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Tuck and Robin Lakes
posted by John : August 10-12, 2015

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Man Week continued for Henry with our annual three day backpacking trip. (This year's Man Week began at Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve.)

Last year, Henry really impressed me on his first three day trip to Lila Lake and Alta Mountain. We spent three days, just the two of us (and Treen), deep in the wilderness connecting in a way we can't anywhere else. During that time he showed me he was capable of going to the kinds of places that require extra effort to get to, but that reward you amply.

To take advantage of Henry's ability to go to adult-quality destinations I chose Tuck and Robin Lakes for this year. The hike breaks up into four parts.

A few miles to and along Hyas Lake. Nothing fancy and no major elevation gain.

A mile or so up switchbacks toward Deception Pass. Just your typical on-trail climb.

A mile or so up ridiculously steep and lousy dirt to Tuck Lake.

A mile or so up insanely steep rock and glorious granite slabs to Robin Lakes.

Needless to say, we'd be pushing the limits a little on this one. I know that sounds like it's not going to be worth it, but it's one of the tricks I've found to be really valuable in raising my kids to be backpackers.

We started before the day became too hot, but it was still warm enough to pass along a trick for staying cool on the trail. We both wore hats and each time we'd cross a creek we'd dunk our hats. Henry wasn't too sure at first, but after he felt the cool water dripping down his face he was a convert. "Hat dip!" was his call every time we approached running water.

Unfortunately, hat dips weren't quite enough to keep him engaged for the entirety of the first part of the trail. Walking along a flat trail with few views left him uninspired and his eight year old whining voice emerged. You know the one. The one that drives you insane.

Surprisingly, he snapped out of it without any real help from me. It was the short descent and then the rough trail up to Tuck Lake that gave him energy and reminded him to have fun. Why? Beats me. Going uphill with a pack tends to drain me, but perhaps it was his first experience on a loose, nasty, steep trail that jacked him up.

Or maybe it was using new Deuter backpacks. Henry wore the Fox 40 while I carried the Aircontact 65+10. (Amazon affiliate links help support We are Deuter Ambassadors and were provided the packs for our use.)

The Fox 40 is what you would expect in an adult, multi-day backpack, but scaled down to fit a kid. Although the pack can accomodate 40 liters of gear, I was cautious not to overburden Henry. It takes a special kind of sicko (like me) to enjoy being heavily weighted on steep trails and I don't know that the kids are ready for that yet. Instead, he carried lighter, but bulkier gear.

That meant I got to carry the denser gear on my back. The 65+10 in the name of my pack indicates it's a 65 liter pack with a floating lid that can hold an additional 10 liters of gear. It was... heavy. However, the pack distributed the weight well and I was able to move freely as we climbed to Tuck Lake.

We made it to Tuck Lake after only about five hours of hiking. We decided that would be plenty far for our first day and we could set up camp. After all, we had the middle day of our three day trip to explore and climb higher unencumbered by all the weight of tents and stoves.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent picking the perfect camp site (to climber's right of the route to Robin Lakes, just above Tuck's Pot), getting camp set up, and reading from The Martian.

My mother is a diehard reader and has been on me about not reading much lately. She convinced me I needed to read The Martian before it comes out as a movie and then take her to see the movie. Ok, fine. I grabbed the book and Henry had his book, but his wound up left at home or in the car or who knows where. So I figured I'd read to him. How much trouble could one guy stranded on Mars get into that would be inappropriate for an eight year old?

It took only four words before I had to stop. Actually, I stopped after the third word. However, I was able to adapt and sanitize the language on the fly well enough that we could continue reading. We both really got into the book and only stopped when it was too dark to read. (Too bad he won't be able to see the movie until he's older.)

As usual, we had Macaroni and Cheese for dinner. At home, it has to come out of a box, but on the trail it's got to be Mountain House. I must admit, I prefer the old packaging with a picture of Mt. Hood to the new shots of campers, but if it means they can keep making dinners for us I can be ok with it.

Henry and I snuggled in for the night while Treen worked to push Henry off his pad and out of his bag in a semi-hostile takeover. She succeeded in getting the pad, but Henry held on to the bag until morning.

Ah yes, morning. That time when the kids wake up way too early and I try in vain to get them to go back to sleep. This time I had both Henry and Treen to contend with so I gave up pretending to be asleep at 6am. The only good thing about getting up at 6am while camping is the whole day is ahead of you. That's especially good when you've secretly planned a hike on the middle day of a three day trip.

Since the kids started taking three days trips in 2012 I've found the middle day to be indispensable. We get to adventure with a more relaxed feel and without carrying heavy packs.

