I almost didn’t know where to start this post, because I’m not sure I can properly convey the magnitude of what we did.
The Bighorns National Forest is the sister range to the Rockies, and is made up of 189,000 acres of wilderness, and 1,500 miles of trails.
We bravely trekked over almost 9 of those miles to get to our camping spot for the weekend.
But let’s rewind for just a moment.
The day of our hike, after eating at the Busy Bee, we drove out to the Hunter Trailhead Husband had located on the map of the forest.
I’ll admit I was pretty nervous. This was my first multiple day backpacking trip, AND I knew we were in for a long…long hike.
But we threw our packs on and got Jim suited up and hit the dusty trail.
Not even half a mile into it I already needed a break. I was carrying more than 50 lbs on my back, we were already at over 8,000 feet in elevation, and it was warm. I knew then I was in trouble.
We trudged along (with quite a bit of moaning and complaining on my part, sorry Husband!), for oh, about two to three miles before we realized that we could have driven to that point.
This also did not help with my attitude, but even Husband couldn’t hide his anger that we had wasted so much time an energy to basically get to the real starting point.
We had to cross rivers by taking off our packs and jumping…
We also discovered that about 90% of the trail was a pretty steep uphill.
I did my best to keep a smile on my face, but I failed miserably. To put it short, we were going through pure hell.
But at least it was pretty.
It was around this point (referring to the photos), that I was having to take breaks every 10-15 minutes. In fact, Husband set time goals for us to hike to before we rested again.
I want to stop here a moment and say, I’m so thankful that my husband is not only as physically fit as he is, but also that he is so incredibly supportive to me even when he is struggling too. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to stop, or cry, or scream because I was in so much pain, but he was a constant whisper in my ear telling me how proud he was of me. There’s a lot to be said about the bonding and respect you build through challenges like this one.
I’ve played all day volleyball tournaments. I crossfit regularly. I ran a half marathon once. I know what it is like to feel exhausted, and tired, and like you’ve really pushed your body to the limit. But I have NEVER felt like my body was literally going to give out.
There were two times on our way up that I stopped, nearly in tears, seriously contemplating whether I was going to be able to make it to our final destination.
Arriving at this field, we felt pretty defeated. We thought it was Elk Lake, which was only a mile or so from the Cloud Peak Reservoir where we had planned to camp.
As we crested the hill and realized it wasn’t the lake, I may or may not have let out a few choice words, before declaring it was time to take off the pack and rest…for a more significant period of time.
While I was trying to recharge, Husband walked around a bit and even found snow still on the ground!
We rechecked our maps and started again. Although within 10 steps we both admitted that our fatigue had already returned.
Finally, we saw it. The lake was in the distance, which at the time looked a million miles away.
And all we had to do was manage through this field of rocks, cross a river, and hike about a half a mile. Not so easily done when each step is iffy because your legs are kaput.
We got around the lake about 4:00 in the afternoon. We had started at 10:30 that morning. There were a few clouds rolling in, and as we were crossing the river we ran into some horse people, who were also camping by the lake, who informed us that the reservoir was still quite a long hike away. After treating us to some of their cookies and chatting a while, they advised us to just camp at the lake instead of pushing through to the reservoir. It didn’t take them telling us twice for me to agree. Husband was disappointed, but even he realized we were done for the day.
We hiked for a bit further to put some distance between us and the horses, and for some privacy, and set up camp.
Even Jim was just done.
No sooner had we built a fire, cooked dinner, and poured a cup of wine, than the rain came.