By Douglas Turner
Back in 1965 when I was 8 years old, my father took me on my first backpack trip. We hiked a short section of the PCT in California through the Desolation Wilderness. For me it was quite the adventure. We started by taking a boat ride across Echo Lake. Then we ascended on the rocky trail to about 8,000 feet in elevation. At that point we took a side trail down to Lake of the Woods.
Although my memories of that trip are fading, I remember the smell of the forest, the snow on the ground and one little snow bridge that let us cross a stream. The icy cold water that tasted so good. We didn’t filter the water back then; I would just unhook my Sierra cup from my pack and dip it in the stream. I remember while hiking on the main trail we came across some fresh horse manure and I sang the commercial jingle; “fresh from the Kraft candy kitchen”, and that made my dad laugh.
At that time I wore a little backpack that had the word Apache on it with a red decal. It was a frame with a one pocket bag on it, just big enough for my sleeping bag and some clothes. My father carried everything else in his Kelty pack, which I have to this day. I laid out my sleeping bag next to an outcrop of granite that warmed in the sun by day.
In the morning we made oatmeal for breakfast and packed our things. Our hike out, and the boat ride on the lake seemed to take much less time on the return trip. I remember looking down into the boat at its ribs and planks, hearing the chop on the water hitting the hull as the engine steadily hummed. It was a bittersweet moment. The trip was so fun, but it was coming to an end.
50 years later, with a wife and two fine boys, it hit me. I’m going to take my family on that very same hike! With Wilderness permit in hand, we were off. There’s a lot more people on the trail now, but it’s all still there. As we motored across the lake my emotions were strong. I loved being there again after all these years, remembering the trip with my dad. I watched my family taking in the view of the blue water and rocky shore, wind blowing in their hair; that was special. A John Muir quote came to mind, “Going to the mountains is going home.”
We spent two wonderful nights at Lake of the Woods, and explored all around. The trail is still there. The lakes are still there. And now two more boys have a memory of going to Lake of the Woods with their dad, and mom of course.