Not wearing heavy packs doesn't mean not carrying packs, though. After all, there's always gear that we need to carry and my pockets were full of Skittles and Jolly Ranchers. Since we needed less than 40 liters of capacity I loaded Henry's Fox 40, adjusted the harness to fit me, and carried it all.

All the Deuter packs we have use the Variquick Adjustable Shoulder Harness that allows us to make the packs fit a longer or shorter back. It has so much range it can go from Henry's eight year old back to my... somewhat older back.

Our middle day adventure for this trip was to complete the climb to Robin Lakes. After all, that was our initial goal and while Tuck Lake was nice, it was the Robin Lakes we were hoping to see. (The original middle day adventure was to climb Granite Mountain, but that can way for some other trip.)

After breakfast we secured our site, hung the food, and headed up the "trail" to Robin Lakes. It gets quotes because it's part trail and part route. The difference being at times there's no indication of where you should go and you just need to figure out the right direction.

That being said, there were an awful lot of cairns marking the way. Cairns have gotten a bad rap lately, but when they're placed carefully to mark the way I think they're far less intrusive than blazing trees or painting on rocks. Plus, Henry loved following them.

Trail or route, much of it heading up to Robin Lakes is steep, granite slabs. Henry was in heaven. I wasn't too far below. Rock slabs are one of my favorite terrain features because they're relatively uncommon in the areas I frequent. On the rock, we followed the aforementioned cairns and otherwise went up as seemed appropriate.

Cresting over the last ridge the two Robin Lakes were spread out before us. The lower lake was more convoluted with hidden arms and a peninsula jutting out. The upper lake was bigger, but more conventionally shaped. A rib of Granite Mountain separated the two.

We weren't the only ones at the lakes. A couple was setting up camp between the two lakes so we found a spot higher on the hill where we could cook lunch (Mountain House lasagne, tasty, but the cheese made it a challenge to clean up) and chill out. (Treen ate a TurboPup bar so she would stop staring at us.) A family of four (mom, two teens, and a little one) came rambling down the rib between the two lakes and started coming toward us.

However, since these were goats, not people, we were thrilled to see them. I'm not a goat expert, but the two "teens" looked to be a couple of years old while the kid was clearly this year's offspring. The goats passed the tent site and started up toward us.

We were ready to retreat if they got too close and relied on the telephoto lens to get pictures. However, when the nanny saw Treen she spooked and headed up the steep rock slope with the kids behind her. Treen looked, but didn't really care. (Although we've done our best to ruin her service dog training, it was so good some of it is there to stay.)

We contemplated swimming and looked for a good spot, but the cloud cover kept us cool enough we abstained. Instead, we headed down after lunch so we would have time to swim at Tuck. Along the way we ran into the goats again and even a fifth that joined them. This time the nanny stood her ground and even advanced a bit so we turned tail and retreated to give her space.

Back at Tuck we did go for a short swim and then retired to the tent and the warmth of dry clothes and down sleeping bags. It's been a warm summer, but Tuck was still a very cold lake. More of The Martian, another Mountain House meal (spaghetti with meat sauce this time, tasty like lasagne, but much easier to clean up), a few games of War with our trusty Tubbs Snowshoes playing cards (we're ambassadors in the summer, too), and in bed with sun.

This time I was awakened not by Henry or Treen, but by a stampede of hooves outside the tent. Treen woke, too, and was at the ready to defend us (or play with the goats), but we stayed inside and they moved away. The next morning we found a bunch of new goat hair on the brush in camp confirming the identity of our visitors.

The hike out was as challenging as the hike in. Often, descent is the easier part of the climb, but the loose, steep trail kept us working at least until we were at the junction with the Deception Pass trail. Then we had to simply crank out five or so miles of boring trail. We did stop at Hyas Lake for Treen to swim and for hat dips at every creek crossing. It was wonderful to exit the official wilderness and know that our car was just around the corner.

Reflecting on the trip reminds me that I can't always predict how the kids will do on the trail. While preparing for the trip I expected the first few miles along the lake would be a simple walk in the park for Henry. The next section to the Tuck Lake trail would be harder, but nothing arduous. It was the steep, steep climb up to Tuck (and beyond) that I wasn't looking forward to.

As it turns out, I was completely wrong. Henry was uninspired by the flat walk along Hyas Lake and the moderate climb after. However, he found his enjoyment of hiking on the worst section of trail up to Tuck Lake. He was even more energetic climbing above Tuck to Robin Lakes, though that might have been a product of not carrying a pack.

Every time we go out the kids surprise me and I learn a little more about them. That's multiplied when we go for multi-day trips. I look forward to the next trip so I can get a little more of Henry's personality figured out even as it changes as he grows up.

And yes, I could probably figure out how to do this same sort of discovery at home, but it's so much more fun in the wilderness that we'll keep doing it with packs on our backs.

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