Soon after moving up to the glorious Pacific Northwest (Central Washington to be more specific) I went on my first real backpacking trip with my brother. We were going on a two night hike on a relatively flat but quite rugged trail. At the time my aerobics schedule consisted of mowing the lawn once a week (or less) and searching the couch for the remote. I purchased a $35 external frame backpack (I actually still have it) from Costco and ordered a cheap synthetic sleeping bag (still use it) and ¾ length Therma-rest mat (still use this also). I don’t recall everything I packed but I do recall bringing two pairs of jeans (?!?!) and a few t-shirts, I do recall that my pack must have been close to 80lbs.
We headed out without any thought of the weather and trudged up the trail. After about 7 grueling miles we came to our first camp site, an old gold mine. We set up camp and noticing that there might be rain we put a tarp under the tent (yes, I said UNDER). After setting up camp we went up the trail a ways to a place with access to the stream where we washed and filtered water. On the way back we noticed quite a bit of berry bushes full of fruit on either side of the trail. But having no idea what they were did not consider eating any.
During the night I awoke to find I was laying face down in about 2 inches of water, and it was raining quite hard! The tarp we used to protect the tent from the ground was collecting all of the rain that rolled off the tent creating a small lake with us in the middle. Around the tarp the soft pine covered ground was soaking up the water as quickly as it came down. (“Note to self: the tarp goes OVER the sleepers!”) We did our best to drain the water and get what little sleep we could. Luckily it was not a very cold night and the wet bags were more of a inconvenience than anything.
In the morning we packed up and continued on to our intended next camp spot. We figured if the rain stopped by noon we could hang our stuff out and get it dry enough that we could endure another night. Upon heading out we were surprised to find that something had ravaged the berry bushes just up the trail from our camp. Did I mention that we kept our packs and food in the tent with us? This was my closest encounter with a bear (that I know of). Well as luck would have it, it continued to rain. Oh yea, we had no rain gear so add a few more pounds to my pack now that it and almost everything in it was soaking wet. By noon we decided to make the trek back to the trail head and go home. It was a long miserable almost wordless trip.
Believe it or not this in no way deterred me from future backpacking trips. In fact just about every trip since has been my ‘best trip ever’. Not a hard achievement given how low the bar was to start.