranged for the evening, we settled in to get some sleep. And I found spending the night in that tent to be, if anything, a bit too warm. Certainly warmer than I expected, considering it has mesh areas that don’t get covered.

In the morning, there was no set wake up time, but Ambrose tends to be an early riser. And I knew that once the sun hit the trail it would be unbearably hot. So we ate breakfast and set off. Ambrose was planning to hit 6125 while I would continue on the trail rather than turning up to that peak and then heading back. It was to be a chance for me to explore trail on my own as well as increase the distance of my day hike.

Somehow, I had forgotten how horrible the first couple miles of that particular trail is.

Either that or it’s gotten worse.

Although the sky remained blessedly overcast, the steepness of the trail caused me to soak my clothing with sweat within minutes.

Yay clouds!

It really is steeper than it looks. 

I do like these wild roses. I think that’s what they are. That’s what I’m calling them.

I promised myself a pack off break when I reached the ridgeline, where the worst of the uphill would be over. And when I got there, I enjoyed taking a few moments to sit on the dirt with my pack off and eat a caffeine powered gel. Not to mention I had a pretty nice view.

Not a bad view… oh, look!


The trail seemed to elongate as I hiked on, although my pack was relatively light. I just didn’t remember how long it meandered before the cutoff to 6125. One point of entertainment was a family of raptors. They had built a nest within sight of the trail and were advertising the fact by constantly screeching at me.

I wouldn’t have even noticed this if the birds hadn’t been so vocal. 

And then it was time to strike off into the unknown. Well, unknown to me.

Trail untraveled by my feet.

Part of the reason that we never went down this trail is that it goes downhill, and the last thing we wanted to do after humping up to 6125 was lose elevation and then have to turn around and climb back up. So, I had the impression that this would be a downhill trending trail and set off with that expectation. Still optimistic, I took a moment to record some pretty birdsong.

And then the trail gave me a little surprise.

This was supposed to be all downhill!

Despite my expectations, there were a few steep hills to conquer on my way down to Corral Creek.

At least the map was honest about the intermittent nature of Corral Creek. My first sight of it was a dry bed with ample vegetation. I was a little concerned that I’d have to turn back and make do with the water that I was carrying.

Heading down to Corral Creek.

There may have been water here at one time.

But as the trail flattened out, I heard the telltale trickle and spotted enough water to continue on. The creek was very shallow, so it would be a pain to get water into my squeeze bag, but I could do it. Worst case scenario, I would use my small Nalgene bottle to scoop water into the bag, dirtying the bottle, but I mostly drink from my bladder anyway.

There’s water!

Oh, and the sun came out for a bit 

I hiked on until the trail forked and then checked the time on my camera. I wanted to stop for lunch no later than 11:30am and turn around after eating. It was about 11:15am, so I turned down the fork, crossing a wide spot in the creek, and explored another intermittent creek.

I have no idea what that chopped wood is doing there.

This seemed like a good spot for lunch.

I didn’t go far before sitting down in a meadow to eat. Peanut butter and jelly in a tube on tortillas tasted very good after the morning’s exertions.

I tried to pinpoint my location with my map and compass and did what I consider a satisfactory job, although I’m not quite certain that I didn’t go off my map. The trail fork that I followed definitely wasn’t on my map, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t in the area that the map covered. It might be a new trail.

Or I might have been kind of lost.

Creek crossing

After I ate, I headed back to the creek crossing. I figured I could fill my water there more easily than the narrow spots upstream. I could, but it wasn’t because of the wide spot – I found a “waterfall” about 10 inches high that allowed me to angle my bag and fill it almost all the way up.

On the way down, I’d made sure to go slowly, because I didn’t want to take longer going back than heading out. On the way back up, I stepped more quickly. I wanted to get back to the tent and relax. By my reckoning, Ambrose should be well on his way back by this point and I wanted to see him.

Heading back to 6125.

Not long before I reached the 6125 cutoff, I heard the rumble of motors. I watched for a good place to step off the trail, and, when I saw a motorcycle ahead of me, I stepped off and waited. Two rode by and I felt just a tiny kernel of bitter hatred at the way motorcycles create awful, horrible, no good for hiking single track on these trails.

But then I moved on, eager to take another quick break at the 6125 cutoff.

Yup, the birds were still hanging out.

At this point, the clouds began to look a little more threatening. I swore I felt a few drops on my arms, but it could have been sweat. Still, I hurried my steps as much as I could down to the saddle.

And then I had to remember that no matter how much I hated going up that steep trail, I hated going down it worse.

The possibility of falling is omnipresent. The rocks are like ball bearings and the trail is often ground down to the width of a motorcycle tire, forcing me to walk heel to toe. Oh, and the one down side of the new tent is that it uses trekking poles instead of tent poles, so I only had one for the day hike.

I am pleased that I only almost fell once, despite my hurry.

I almost motored right past this surprise.

A very long snake, though not a rattler. 

It slithered off uphill. 

As I wound my way down the trail, I thought that I heard Ambrose hooting. But that would be silly. He was surely already at camp by now, right?


In the distance I saw him, and, seeing him, knew I could catch him.

And I did!

So I made it back to camp about ten minutes ahead of him and proceeded to be a total slug for the rest of the day.

The next morning, we took our time striking camp and then hiked out.

All in all, a successful shakedown backpack.

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