Recently Saxon and I tagged along with friends on their annual backpacking trip. The man of the house is a backpacking sensei. His wife is my yoga buddy. Their son graduated high school with Tanner and shares his love of gainz ‘n’ grilled chicken.
I love nature and hiking so it seemed the perfect intro to Backpacking 101—a one nighter 7.8 mile out and back trail to beautiful Bull Run Lake east of Bear Valley Ski area.
And bonus! Our friends told us could bring Kua. How cute would it be watch him frolick in the forest with their two dogs?
Luckily, we scrounged most of the accruements from friends, including J.J. who said, “Be sure and bring a sleeping pad or you’ll be miserable. I have a mack daddy one you can borrow called Big Bertha.”
My friend Lori echoed the sentiment. “Don’t forget the p*ssy pad,” she said.
Upon Sensei’s suggestion, I froze a couple teriyaki marinated steaks and baked two potatoes ahead of time.
Jimmy sweetly packed us up, even offering up a Tito’s-filled water bottle as a parting gift.
The drive took three and a half hours. Thirty minutes from our destination, we stopped for gas. The piney air smelled fresh. This was going to be awesome. I leashed Kua and walked him over to meet our friends’ dogs. The lab mutt rescue dog snarled, growled and lunged for Kua’s jugular.
Kua fought back. I screamed.
“BAD DOG!!” Yoga Bud yelled at her dog.
Kua scampered away, looking a bit confused. A few seconds later he was over it, wagging his tail.
I wasn’t over it though. Yoga Bud saw the freaked look on my face, and assured me once off leash the dogs would be fine.
Soon we arrived at the Stanislaus Meadow Trailhead.
We took off, the dogs ran ahead, sniffing and free roaming.
We skirted a large scenic meadow, then the trail wound pleasantly into the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness through deep old growth forest.
We’d only been hiking about 20 minutes but Saxon was struggling. “This pack is terrible,” he said.
I mean, mine wasn’t light as a feather but I was chicking up—eye on the prize, that gorgeous pristine alpine Bull Run Lake. Couldn’t he man up?
We scaled up the mountain steeper and steeper, slip sliding over treacherous rocks, Saxon looking more miserable with each step. When we stopped for a break, Sensei looked at Saxon’s pack and frowned. “Oh yeah, this is old school, super heavy, those metal bars digging into your back can’t feel good.”
Poor Sax. Yoga Bud handed him a red vine from her stash. Sensai poured the panting dogs some water in a collapsable dish. Clueless Kua bounded over to wet his whistle. “GRRRRRRGRWOLLLLL,” their dog attacked again, sinking her teeth into Kua’s neck and shaking her head violently.
“HEY! STOP IT!” Yoga bud and her gainzy son screamed in unison. Yoga Bud beat the beast off with her walking poles. I wasn’t stoked but they were apologetic and seemed appalled by their dog’s behavior so I sucked it up and we soldiered on.
Back on the trail, Yoga Bud fessed up—they’d rescued their dog from a kill shelter hours before the plug was to be pulled.
“Maybe they should’ve pulled the plug,” Saxon muttered. He was fuming by now, not to mention grimacing from the now almost vertical terrain. Finally BAM! a loud crack erupted behind me. He had banged his walking stick on a boulder and broken off the tip. “THIS IS HELL. I AM IN HELL. Can we just turn back and go home?”
“You can do it bud, we’re almost there,” I said.
Three long, sweaty hours later we summited the peak. Heart pounding, my eyes took in the stunning lake. Before long we arrived at our site, it was perfection—dappled sunlight, pine trees, clusters of huge white granite boulders but wait, what was that stench? I looked down. Beneath my feet were cow patties, the size of frisbees, oozing and black. We hopscotched around the dung, and started unpacking.
Sensei kindly assembled our two-person tent. “Make sure you spread out the dirt so there are no rocks or pinecones,” he said.
“Yeah, sure,” I said. Mentally and physically drained, I half assed it, scooting the larger pine cones away with the tip of my dusty tennis shoe. What was the point anyway? Big Bertha (aka the p*ssy pad) would plush out my sleeping experience. In my state of delirium I reminded myself to ask Lori why she called it that when I got home.
