We were giddy with anticipation as Memorial Day weekend and thus our first backpack of the season approached. Two friends, Susie and Jane, would be joining us for the Friday to Sunday trip. This was Jane’s first ever backpack so that made the planning even more special. We had new gear to break in and lots of snacks. The wilderness beckoned. We were beyond ready.
For days we watched the weather forecast and didn’t like it at all. The closer we got, the more it looked like a hard rain all day Friday. Well, that silly weather forecast would just have to change. So, with our sunny-sky request sent to the universe, we waited patiently. It was with lots of hope that we woke up ready to hike Friday morning, but in the face of steady rain we finally, grudgingly reverted to plan B, a Saturday-Sunday backpack. Apparently, we have no pull with the weather makers.
Saturday was perfect hiking weather so we headed out bright and early to the Union Creek Trailhead, 11 miles out Coffee Creek Road. We were stoked to see no cars at the trailhead; shocking for Memorial Day weekend.
The Union Creek trail starts as an old road once used to access the mines in the area. It’s a moderate uphill for six miles to Union Creek Meadow and seldom out of sight of water; good for the first backpack of the season.
One of the reasons we love Union Creek is that there are wildflowers “out the wazoo,” as Jane put it. Being very flower savvy, she chanted botanical names all the way up the trail.
We took our first break at a nice campsite 2½ miles in before crossing the wooden bridge over Union Creek.
After a couple of more miles we started seeing campsites along the creek. We were headed for a particular spot a friend had recommended. There wasn’t exactly a street sign and so we had much consultation over the map. Our buddies may have gotten the idea we didn’t know what we were doing. They were hanging back, conferring. We feared mutiny.
But then there it was, a beautiful spot by the creek in a green meadow embellished with statuesque rocks, Sugar Pine Butte rising in the distance. After some whooping and celebration, we set up camp.
As the sun went down the weather turned cold, and we decided to work on our (pathetic) campfire building skills. Those who have seen us try to start a fire find it a painful experience and generally take the matches out of our hands before we really have a go at it. So we instructed Jane and Susie to give us time to succeed. They watched, agonizing and biting their tongues until we got a little fire started. We had seen others blow on the first flames with raging results so we both bent over and started blowing on the tiny little fire. But this gave us the giggles and blowing while laughing caused us to spit the fire out. Another failed fire attempt. Susie jumped in and soon she had a toasty fire going.
It was enjoyable to stay up late talking with friends. When it got so cold that sitting directly on the coals started to seem like a good idea, we said goodnight.
We’re not sure how low the temperature dropped, but we slept in our tents, in down mummy bags, with long underwear and multiple pairs of socks, and our knit hats. In the morning when we turned our cell phones on to photograph the alpine glow, they promptly and indignantly shut down; too cold to work.
We made coffee and slowly thawed out ourselves. No one was in a hurry to leave that special place. Eventually we packed up and headed back to civilization. We hadn’t seen another soul the whole backpack.