Yes, it does help to be crazy if you want to take a couple of four year olds on an overnight backpack trip.
Yes, it also helps if you are very familiar with the route, the camping options, and you go way overboard in planning.
No, you can't control the weather, or the fish biting, or the flies biting, or the amount of fuel you bring for the stove. (Actually, can you can control that last bit, but let's skip that for now.)
This was to be my third trip to Scout Lake. The first was just an attempt with Grandpa Jack. Tokul and I returned a few months later. Earlier this month Daryl and I had scouted locations for this trip. It's a good thing the trail is only 1.75 miles long even if it does gain about 1,200 feet of elevation.
I had packed my bag the night before. The last step was to add water and food. Being the numbers nerd that I am I hauled the pack up the stairs and found it tipped the bathroom scale at 55 pounds. Ugh. Clara wanted to join in on the fun so we found her pack to weigh in a just under five pounds. (Almost half of her weight was water.)
Daryl arrived a little before noon and we crammed lunch into the kids before cramming them and the gear into the truck for the short drive up the freeway.
All the way to the "trailhead" I was hoping there'd be no cars parked there. SWEET! An empty beginning to the hike. We slathered on natural bug juice that was supposed to be as good as DEET (yeah, right) and headed up the trail.
I'm not sure if Daryl's pack was as heavy as mine, but it was certainly bigger. It seemed more like a covered wagon with pots and pans clanking off the back than my relatively streamlined collection of gear. Clara had no problems with her pack and Lex wasn't wearing one.
We made good time up the first portion of the "trail" (an old logging road) and stopped only once for snack. It was right were Grandpa Jack and I had stopped with the girls the first time we'd tried to get to Scout Lake.
Refueled, we continued on and were soon on the actual trail and climbing toward Hansen Creek. In the rainy season it can be a roaring amount of water, but now it's just a trickle. We hopped rocks and logs through the Devil's Club and berry bushes to get to the continuation of the trail.
Almost immediately Lex spotted a true wonder of the wilderness. A blueberry bush with many, many ripe berries. Daryl and I had already decided that pretty much whenever the kids wanted to stop we'd stop. We picked almost all the berries and spent a good deal of time doing it. The berries were, for the most part, sweet and juicy with a tart aftertaste. Yum.
The kids took turns leading up the trail. Although it's not an official trail it's very well defined, mostly by fishermen who go up to Scout Lake fairly regularly. There were a few logs requiring help to get over, but none that posed a big problem.
Just as the kids were starting to peter out we could see the bowl of the lake and urged them on. Seeing flowers as we left the forest made them more excited and soon we were crossing the rocks that cover the outlet from the lake to get to the east side. (The west side is all talus and would be a nightmare to try to cover with the kids.)
On the other side of the rocks we found the first big patch of beargrass, which enflamed Clara's sense of strangeness. She crouched down and pawed at the grass while hanging out her tongue. Go figure.
The trail winds along the shore between rocks and trees with good views of the lake. We found more beargrass, some additional blueberries, and a shallow bit of water full of monster tadpoles. The only problem was at the inlet where we had to backtrack through the brush a bit to find a way across. (When Daryl and I had scouted we hadn't covered this small section.)
It was with a sigh of relief that we got to our camp site and found it waiting for us. We quickly set up the tents and got ready to fish. It'd taken us two and a half hours to get to the camp site, almost exactly what we had expected.
Clara and I waded out a ways to a sandy spot near the inlet and started casting up the lake. Pretty quickly we caught a decent rainbow, which Daryl insisted we keep so he could have fish for dinner. Clara didn't want to have anything to do with the fish so once it was done I left him on a log behind us as we continued to fish.
Clara's favorite part of fishing was initially when she got to "strip strip strip" while I held the rod. After casting I'd let the line hand loose and she used a hand-over-hand method of quickly retrieving the fly. The motion was good, but we didn't hook anything that way. Later I helped her cast a bit and she stripped all on her own while holding the rod.
We moved around a bit and visited Lex and Daryl who were spin fishing from the shore. They hadn't had any luck so we left our fish with them and continued up along the shore. Although the south end is full of mud and silt the northern parts of the lake look clearer and much deeper. We tried a couple of casts, but Clara's enthusiasm was waning so we returned to the tents.
Next on the agenda (seriously, we did plan it out with a fair amount of detail) was playing in the water. Clara and Lex spent most of their time splashing on the shore in the muddy water, but both Daryl and I went deeper. Although the water was cold enough to take your breath away at first, you quickly got used to it and it was quite pleasant.
Unfortunatley, Miss No Fat On Her Bones got a little chilled so while I started working on dinner she stripped down and got into her sleeping bag to warm up. It worked wonders and she was soon ready to rumble with Lex as they played on the talus behind our camp site.
Dinner was rehydrated macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, and beef stew for us elder folks. We did smores for dinner and all in all had a good meal. The kids had a bit of hot chocolate before crawling into bed around 9:30. Daryl and I followed at about 10pm. (Clara was sound asleep when I finally got into bed.)
Although we heard something scurrying around the camp site at night it did no harm except to Daryl's sleep. Our food was hung high and nothing else was disturbed. Clara slept until almost 7am, so I was thrilled.
Unfortunately, the weather had shifted and the fluffy clouds we had seen at sunset were now solid misty overcast. I quickly made breakfast including eggs, ham, coffee, hot chocolate, espresso (SWEET!), and pancakes... oh wait. Didn't quite get to the pancakes. Unfortunately, we ran out of fuel before it was time for the pancakes. Dang.
Nonetheless, it was a good breakfast. As soon as we had finished we started breaking down camp in an effort to beat the rain that seemed imminent. Turns out it was and just after I had my tent stowed the rain started. Clara was a little resistant (to put it mildly) to the idea of putting on her rain coat, but eventually relented. I didn't even bother trying to get her to put on her rain pants.
All packed up we headed out. Although the rain stopped, it had loaded the brush with water so everything we touched shed rain on us. By the time we were back on the main trail down the hill we were soaked.
Clara held my hand most of the way down, at least until the sun came out and we shed our rain jackets. Then she perked up and started bouncing around as normal. We made it back to the car in about an hour and a half.
We decided to hit McDonalds on the way home for lunch, but Lex fell asleep before we were even back on the freeway. Instead, we went to Arby's (a more grown-up version of the golden arches, it seems) and brought lunch for three of us as well as Amy and Lilly.
Lex was asleep even after being transferred into Daryl's car and Clara went to bed shortly after we got home and slept for a good long while.
All in all, a really good trip. Next time I'll obviously bring more fuel, but I'm not sure what else was missing except maybe some water toys like squirt guns. And, of course, I'm now convinced I need new gear. More compression sacks to reduce volume, a thermarest pillow to satisfy Clara's requirement, and a coffee mug that will actually keep coffee hot.
Clara says she wants to go on another trip and maybe we'll squeeze one in this year or maybe we'll try a return to car camping. It's really only a question of finding the time. I'd camp with her any time.
Total distance was about 3.5 miles with 1,200 feet of gain.