09-21-09 - Backpacking

Went backpacking over the weekend in the Cascades (Pear Lake to be exact). It was my first time ever backpacking and it went pretty well. I've never done it because 1. I didn't have the gear and didn't want to spend the $1k+ to buy all new gear, and 2. I was worried it would be bad with my fucked up back. It turns out I didn't need to worry about #2. A properly fitted backpack puts all the weight on your hips; my back felt perfectly fine the whole time. Also the modern sleep pads (Thermarest) are really cushy so there's no back pain from bad sleeping conditions.

After we set up camp, we scrambled straight up this face which was great dangerous fun :

And by pure luck we were at the right time for the masses of blueberries (*) everywhere, which were just becoming ripe :

They were all over in the understory; I guess I've seen the bushes before earlier in the year on hikes and had no idea what a bounty they would bear in the fall. Also the leaves turn bright red, which creates great patches of color contrast against all the evergreen trees.

(*) All the locals here seem to call them blueberries or "mountain blueberries", but I'm not entirely convinced that's the right appelation. Certainly they are a berry in genus vaccinium, but it seems very hard to tell whether a given vaccinium should be called "blueberry" or "huckleberry", the distinction appears to be pretty random. In any case, these things were vastly different from the commercial cultivated blueberry, which I find to be mealy and insipid. These were just bursting with flavor, with a twang like a sour apple candy or tropical fruit flavor notes.

Another random tidbit as a note to myself : the first night in happened to be a moonless night, so the stars were absolutely spectacular. That was unintentional and just luck, but it's so cool it's worth planning and doing on purpose.


castano said...

That's beautiful! Oh, I'm jealous, I need to find a backpacking mate now that I'm good shape...

Timothy Farrar said...

Nice. If you are looking for something exciting, slightly dangerous, and highly rewarding for dusk and dawn (was great in the middle of September), I would recommend backpacking along the Olympic coastline (Rialto beach then Northbound, or Third Beach and Southbound), just be mindful about the tide!

cbloom said...

@ IC - yeah you would love it, you should definitely do it. It was invaluable getting to go with someone who was experienced, mainly to help make sure that I had all the right stuff in the pack (and not extra things I didn't need).

Thatcher Ulrich said...

If it's blackish and has big crunchy seeds, I call it a huckleberry. No idea if that's correct.

old rants