17 February 2015

I bet even the Dalai Lama has a bad day every now & then......

This thought crossed my mind several times on my most recent backpack in Joyce Kilmer - Slickrock Wilderness. 

Well, to be honest, more than several times because I was having a rough time that day. 

The day had started with me & Brian's normal "Where are we backpacking this weekend?" conversation. The weather was kinda iffy & I wanted to bring the mutt with me, so we decided to take the "easy" route to our favorite campsite near the Hangover. The Forest Service routinely closes secondary roads in the winter for resource protection so the shortest (but very steep) trail we normally hike was not accessible. This would be a new trail for me & while it had been a while since he had hiked it, Brian thought it would be a little easier since you start from a  higher elevation. We figured out a potential loop & the trip was on!

We met at the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest to drop one vehicle at the lower trailhead & headed up to Maple Springs Overlook to begin on Deep Creek Trail. The weather had improved drastically - lovely blue skies although it was a little cooler than forecast. The trail started out fairly easy despite being uphill. 

I had packed my backpack a little heavier than usual  since I was not sure how cold it was going to be up high & on an overnighter I really like to eat fresh food rather than the typical dehydrated stuff. I figured it wouldn't matter much as my expectation was we were doing very low miles Saturday.

As I trudged along the trail began to get steeper. Then the snow appeared. A lot more snow & ice than I expected & my trusty micro spikes were back in the 'E. This is when my attitude began to slip almost as much as my boots. 

There is a reason that almost every map or guidebook for Joyce Kilmer - Slickrock says to be sure to bring a topo map & compass when on these rugged trails. This area is maintained as a wilderness so there are no blazes & very minimal signage. There is also no correlation between the Nat Geo, USGS Quad & Forest Service maps!

We eventually arrived at our first trail intersection & this is where we had our first doubts of which direction was best. Brian remembered that it was best to go east but my maps showed we needed to go west (turns out one critical connector trail did not show up on my maps). Either trail would get us to our final destination, but as we were moving slowly I was more concerned about time as I really, really, really wanted to see the sunset. I finally (erroneously) convinced Brian to stick with my maps & it was downhill from there. 

Literally downhill.

All the elevation we had gained was quickly lost as the trail descended. And there was so much snow & ice that I was constantly slipping & falling. Then we started hitting the blowdowns that were impossible to crawl though. We were forced to climb up steep sideslopes & I had to slide down the hill on my ass to keep from falling. My mood was getting worse & worse as I could feel a hot spot on my right foot from sliding so much & I was so sick of falling down. I slipped on  one icy spot & my Nalgene came out of my pack & rolled down the hill into the rhodo. I had to crawl down to get it & when I was pulling myself up on the trail the root I was grabbing on pulled completely out & dumped me on my ass again. Sigh. Could this get any worse?

I was falling farther & farther behind Brian & it was driving my dog crazy (she has some herding breed in her & really likes to keep her pack together on trail). I rounded a corner on a sunny ridge & she was tearing back down the trail towards me. I snapped this pic:

And just like that I realized how important (and easy!)  it is to find the joy in just being. I am so lucky to be able to walk,run,hike,backpack & in any manner enjoy this beautiful area I live in. It's really easy for me to get caught up in my expectations (or assumptions) and not notice all the joy around.

I won't say the rest of the climb didn't suck. And that I didn't get to really enjoy the sunset as we were setting up camp late. Or even that the wind blew so hard that night that it bent one of the poles on the tent. But I have a ton of photos of how awesome this weekend was & that's what I want to finish this post with:

Cool little frozen waterfall

Beautiful colors for sunset


My favorite shot this whole trip

Clouds moving in

Hanging out at the Hangover

Dogs are good at finding the joy!

Stay joyful friends!


  1. Love the picture of Brian and the tent at sunset! Great shot!

  2. That trip sounds epic. What a cute picture of your dog!