Wow, it has been a hot minute since I’ve sat down to write, well, anything personal. 2019 was a weird one, not to say 2020 isn’t even weirder, but one thing 2020 has given me is a much better mental health space. I found a new job, have been focusing more on my health, spent time with my recently moved family (hi mom and dad), and have thrown myself into the things I used to love. But that’s a story for another blog post, on another day.
Last month I spent a weekend backpacking for the first time in years and it was everything I hoped it would be. I had forgotten how amazing it is to wake up in the middle of the mountains and how still and truly peaceful those moments are. Sometimes it takes a little step out of a comfort zone to remind you of your favorite things. So, without further adieu, the recap to hopefully kick off some more consistent writing.
“What the Hell Am I Doing”
The first thought that went through my mind when I agreed to do this trip. It has been a while since I backpacked and on the last trek in Colorado, I cried, more times than I can count. It was hard as hell, it rained almost the entire trip, I didn’t pack my bag correctly, it was not the ideal trip. Shoutout to my friends Erinn and Malinda who did that trip with me and still stayed my friends afterward 😂
I kept reminding myself that I was in better shape than my last trip, I would remember to bring only what I truly needed, I would pack my bag correctly, and really really hope for ideal weather. After a few weeks of mentally prepping myself and hoping for the best, the time had come to pack up and head out. Spoiler alert; it was perfect.
We did a trail that lead us to Mohawk Lakes. It’s an 8.2-mile round trip hike with about 2,000 ft of elevation gain, so not necessarily easy, but absolutely beautiful. We did this trip as a simple overnight, which was great but I would easily do this as a 2-night trip as well. Above Upper Mohawk lake, there are 3 more lakes that you can explore. We camped at Lower Mohawk and were given stellar views from our quite secluded campsite.
We got to camp around noon, set up, and spent some time relaxing and soaking in the sun. As we were sitting around the tents and chatting, we noticed some white dots moving down the ridge to our left. Much to our delight, these little white dots turned into big ole’ mountain goats. Now, I say delight, because the goats were clear across the lake from us and the dogs. I think a little less delight would have been had were they coming in the direction of our campsite 🙃 We spent the next hour or so watching the goats come down the ridge to the lake to get a drink, and then head back to the ridge from which they came.
After our goat (also G.O.A.T lol) encounter, we got ready to hike to Upper Mohawk Lake. However, by the time we made it up, it was quite windy and looked like a storm was rolling in so we took some quick photos and headed back to camp for dinner. We chowed down on some delightful backpacking meals (tbh after hiking 4+ miles with 40lbs on your back, any meal is delightful) had some good laughs and turned in for an early night.
The next morning, we woke up to catch the sunrise, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. After sunrise, we took a quick little nap (not a morning person) and woke a couple of hours later for coffee, breakfast, and a little more relaxing before packing up camp and heading back down the way we came.
This trip was just the getaway I needed to recharge my batteries and remind myself of how much I love the outdoors. Mohawk Lakes is a great beginner backpacking trip as well. It’s long enough to feel accomplished, but not too long to where you feel discouraged. The views are phenomenal the entire hike, and a majority of the crowds are doing day hikes. This means you’ll have the whole lake almost to yourself from evening to morning!
Whether you’re preparing for your first backpacking trip or getting back into it after a hiatus, here’s my backpacking must-haves*!
- 60L backpack – most packs smaller than this are recommended only for day hikes and won’t give you enough space for items unless you’re doing ultralight backpacking. I, however, am not an ultralight backpacker.
- Water Reservoir – I have a 3L Platypus reservoir that I use for day hikes and backpacking trips.
- As little clothing as possible – no joke. You don’t need duplicate clothing options, and clothes add a lot of weight! Here’s what I brought for this specific trip (this list includes what I was wearing during the hike in & out):
- t-shirt x2 (one for sleeping in & hiking out)
- gym shorts
- socks x3 (an extra pair just in case)
- sports bra
- undies x2
- camp shoes
- hiking boots (on my feet)
- oatmeal & instant coffee for breakfast
- power bars for lunch
- backpacking meals for dinner
- Tent – find one that is lightweight, this most likely will not be the tent you use for car camping
- Sleeping bag – make sure this compresses small enough to fit inside of your backpack
- A lightweight daypack – I use my Cotopaxi Luzon
- Sleeping pad – I have the Klymit Static V, I’ve had it for 5 years and it still works like a dream
- tin coffee cup
* Please note that this is NOT a complete list of what to bring backpacking and should not be used as such, this is simply to help guide your packing decisions