Today was the first day of my backpack training, and Adelle and I decided to take the dogs through Rough Canyon.  The hike can be done as an out-and-back, making it as short as 2 miles, or as a loop, which puts it right around 5 miles.  We chose to do it as a loop because both of us had done the out-and-back route before.

I was wearing my REI Ridgeline backpack with 13 lbs of weight in it.  We took a photo to show how awkward it looks with that little weight in it.  In fact, if I put a pack on in the store and there was this much of a gap, I’d never buy it. Still, one of the purposes of these hikes is to test out the pack to see if I want to buy a new one.

My ridgeline pack certainly fits oddly with so little weight in it.

My ridgeline pack certainly fits oddly with so little weight in it.

The second purpose is for me to get my legs in hiking shape.  Yes, mountain biking works lots of muscles, but not the same ones as hiking.  My quads and feet need some time on the trails before our annual July trip.

The dogs were excited just to get out and play!  This was the perfect trail for that as, over the next 3 miles (until we reached the Tabeguache doubletrack that would take us back), we saw a total of 4 people.

Rough Canyon is named that for a reason. While there is an actual trail meandering through the first portion, after hiking across and down a narrow rock shelf, somewhere around a mile in, things begin to change considerably.

AdellehikingSoon Rough Canyon earns its name, forcing hikers to slide down boulders, rock hop across creeks and pools of water, and scramble up and over rockslides.  The good thing is that through all the challenges, the trail appears at every bit of dirt, so it’s very difficult to get lost.  Of course, you’re hiking down a canyon, so there’s really only one way to go.

If we’d been doing this hike in Arizona or Georgia, I probably would have turned back, or at least wished for my sturdy hiking boots, out of fear of rattlesnakes.  Fortunately, our area has only one: the pygmy rattler, and he is quite elusive.  In fact, the only snake we saw while hopping around on rocks and bushwhacking was a garter snake.

Honestly, it was great to be out hiking again! My pack, though it seemed awkward when I stood in front of a mirror, didn’t bother me in the least.  Adelle’s dogs were thrilled with all the available water to jump in, and we were pretty much all alone in a wonderland of rocks, blue sky, and wildflowers.

desertflowersAt about 2 miles in we began to see the canyon opening up ahead of us.  We could see the canyon walls getting shorter, and the riverbed itself was easier to hike through.

canyonYes, this was easier than what we’d picked our way through to get here!  The problem with hikes like these is that you must be extremely careful throughout.  I slipped on a loose, steep portion of trail at one point and fell right on my behind.  That part was ok, but of course I threw my hand out to catch myself.  I didn’t hurt it, but a broken wrist or ankle in a canyon like this would be no fun.  Somehow you would still have to make your way out: there wouldn’t be any sitting around until a stretcher and rescue crew got to you.

Eventually, though, we could see the end!  In the distance we saw Jeeps heading down some four wheeler trails, and we had this beautiful view from the top of the now-dry Rough Canyon falls.

endofthelineFrom here, we still had 2 miles to go to get back to the car, and we knew at least the first mile would be all uphill.  We started off at a steady pace, slowly, slowly climbing.  A little over half a mile into this portion, I realized another part of my hike training that I’d let slip past me: eating.  My legs suddenly just did not want to go another step.

I fell a little behind.  Then a little more.  We’d had a very small snack somewhere in the middle of the canyon, but apparently it had worn off.  I knew it had been probably an hour since I’d eaten.  I stopped, took off the pack, dug out a Clif bar, and ate it as we slowly trudged along.

It felt like only minutes later that some energy returned to my very tired body.   See, hike training isn’t just about the hike itself.  That’s an important part, but it’s not the only part.  Training for your trips helps you to remember those little things like eating every hour, stopping for breaks, and resting your weary feet.

We reached the car just shy of 5 miles and 3 hours.  The first portion of the hike had taken quite a bit of time, what with all the boulder hopping and scrambling.  My aching legs informed me that hike training was definitely the right thing to do.  A few more of these, and I just might be ready for our trip.

Planning a backpacking trip of your own?  Start training now!

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