The first backpacking trip of the year never goes smoothly. It doesn’t matter how many lists of equipment you made, or how much you try and remember what happened last year, some of the important memories fade and things get forgotten.
Our first backpacking trip of the season with the dogs was last weekend. We hiked past one of our favorite backcountry lakes, Snow Lake, to Gem Lake and camped for the night. It was a great trip. However, a couple of major things went wrong and I had to re-evaluate my summer plans with Gretel.
The first things that happened we’re the kind that irritate you but you shrug off, vowing to be more prepared next time. Hubby didn’t plan for enough food and water for the trip. He wasn’t in dire straits but let’s just say when he feels limited with water or food on a hike, he is not a happy camper (pun intended). There were also the bugs. Oh, the hoards and hoards of mosqitoes. I can’t remember the last time we camped where there were so many. These were not your average mosquito either. Normally, but bites don’t bother me – I don’t itch or get bumpy – but I was definitely reacting to these super pontent ones.
Which leads me to the super-serious thing that happened. When we got to camp, Chester laid down and started rubbing his face in the dirt like he had just finished a bath. It seemed a tad odd to us but not a big deal because he does it semi-frequently at home. I busied myself putting the tent up and then looked over at the dogs sleeping.
I jumped up and yelled, “oh my god, look at his face!”. Chester’s face was blown up like a balloon. His lips were puffed up, he had lumps on the top of his head, and he looked uncomfortable. Thank goodness for Pinterest pictures of bee-stung dog faces because I knew immediately he was having an allergic reaction to some kind of bug bite. I guessed he was having a reaction to all of the mosquito bites or a bee sting.
We panicked. It’s been years since my mountain oriented first aid class but I do remember that the worst time to make a snap decision is when you are freaking out.
Our first instinct was to immediately pack up and hike back out. I wasn’t sure that was our best choice though. We reasoned it out. We were all exhausted and in need of food. We agreed we could make it out, even if we had to use headlamps for the last part of it, but we would need to carry Chester and it would be very taxing on us. Being tired, hungry, stressed, and rushing in the woods is when things go wrong though – people get hurt and die.
I will be honest, this is the first time I have had to put my first aid and emergency training to use in the mountains. I was so thankful that I had rememberd to put Benadryl in my mini first aid kit. I was also very, very thankful that I paid attention in my last pet first aid class and practiced portioning out the amount of antihistamine Chester and Gretel would need if something happened. We decided to give Chester a dose, eat something, rest for 30 minutes, and re-evaluate the situation.
After 30 minutes, the swelling had started to do down a bit. Hubby and I had a serious discussion about it and, in the end, we decided to stay. An hour later, Chester’s face was back to normal. We had made the right call.
I am going to share more about this experience and what to do later but, for now, lets move onto the next “lesson” of the trip.
I have been largely back-pain free this year. After almost 3 years of dealing with this last severe bout, I am itching to get out and check some things of my bucket list. One of those things is backpacking for several days alone.
When the 7-day trip I planned in August with Gretel turned to 12 because of incorrect mileage in a guide book, I had second thoughts but was prepared to charge forward. Before this trip, the reality that the 12 day hike was only two months away started to hit. This trip made me realize that I, and more importantly Gretel, is not in shape to hike 8 miles a day for 12 days straight.
My planned trip with Gretel shrunk by at least a day for every mile that we hiked to Gem Lake. My multi-day backpacking trip with Gretel is now going to be 4-6 days. That is still quite a challenge for a solo girl and her 10 lb dog but, don’t worry, Gretel and I know what we are doing.
So we were hungry enough after the hiking and adventure that we wished we had real pie. A fat piece of humble pie is all we got though. We got kind of put in our place on this trip. I was reminded to keep my expectations reasonable. Both hubby and I were reminded of the importance of first aid skills in the woods where you can’t get to the vet or doctor right away.