Tuesday, August 19, 2014

An awfully big adventure

For our 10 year anniversary we decided to be adventurous and embark on a 15 mile (roundtrip) Backpacking hike up to Echo Lake. I dropped the kids off at my parents for their annual week of "Papa's Pirate Camp" and we shopped for fun camping stuff, and packed our packs and headed out Sunday after Church.
It's all very exciting and fun when you first start out!!!
Pumped up and ready for our adventure, we started down the trail!!
We hiked for about 2.5 miles before we stopped to camp, just past the 2nd Greenwater Lake. The spot we camped in was surreal. It was the kind of beauty you don't realize even exists until you are there to experience it. Picturesque doesn't even BEGIN to describe it.
We had to cross a fallen log, over the river to get to this hidden gem of a spot, but it was SO worth it.
We did take pictures of it, but the flash wasn't on, so they didn't come out.
We had to cross over the river, back and forth, many times. Not all the bridges were fun to cross, but at least some had a hand rail to hold on to!
The next morning we got up and got going about 9:45am. It was going to be about 4.5 miles, and a 1300 foot elevation climb, so we wanted plenty of time to do it. We took our time, stopping to rest our bodies (which are pretty out of shape) several times along the way.
This was one of the scariest bridges we crossed. The original bridge had been washed out, so the WTA was working on this new one...I don't do well with bridges w/o sides, but what's life without doing a few scary things once in a while, right?!
I made it across the bridge, and felt pretty proud of our accomplishments so far.
The rest of the hike was pretty brutal.
1300 feet in 4.5 miles, you can imagine how intense the uphill action was.
I don't know if you can tell, but we got pretty soaked with sweat (Shexy, I know)!!
There is a magical feeling that overcomes you, when you finally reach your destination. After such a treacherous climb, that moment we first saw the lake, we heard angels sing!! It was a magnificent sight to behold!
We made the rule when we started, "No pictures unless one of us is in it" When we reached the lake, we made an exception. After 5ish miles, It was amazing! 
 We hiked up to the tip of the lake and found a good spot to stop and have lunch about 2pm, before finding a spot to set up camp.
The beauty that surrounded us was breathtaking!!
Almost....ALMOST made us forget about the hike, ok! Who am I kidding. We didn't forget, we just appreciated a place to sit and eat.
After lunch, we hiked back down to the base of the lake and found the most perfect spot to set up camp! The view of the lake was outstanding! We were able to set up our tent so that it was the first thing we would see when we opened the tent door. It was perfectly romantic and worth the hike!!
We (and by we, I mean HE) set up the tent, filled water bottles, quickly got out snacks, hung our bear bag, set our sleeping bags out, took our shoes off (my feet literally sang with joy), and laid down!
The feeling of relaxing was incredible. Our bodies were worn out, pushed to, what we thought was, their limit! Our bodies needed, and deserved this beautiful break!!
Loved this view!!
 After about 30 mins of relaxing, we heard some people hike into the camp site. It was plenty big for 2 tents, so we had already decided that someone else could take the other half of the site, if they wanted to. Who doesn't enjoy making a few new (human) friends, while enjoying nature, right?!
They weren't fellow backpacking for the "fun" of it, they were forest rangers, coming to bring news of a forest fire "just on the other side of the ridge". We were asked to pack up and evacuate the mountain.
My heart sank clean into my toes. My gut twisted as I turned around and saw the smoke, billowing up behind the trees. My brain went to mush. I couldn't think clearly, I was in full on panic mode.
Luckily Greg sprang into action, getting everything gathered up, and letting me know what he needed help with. He packed my sleeping bag for me, I went and got the bear bag, and we loaded our packs back up. Fortunately we just filled our water bottles, so we didn't need to do that.
It took us about 45 mins to get everything packed up and head back down the mountain, we made it out of camp around 4pm.
(Keep in mind that by this time we have already hiked close to 5.5 miles, if you count the 1/2 mile up and back down the lake)
The sun was emanating blood read beams, that shone on the trees as a terrifying reminder (as if we needed one) of what we were hiking away from.
We only had about 3-4 hours until it was dark, and 7ish miles until we were back to our car.
Forest fires is a huge fear of mine, well, getting caught in any fire is a big fear of mine. So needless to say, stress was running a bit high. I felt like we were running down the mountain. We weren't. We had to go at a somewhat slow pace, because of how narrow and rocky the trail was in some places, but we hiked down as fast as we were able to. We had to stop because our bodies were already exhausted and in pain, but we had no choice, we had to push on and keep going.
We made it down to the car about 845ish.
We were so exhausted. I don't remember ever feeling so, completely wiped out.
In my mind, we still weren't in the clear, we still had an hour, hour and a half car drive home, that we needed to stay awake for....but, with each other, and a few prayers, we made it!!!
Through all of it, we never fought, argued or got cross with one another. We motivated and encouraged one another. It was an incredible bonding experience for us! We definitely made it out stronger as people and stronger as a couple. It is incredible what your bodies are capable of, the unknown limits they have. The ability to push forward until we got home, into our beds.
It was an experience we will never forget, and an anniversary story we'll probably never stop telling.
Here's to one decade down, and an eternity to go!!!!

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