No sooner was our tent up than Saxon scuttled inside. I imagined him staying in there, refusing to come out until it was time to leave. He was my buddy, the one person I felt comfortable with on this trip and he was over it.
Reaching into my pack I began extracting items. Water bottles? Check. Sleeping bag? Check. Cup, toiletries, check check. Wait a sec? Where was my sleeping pad?
I reached in deep, fingers frantically searching its nylon recesses but feeling nothing but air. I checked Saxon’s pack. Nothing. My shoulders slumped. Reality set in: Jimmy forgot to pack my sleeping pad.
Just then I looked over at Kua. He was rolling in cow dung. He was eating cow dung. “KUAAAAAAAA!!! NOOOOOO!!” I screamed. He looked up. Cluess and cute as ever, he bounded over.
Every last patch of his fur was slicked with green slime. He looked sorry he had rolled in it. He wanted some love. Poor guy. Under attack all day. I scratched a tiny triangle of fur between his eyes—the only unpolluted patch—and wondered what I had done?
Across camp Yoga Bud yelled, “Ooooh no!!!!! Kua is covered in poo! POO-A!!! Haha! Get it?”
I wanted to strangle her.
Saxon was staging a tent-in, Big Bertha was MIA, Kua was covered in shit. Why did I think backpacking would be a good idea?
Miserable, I looked at the sparkling lake. It was screaming my name. “I’m going for a swim,” I announced.
“Oh, it’s very cold. It’s snow melt,” Sensei said.
“I don’t care,” I said.
I leaned into our tent. “Sax, you wanna come?”
“No,” he grumbled.
Sensei, Yoga Bud and Gainzy tagged along—I imagined they would cling to the shore, but to my surprise they stripped down and took the plunge.
The water was pristine. We all swam out to a granite island in the middle.
Even the dogs. It was beautiful.
I felt bad thinking of Sax. Then I looked ashore and saw a kid in red, white and blue patriotic board shorts and fluffy blonde locks walking around the lake toward us.
“Hey! Is that Saxon?” asked Yoga Bud.
He swam out, too. We all hung on the island, sunning ourselves on the different levels of granite rocks.
Later back at camp, a herd of cows showed up for happy hour. They were noshing 30 feet from our site. A warm afternoon wind kicked up, the pine trees rustled and the thick grey bells around their necks tinkled.
Sensei built a fire and Yoga Bud sliced zucchini on a rock. We had just tossed our teri steaks on the fire. Best of all—Kua was totally clean. His shiny fur glistened from his cow dung keratin treatment.
This was HEAVEN! From the corner of my eye I saw Kua approach Yoga Bud for some TLC.
Then ROARRRRRR!!! The dog reared up. Fangs bared in full-on Cujo mode, he engaged Kua in his most ferocious attack yet. Kua growled mightily and fought back.
Yoga Bud shrieked, “BAD DOGGIE! YOU ARE IN A TIME OUT! YOU HORRIBLE BEAST! I’M SO DISAPPOINTED IN YOU. YOU DEMON DOG! I RAISED YOU BETTER! KUA IS SUCH A SWEET DOG!”
Again, Kua sidled up to us. Saxon’s face was hotter than the fire. “Who raised that effing dog—Michael Vick?”
I was buzzing from my Tito’s and the alpine lake. Kua didn’t seem too traumatized. So I just nestled him close and passed the Tito’s to Sax. “It’s gonna be a long night.”
And a long night it was. Every time I turned over, pinecones and rocks lodged into my flesh. I didn’t sleep a wink but I was warm and content, full of steak. Saxon and I giggled and lamented over Demon Dog. And right outside our tent there were a million stars and Kua’s silhouette in the moonlight. It was the best night I’d had for as long as I could remember.
In the morning, we packed up. There was one more attack by the fire over oatmeal and coffee. As we made our way back to civilization, the crisp mountain breeze tickled my skin. Feeling refreshed and invigorated I wished we could stay another night.
When I got home I called Lori. “I can’t figure it out. Everything on my body aches—my back, my shoulders, my hips but my lady parts are A-Ok. Why do they call it a p*ssy pad?”
She laughed. “It’s because backpackers say you’re a p*ssy if you use a sleeping pad.”
Let the record show: I’m no p*ssy!
And neither is Kua.
The verdict is still out on Sax🙂