Tents and trails, guides and grub, and everything else you need to put one foot in front of the other

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Family Vacations, Summer 1997

The Tenderfoot's Almanac
Tents and trails, guides and grub, and everything else you need to put one foot in front of the other
by Peter Shelton

Walk This Way

Backpack Time Line
By Douglas Gantenbein

Essential Backpack Recipes
By Lorien Warner

Gear: All the Right Stuff for Backpacking
By Douglas Gantenbein

Hired Hands

In our family, certain hikes are like yardsticks, marks on a doorjamb as the children grow. One of the first, when our daughters were about three and five years old, was the half-mile ramble from my grandmother's rickety High Sierra cabin along the lake to the general store, with its jars of fluorescent salmon eggs and crayon-colored snow cones. We marched over the worn granite, balanced on the old plank bridges, crunched the sugar pine needles underfoot.

When that one became old hat, my wife and I led the way on ever longer and more exotic walks. In the opposite direction, away from civilization, is Stair Rock, into which CCC workers chipped steps during the Depression and from which we jumped into bottomless, sapphire water. Next was the hike to The Lookout on a back trail that gains 400 feet of altitude and provides a breathless, bird's-eye view. It can get hot at The Lookout; we had to bring water and share it in the scented cedar shade.

When the girls were old enough to carry small backpacks and walk for half a day, we packed lunches and struck out for The Inlet, where the river that filled the lake pooled and warmed on pink feldspar sand.

Some of the sites we discovered we named ourselves in acts of ownership and pure celebration. Others, like Cleopatra's Bath, are actually on the map. Cleo's is a kind of graduation hike, a full three miles from the cabin up an indistinct trail. I pulled the map out when the girls were maybe eight and ten years old, and we made the connection between that granite dome over there and these nesting lines on the page. We got semi-lost. We bushwhacked. We inched along cracks in the rock above the creek. (I began carrying a piece of rope when I realized the girls had no fear of falling.)

When at last we clambered up the final pitch and beheld the glistening pools, it was as if we were the first to discover them, we full-grown trampers in the wilderness.

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