Last June, I didn’t get nearly enough hiking done to prepare myself for the backpacking season. Not a mistake I was going to repeat this season!

We drove out to Sheep Creek on a Tuesday night; I had Wednesday off of work so we spent the night and got up relatively early to go on a training hike. I would be going up to the peak of 6125, and Ambrose would be doing a shorter hike. Usually, he would keep hiking until I came back around and caught him, but this time he was going to turn back when he felt like it. That way, he wouldn’t be too exhausted to drive us home afterwards.

Ambrose brought a camera along this time.

The trailhead!

In some ways, I didn’t really want to do the hike. I knew it was going to be hard – especially because I had decided to use a 32 pound pack for training. That’s about the weight that I’m expecting to start my Idaho Centennial Trail hike with this year, though the load will be balanced quite differently on that trip. On this trip, I used my weekend pack, with some actual hiking gear (mostly the ten essentials) and a lot of weight in the form of sandbags. I didn’t load them as well as I could, so all the weight was at the bottom – not an ideal way to carry a pack.

It took me a while to figure out the best way to adjust my pack for hiking, but it never got to a point of being ideal. My shoulders hurt pretty much out of the gate, and my calves hurt, no doubt in part due to the number of double unders that I did at CrossFit on Monday.

We started out the hike together, and though I wanted to get ahead of Ambrose quickly that plan got tossed less than a half mile into the hike when I came across a rattlesnake on the trail. I almost walked around it and went on, but then I decided to wait until Ambrose got there so I could help him avoid the partially hidden snake. I thought it was taking a nap, but Ambrose thought it was waiting for a meal to walk by, so I’m glad I waited.

Lovely view while the trail is near the road.

See the snake?

How about now?

Then it was time to set out and not look back. After all, I’d told Ambrose I was confident I could do the hike with a loaded pack and be back in time for lunch. I knew he’d understand if I didn’t, but I didn’t want to fail.

Okay, I know it wouldn’t have been a failure to turn back. But I really wanted to get that peak!

But first I had to make my way along the creek for about a mile. Then down to cross Sheep Creek on a nice bridge. After that, a small climb up to a beautiful meadow that was bright green and bursting with flowers.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so green out there – especially in June.

The trail has a quite a few nice views to offer.

After the bridge, I took a snack break. Ambrose later told me he waited to see me exit this area and was surprised at how long I took. 

No time to stop and dig for this flower’s edible bulb – not this time.

I was truly not used to seeing so much green here!

And then the pain began.

The hike up to 6125 is scenic. It’s beautiful and convenient to get to. And it features a hellacious climb. In a bit less than 3 miles, the trail climbs about 2300 feet. That makes for a long stretch of steep climbing on rocky trails that like to slide under my feet.

It can be difficult to capture just how steep this hike is. 

Easier to show how loose the dirt of the trail is. 

The trail winds its way around this ridge.

Just when you think it’s over, it switchbacks.

Almost to the next rest spot…

I took a picture of my feet to mark when I arrived at the couch.

I focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes I count steps, but this time I mostly just spent the time thinking. Just mulling over life and work and what comes next. I thought about taking my brother and nieces on a camping trip, that I’d take them up to Kennally Creek campground outside of Donnelly, bring them to the Gold Fork Hot Springs, offer an overnight in the woods if the girls wanted to try it. Day hiking, maybe over to the spot where Ambrose and I got faced down by a wolf one time.

I don’t like to take breaks on that long stretch of trail, because stopping means I have to start up again. I usually take standing breaks when I reach a spot of relative flatness, but no sitting until I reach “the couch” which is not the end of the climb, but is a bit of a longer flat spot. It’s the spot where Ambrose and I stopped the first time we did this hike, we were completely worn out.

I gleefully sat my butt down in the dirt when I got there, and got out a snack. Eating is important when hiking! Even – perhaps especially – when you don’t feel that hungry. Though I did feel hungry at that point.

After that, I had to do a bit more climbing, but I also got some downhills to break things up. By this point, my calves were just balls of pain, but I kept going. I was almost there…

There’s still some climbing to be done.

But the views improve. 

Large views, and small views.

Almost to the last junction…

Traditionally, I consider this pile of rocks to be the end point of my 6125 hikes. 

Amazing to look back down towards Sheep Creek…

And I did make it to the top, but not in nearly the time that I had hoped. There was no way I was going to make it back to the car before lunch. I was conscious of the time, but I had to reward myself with a snack and a pack off break at the peak. I also looked over the edge to see if I could spot Ambrose on the trail below, but I didn’t see anyone on the trails.

On an out and back hike, it always feels good to get to the turnaround point. On this hike, it’s especially sweet because after the turnaround there’s barely any climbing to do. I mean, I like climbing, but you can get tired of anything if you have too much of it.

I’ve only hiked along this ridge once – for this trip, it’s a right turn.

Twin Springs is down there. 

At the couch, I stopped again for a break. Here, I took my socks off and started hiking in my shoes without socks. My feet were hurting by that point, and I wanted so much to wet them down in the stream crossing before the bridge. I figured I could hike sockless without any issues.

I was happy to find that my right leg did not start up with the ilio-tibial band issue. If I don’t run regularly, then downhills tend to make it flare up. In short, again, running consistently is good for me.

I had a couple of scares hiking down the steep section when the dirt rolled under my feet, but I managed to avoid any falls this time. As I got lower down, I could see the Sheep Creek trail and I scanned for Ambrose, but didn’t see him. I did see two people hiking in on the trail with packs, but not for long.

Going down.

Every step gets me closer. 

There are two very tiny people in this picture.

When I got to the stream, I sat down on a rock and let my poor feet soak in the cold water. The only thing I forgot to do at that point was to wet my hat. I regretted that later.

Water so cold, but feels so good.

Yeah, I was hot.

Back across the bridge, I’m practically there.

After crossing the bridge, I encountered a man carrying a tripod and had a brief conversation with him; I also saw a woman setting up a tent, but didn’t speak with her (pretty sure she didn’t see me). then it was just a simple hike back to the car. I made it back to the car before 2, which Ambrose reminded me was not before lunch as I had bragged I could do – in my defense, I would have been a lot faster without the fully loaded pack…

Still some climbing to do, but I can convince myself it isn’t that bad after what I’ve already done.

Wild roses.

I’m keeping an eye out for that snake now.

It’s nice to be able to see the road; I know I’ll only have one more small climb at this point.

It felt soooooo good to get to the car!

I was so hot that I could hardly speak to Ambrose – I’d run out of water about two miles from the car. I walked directly into the river, stripping off most of my clothes and dumping them near Ambrose, who was sitting on the bank waiting for me. I didn’t quite submerge in the river (too cold), but I got a good rinse and cooled off a bit. Then Ambrose fed me lunch and I got to break down the tent and he drove us home.

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