Fathers Day on the PNT
This was a Father's Day that will go down in the books, and one that I will remember forever! Auden and I have been itching to get out for a good backpacking trip, but there's always been one thing each weekend that's prevented it. Well, not this weekend!
Our goal was Noisy Creek on the eastern bank of Baker Lake via the southern trail head. I had previously trail-ran the 14.5mi length of the East Baker Lake Trail, and knew it was going to be the perfect trip to get little man's legs stretched out with not only some distance, but with a full pack on as well. The elevation on this section of the Pacific Northwest Trail is very minimal, and the trail winds a beautiful path around the eastern edge of Baker Lake.
We set out Saturday morning with our first stop being Yeagers Sporting Goods to renew our fresh water fishing licenses. With up-to-date licenses, and a fat juicy pile of night-crawlers, we hit the road and headed for Baker Lake. We set out from the trail head around 11am, and enjoyed the neutral overcast day. You know, I love me some sunshine down in my soul, but hiking on a nice calm overcast day is a very luxurious and comfortable day. No monkey butt or sweaty back for the win! This was Auden's first trip with some decent milage carrying 10.5lbs so it took a couple stops to get his pack adjusted properly where he was happily bounding down the trail. We held a pretty decent pace until we hit Anderson Creek. The bridge is still out (although there is a new one there being built) so we were forged ahead upstream about 40ft, and crossed via a nice sturdy fallen 30ft long tree that spanned the creek. I wondered how he would handle this due to his previous stream crossing fiascos. He did well, although was quite adamant that he would be butt-scooting the entire 30ft length of log. I chuckled, but obliged, and we made it across without incident. To his defense, the log was about 10ft high off the very fast moving creek so I guess I'll give him that.
We continued down the trial passing Anderson Point camp sites and hit the half-way mark of our journey at Maple Grove camp sites. He was showing slight signs of fatigue, but all-in-all was in good spirits. The middle section of this trail doesn't see near as much foot traffic as the ends (both ends are accessible via their own trail head) so the trail gets fairly overgrown in the middle. We waded through tall ferns and leaves all the while chatting up a storm. Life... was good.
By the time we hit the Silver Creek camp site at the 8.5mi mark he was pretty tired, and getting a little wobbly legged. We decided to take a peek and check it out to see if it had any good fishing spots. Right around this time we got word from some day-hikers passing through that the Noisy Creek camp site 1.3mi further up the trail was almost full so we decided the that this would work just fine. With our camp setup, and dinner in our bellies we went down to the creek for some play time. Due to the trees at the point where the creek drops into the lake, it wasn't really an ideal spot for an 8yo to be casting and fishing. I knew we'd be spending more time digging bobbers out of tree branches than actually enjoying ourselves. Auden agreed, and happily entertained himself with throwing rocks, and floating every sort of fauna down the creek he could get his little hands on. I decided spin bait wouldn't work so I threw a bobber on and threaded the first sacrificial night crawler onto a hook. Finding a small 10ft wide spot I felt would have the best chance, if any, I hit my target and sat down on a rock to relax. Well I'll be damn if it wasn't ten seconds later but that bobber took a dive, and we were officially fishing! First one in! Small, but hey, it was a nice little rainbow trout alright! Now I had the full attention of a very excited 8yo, and this trip just went to the next level.
I brought him over to the rock, and due to tight casting constraints, took over casting duties myself then handing the rod to him. Well two hours later, and FOUR beautiful rainbow trout (biggest one at 13" long) to our names, we were having the time of our lives! At this moment I had to stop and give myself a very quiet and shameless pat on the back. We were 8.5mi miles from the car, on a backpacking trip, not one negative word had been even muttered, and we were catching fish like it was child's play. Yep, you can just go ahead and set that father award over there on the table for me. Haha!
After heading back up to camp we had some dessert. I might mention by the way that Mountain House Neapolitan Ice cream is amazing! Well, at least the 8yo who ate his and my shares seemed to think so. We hammered back a couple card games, then tucked into bed for our ritual reading of Trail Tales before falling asleep.
Up at 6am we had camped packed up remarkably fast (almost like we're getting this whole thing dialed in... maybe), and had full intentions to fish again until the rain started. Due to the surprisingly realistic and down to earth advice of an 8yo, we hit the trail for the trek back to the car. So remember all those overgrown trails I mentioned earlier? Yeah, well you know what it's like to walk through an overgrown trail when it's raining and the foliage is soaked? Yeah, you get the idea. It took approximately .26 miles for us to be completely soaked. I fully admit I was waiting ANY second for the complaining to start. I mean come on... I know adults that couldn't' manage to suppress their whining in these circumstances. Instead, in kicks mighty dad mode! I whip out the secret weapon EVERY dad should have on the trail. It's a skill I've finely honed over many miles out on the trial with this little rascal. Video game discussion for the win! That's right, you can transport a mildly uncomfortable situation into a 7.2mi chatterbox-ramble-fest within minutes by simply asking, "hey, can you explain to me how Minecraft works?". Bam!! Seriously, I've gotta write a book on this shit cause I've got it dialed. The second the Minecraft discussion started to dwindle I smoothly transitioned into Pokemon. I know, genius right?! Well let me tell you, it works. That little weasel talked NON-STOP for 7.2mi until we hit the log crossing again. He didn't complain once, and I think the only thing moving faster than his feet were his lips. I was in total shock and awe of him. How in the heck can an 8yo carrying 10lbs hike IN THE FREAKING RAIN for 7.2mi and not only talk for the entire time, but not complain one single word. Miracles can happen folks. Believe me, they can happen.
We hopped up on the log to cross and he assumed his previous butt scooting stance, and once again this time I suggested he give walking across it a shot since I could hold onto his pack loop in case he got wobbly. Well there must have been some sort of extra confidence in them rain drops that day, because he obliged and shuffled his little legs all the way across like it was no big deal. Are you kidding me?! At this point, we're both pretty much sitting on cloud nine and the last 1.3mi to the trail head came and went in the blink of an eye.
BEST FATHERS DAY EVER!! Fathers Day has never been an overly monumentous day for me, but this one I will never forget. Maybe it was the fact they accidentally gave him double the chicken nuggets and fries in his celebratory Happy Meal on the way home, or his new title of the "trout slayer", but I really felt like a winning father today. I won't forget this one.