Leave it to Steamboat Springs for you to drive an hour outside of town, hike for two hours in the wilderness and still see several people you know along the way.
That was the case when my fiance, Erik, and I decided to go on our first backpacking trip in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area.
Aug. 17 was the day I celebrated moving to Steamboat five years ago, so I figured there’d be no better way to celebrate than going on this adventure with my soon-to-be husband.
With our wedding getting close, we seem to be testing our relationship with days filled with Erik teaching me how to drive our new manual transmission car (which resulted in a few moments of me cursing about the reason behind buying it), teaching me how to golf and now trekking into the woods with several pounds on my back.
After asking around to several co-workers, we settled on Gold Creek Lake, one of the many places I still haven’t visited that has been on my local bucket list.
When I moved to Steamboat to work for the newspaper, I was convinced I would be backpacking several times during the summer.
So I bought an Osprey pack and studied my “Hiking the ‘Boat II” book by Diane White-Crane like a good student.
But until Aug. 17, that Osprey pack only has been used for several trips flying back to my hometown in Michigan.
So here we finally were, with our dog, Sadie, in tow.
Erik and I try to camp as often as we can, and without the luxury of having the car nearby, I was curious as to how we were going to pack everything. So on Saturday night, we got our packs out and everything that would go in it.
On Sunday morning, we loaded up the car and headed out to Seedhouse Road.
Considering that it was a Sunday, I didn’t think the parking lot would be full, but it certainly was. We had to park down along the road and get ready for our trek from there.
The hike starts at the Slavonia Trailhead. A few minutes in, we hit the sign-in book, and then we were on our way along trail No. 1150 to Gold Creek Lake.
The trail was as beautiful as several friends had described.
There were a few waterfalls along the way, which provided for some nice photo opportunities, and the trail wasn’t very technical, which is especially nice when you’re carrying a large bag.
I heard from a few people that during the early part of the season, there are sections where the creek runs high over the trail, making some crossings either a wet or difficult one, but since it is August, we didn’t run into any problems.
The only tricky part was a large log that worked as a bridge to get across the creek about halfway into the hike. Erik got across no problem, but I was more nervous. The weight of the pack on my back made me feel as if I could tip over at any point, and with a very expensive camera around my neck, I was even more nervous.
After that, Erik joked about how he now had more appreciation for the people who hike the Pacific Crest and Appalachian trails for the entire summer.
So we took a break, and Erik complained about the weight of his pack. I was feeling pretty good about mine, so I didn’t understand what was making his heavier.
But that was when he told me he had packed an additional six-pack of beer on top of our trusty Fireball.
It’s heavy? No kidding.
Soon enough, we made it to the lake, hiked in a bit more and found a great place to settle in and set up camp.
Once we had everything set up, we grabbed the fly rod and headed to the lake.
First cast in, Erik had a brookie on the line.
We took turns with the fly rod catching trout while working our way full circle around the lake. They weren’t large, but they were feisty and fun to catch.
When we got back to camp, we got the fire going, cooked dinner and lounged in the hammock watching the stars.
The next morning, we packed up, ate our granola bars, had one more fishing session at the lake and enjoyed an easy, downhill hike back to the car.
I’d say that was one successful first backpacking trip.
What I learned
Considering that we don’t have the “best” stuff to go backpacking with, I think we did a pretty good job all around. But here were some of our takeaways:
• We got a freeze-dried meal, which was easy and actually delicious. We had several friends give us a hint that we should not bring canned goods, so we went with Mountain House chicken fajitas. The tortillas we had to bring along were worth it and made the meal more filling.
• The hammock was also another great idea. Since we are used to having camping chairs, this was a nice alternative. We set it up between two trees near the fire, and because it was a doublenest Eno, we were both able to sit in it, though sometimes uncomfortably. Typically, we would swap who sat in it, and Erik made an interesting rock seat for the other option.
• Maybe don’t bring a six-pack of beer.
• A friend had offered her water purification system, and I will definitely accept that offer next time. We hauled quite a bit of water with us, and we didn’t run out, but it would have been nice to not have to carry all of that.
• We might be looking into a lighter, smaller tent. Right now, we own a Sierra Designs three-person tent, which is great because it’s extremely easy to put up and gives a little more room for the dog. But if we were to continue to backpack, that extra room and excess weight would need to go.
Erik and I already are planning our next trip. If you have any suggestions about where we should go next, email me at lmazade@SteamboatToday.com.