Firsts in Firsts… Planning My Own Backpacking Trip for the FIRST Time, in the World’s FIRST National Park!
The person in front of that backpack is me this past weekend, on my first-ever overnight backpacking trip where I was the sole planner of the whole outing, and let me tell you: it was stressful. But it was also amazing.
This one-night trip was part of my self-imposed preparation for my upcoming Colorado Trail hike (a trail that goes from Denver to Durango with an average of 10,000 feet). I decided it was finally time for me to go out in the wilderness all alone.
Except, not really all alone, but only with people less experienced than me. Which, in terms of putting yourself on the hook for making sure you know how to pack, is essentially the same as going alone. Oh, and I decided this first trip just had to be in Yellowstone – about an hour and a half drive from my Aunt and Uncle’s ranch in Bozeman, Montana.
I spent about four days planning this trip: choosing the route, getting out backpacks, making several trips to REI (for parachord, first aid supplies, and a scoop to dig holes for… you know what), and calling the ranger’s office in Yellowstone to reserve us a backcountry site. I stuffed bags full of food, put up and tested both new and old equipment, and I tried really really really hard to keep all this a secret from my boyfriend. He was flying in from Grand Rapids, Michigan on Thursday with absolutely no idea that on Friday, he would spend the night on the banks of the Yellowstone River.
I was stoked – and terrified – for Friday. The day when I would go out towards the Black Canyon of Yellowstone with two people very dear to me (a boyfriend and a great friend). Who would be depending on my planning.
Friday came, though, and with a final check and a prayer to the Universe, Nadia (long-time friend and first-time backpacker), Steffano (the newly-arrived boyfriend), and I left Bozeman to set off toward Yellowstone. With us, we only had three backpacks filled only with gear I had deemed necessary. Nothing more, nothing less. We drove down Paradise Valley drinking an excessive amount of Spindrifts in preparation for our short over-night hike (and wondering if, perhaps, we could get Spindrift to sponsor us), and we arrived at the entrance of Yellowstone Park only to sit in wonder at Gardiner Market as hail and lightning smacking the nearby hills.
Not the perfect start to our outing.
I looked at the radar – and the sky – and they both told me it would be clear if we kept driving east toward the Blacktail Deer Creek Trailhead, so we drove for another 25 minutes east to where it…. was just starting to clear.
After sitting in the car for 15 minutes, the sky was clear enough to be safe, so we grabbed our backpacks, our water bottles, our long pants, and rain gear (it dropped 25 degrees in an hour). And… we started walking towards the Yellowstone River. The sky was moody, and the occasional roar of faraway thunder would ripple across the sky, terrifying me but thrilling my walking mates. We walked for 1.5 glorious hours across great rolling plains of green grass and sagebrush, sang July by Noah Cyrus down a canyon of lodge-pole pine, and finally, meandered along the Yellowstone River to our campsite: 1Y8.
It was absolutely amazing.
At camp, we cooked, played the ukulele (a classic I always bring with me whenever I hike), and we ate a lot: maybe too much. I ate the rest of my Justin’s peanut butter jar, and Steffano and Nadia downed an entire baguette and two rolls of summer sausage. We heated Raman, and we were excessively diligent about spilling nothing so that the grizzlies wouldn’t come eat us. Dusk crept red up the river valley and then up the mountains, and we all crawled into our tents late, listening to that wild river.
The next morning, we woke up, filtered some water, ate some oatmeal, packed up, and packed out. We had four miles uphill to go before reaching our car, and somehow – we’re not quite sure – it felt easier than the day before. Before we knew it we were back at the car, and I was relieved to know we’d had everything we needed: enough food, water, utensils, stoves, sleeping bags, waterproof tents, etc. I’d done my job.
I’d consider that trip a success.
There were definitely a few holes in my planning, I’ll admit it now. Like, if it had rained hard, Nadia might’ve been screwed in the tent we had for her. Also, we didn’t have a real rain cover for her pack.
But, we did what matters: we got out into the Yellowstone backcountry for a night. And MAN! Was it beautiful!!! Peace and quiet, a little bit of fear of bears, and lots of beauty.
It’s nice to know that I am capable of planning an overnight hike, and going out in the wilderness whenever I want, at the drop of a hat. This weekend proved to me that I now have the gear, the smarts, and the experience to be able to do that. It’s pretty awesome spending your weekends alongside the Yellowstone River, secluded and alone with just a few of your favorite people around you.
I guess now we have to start planning for next weekend.
P.S. 29 days until I start the Colorado Trail!
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Way to go, Ada! A successful trip and a great surprise for Steffano!