Before OGHC ever was – – –
I met this fellow, nicknamed Pasayten, and we chatted a while about going hiking together sometime. Like many chats at social events, one can never be sure how serious the other person is about anything. I was pretty serious about locating a hiking and backpacking companion since the guy I have been backpacking with decided to hang up his pack for good.
Actually, he called me and said, “I’m selling my pack and tent.”
“Does that mean we’re through,” I asked?
“Naw,” he said, “we can still go fishing and car camping together. I’m just done with backpacking.”
OK, it’s not the end of the world. I have made solo trips many times over the years. I mean I been backpacking since I was a pre-teen, have not killed myself yet, so I figured I would just continue on. Ran into some resistance when I told my wife I was going backpacking to one of our favorite spots. I offered to carry most of the weight if she wanted to tag along, but too much up and downhill on rocky trails doesn’t appeal to her any longer. For years, we were like the dynamic duo, one season we made a dozen multi-day trips out into the Sawtooths, the Pasayten Wilderness, and the North Cascades. Anyway, that was then, and not now.
“Who are you going with,” she asked?
The concept of me going alone did not pass muster. Not because I wasn’t careful and accomplished, nor because the planned trip, trail, destination was off the beaten path — so to speak — but because I was no longer a young and foolish kid. Old and foolish was, and is, debatable. Just depends who one asks.
Anyway, because of that resistance I found myself backpacking with younger groups. I had no problem going with them although they always seemed to be in such a hurry to get wherever that they seldom really noticed much while hiking. I had been that way – destination focused and marching up trails. I also, as many other hikers, have found satisfaction as well as bragging rights by carrying big loads long distances as quickly as I could. After a couple of trips with folks about half my age, I was determined to find a peer to backpack with.
I found myself seriously emailing and messaging this Pasayten character. As it turned out, his wife was also not too happy about him taking off on solo hikes – which he had been doing. He did get and carry a ResQ beacon to help set her mind at ease, but she still — like my wife — was not completely sold on the idea. So from the exchange of messages, we determined that perhaps forming a partnership would be advantageous in several ways.
During our dialogues about a probable first hike together, Pasayten suggested we ask The Young Guy if he wanted to accompany us as he’d been wanting to get out into the hills, too. “Young” is a relative term – our Young Guy has touches of gray in hair and beard and is a grandfather like us. He was hesitant as I remember, explaining that he had not been hiking for several years, was carrying a few extra pounds not in a pack, and was not in shape. Pasayten said we’d picked a short hike to a beautiful lake that had great fishing. I believe he also mentioned that we were not in tip-top shape nor at ideal weight either.
It’s been two year plus or minus as I write this, but I do not remember being a part of the selection committee that decided upon Libby Lake. My memory of the Libby Lake trail was rocky and steep, and then rockier and steeper. I had not packed in there since my second or third year living here — 30-plus years ago.
Scheduling then became the primary objective. Pasayten and I are both retired and can take off pretty much when we want with the qualifier that we are also both married and do have certain obligations. The Young Guy was still working, though moving toward retirement. Picking dates for our adventure was accomplished after a reasonable amount of chat back and forth, a bit of pushing here and nudging there, and maybe a bit of whining – though we distinguished senior citizens hardly call it that.
Complicating life, and trip planning, was a wildfire burning in the middle of our valley, the Methow Valley of North-Central Washington. The Canyon Creek Fire is not too distant from where Libby Creek Road turns off to the west from the highway, but the fire is burning across the Methow Valley and the Methow River, and heading away from the canyon the road goes up and leads to the Libby Lake trailhead among other places. I mention the other places because I found the trailhead to Libby Lake a bit difficult to find back in the day when I first came to the Valley thirty-six years ago. I remember exploring a number of back roads and two-tracks before I found the parking area for the trail.
As it turns out, Pasayten had no problem finding the trailhead. He has a GPS unit in his truck. I felt like that is kind of cheating – removing a layer of adventure from the start of the trip, so to speak. Maybe there is also a bit of subconscious yearning that we get lost — not find the trailhead, and opt for car-camping wherever we are lost at?
Arriving at the trailhead we find some wildfire smoke present which no one wants to hike in, but it is minimal and we can see clear sky ahead. No one has forgotten their boots or gear, so we are good to go. And that is how we came together at the Libby Lake trailhead on the somewhat smoky morning in mid-July of 2017 for our first backpacking trip together — Pasayten, The Young Fellow, and me, nicknamed Gnome.