Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sawtooths Backpacking Trip -- Preparation

Naturally, a trip of this length and altitude required a bit of preparation. 

First, we picked a few people to join us. Despite our candidate criteria (cool, in shape, into backpacking and up for a trip like this), every one of them flaked. One even bailed the weekend before heading out. 

Second, we planned a few joint day hikes throughout the spring and summer. We'd start with the foothills around Boise (3,000 to 6,000 ft) and get in some higher elevation hikes over the summer. I surprised Bryan one day by showing up with a 45-lb pack, which turned a three-hour hike into six hours. Bryan is a patient man. It was a hot day. Two lessons learned there -- drop some serious pack weight (and er, reduce my love handles) and plan hiking around the cooler parts of the day.

Third, we talked weight, gear and reviewed our trip plans almost weekly. I made frequent trips to Idaho Mountain Touring and the Boise REI stores to chat with the staff, get input and look over gear.

Fourth, I read a lot of backpacking articles for tips, tricks and insights. By coincidence I began receiving complimentary copies of Backpacker Magazine (a promo effort on their part) and the timing couldn't have been more ideal. 

Fifth, we had to sell it to the wives (and find a way back home). Since we were ending our trip at Redfish Lake we thought the wives would enjoy meeting us in Stanley for a short, romantic weekend getaway. Better yet, we could cap off the trip with a delicious and infamous Black & Blue Steak at the Kasino Club, as well as get in some whitewater rafting with The River Company.

A week before the trip, I called the ranger station in Stanley. Two things had me concerned. Since we were heading out of Atlanta, the ranger said that the trail hadn't been officially cleared in more than eight years and to expect lots of deadfall. They didn't have any current data on trail condition. That could mean logs the size of a truck lying across the trail. The other concern was Cramer Divide (the highest point of our trip at 9,500 ft). A ranger had gone up the previous week and said there was lots of ice and snow on the trail. Given that we were still a week+ away from getting to the divide and that the area was finally thawing, we figured we'd have less ice and snow to deal with.

Our wives said we were obsessed. We were. But when you're in the middle of nowhere and a good day's hike from anyone, we wanted to be mentally and physically prepared for almost anything.

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