Recently Saxon and I tagged along with friends on their annual backpacking trip. Gil, the man of the house, is a backpacking sensei. His wife, Cindy is my yoga buddy. Their son, Chris graduated high school with Tanner and shares his love of gains ‘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 east of Bear Valley.
And bonus! They 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 Gil’s suggestion, I froze a couple teriyaki marinated steaks ahead of time.
Jimmy sweetly packed us up, even offering up a Tito’s-filled water bottle as a parting gift.
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. Their lab mutt rescue dog, Chloe, snarled and lunged for Kua’s jugular.
Kua fought back. I screamed.
“BAD DOG!!” Yoga Bud yelled at Chloe.
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 through deep old growth forest.
We’d only been hiking about 20 minutes when Saxon moaned, “This pack is terrible.”
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 the mountain steeper, slip sliding over treacherous rocks, Saxon looking more miserable with each step. When we stopped for a break, Sensei looked at Saxon’s borrowed pack and frowned. “Oh yeah, this is old. Those metal bars digging into your back can’t feel good.”
Then Sensai poured the panting dogs some water in a collapsable dish. Clueless Kua bounded over to wet his whistle. “GRRRRRRGRWOLLLLL,” Chloe attacked again.
“HEY! STOP IT!” Yoga bud and her gainzy son screamed in unison. Yoga Bud had to beat the beast off with Kua her walking poles. I wasn’t stoked but they were seemingly 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. Saxon had whacked 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,” I said. “We’re almost there.”
Three long, sweaty hours later we summited the peak. Heart pounding, my eyes took in the stunning lake. Our site was perfection—dappled sunlight, 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? Big Bertha (aka the p*ssy pad) would plush out my sleeping experience.
No sooner was our tent up than Saxon scuttled inside. I imagined him refusing to come out until it was time to leave.
I began extracting items from my pack. Water bottles? Check. Sleeping bag? Check. Cup, toiletries, check check. Wait a sec? Where was my sleeping pad?
I reached deep, fingers frantically searching its nylon recesses but feeling nothing but air. I checked Saxon’s pack. Nothing. My shoulders slumped. Jimmy had forgotten 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 and announced I was going for a swim.
“Oh, it’s very cold. It’s snow melt,” Sensei said.
“I don’t care,” I said.
I leaned into our tent. “Wanna come?”
“No,” Sax 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 stunning granite island in the middle.
Even the dogs.
I felt bad thinking about miserable Sax. Then I looked ashore and saw a kid in red, white and blue patriotic board shorts and fluffy blonde locks walking toward us.
He swam out, and we all hung on the island, sunning ourselves on the different levels of granite rocks.
Back at camp, I had just busted out my Tito’s when a herd of cows arrived for happy hour. A warm afternoon wind kicked up, the pine trees rustled and the thick grey bells around their necks tinkled.
As Sensei built a fire, 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.
ROARRRRRR!!! Chloe reared up. Fangs bared in full-on Cujo mode, she engaged Kua in her 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?”
Kua didn’t seem too traumatized. So I just nestled him close and passed the Titos to Sax. “It’s gonna be a long night.”
And a long night it was. Every time I turned over, pinecones and rocks pierced my flesh. I didn’t sleep a wink but I was warm and content. Saxon and I giggled and lamented over Demon Dog. Right outside our tent there were a million stars and Kua silhouetted 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 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. “Because backpackers say you’re a p*ssy if you use a sleeping pad.”
For record: I’m no p*ssy!
And neither is Kua.
The verdict is still out on Sax 🙂