My Youngest Brother's First Backpacking Trip!

This was my first Memorial Day (thank you to those that gave their lives serving) weekend in town for a few years. I had house projects, work, and other shit to get done. I enjoy house projects and all. It was a gorgeous weekend though. Like 70 degrees in May in Anchorage. Officially the second warmest May on record. My brother got back from college on Friday. I told him he could crash at my house under the condition that he came backpacking with me. 

 Stoked for his first hike!

Stoked for his first hike!

It was really a hard sell. I had all the gear ready and packed for him (minus his clothes). I gave him my 50 L Mountainsmith bag with my old 20 degree synthetic bag and old self-inflating Therm-a-Rest pad. I split up the tent and packed my 30 L camp M3 pack with my gear. My new down sleeping bag packs down so small that I can now carry a much smaller pack-given I don't need to bring many layers. I plopped the mostly packed bag in his room and told him to put some clothes and water in it.

My brother was actually pretty excited about the trip. We rolled up the the Glen Alps trailhead late afternoon. We were planning on taking the 6 mile trail to Williwaw Lakes. Depending on my knee, we were going to take a different route back over the "Ballfield" and Little O'Malley. This trail is only 4 miles but much steeper. I didn't want to push my knee too hard on day 1. I told Lindsay (who is in Mongolia) where we were going and we were off!

 Shiro is so proud of his body paint

Shiro is so proud of his body paint

We set off down the trail at a good clip. My brother was appropriately gaining stoke as we walked. It was some good quality time to catch up on life. About a mile in he decided he needed a walking stick. He whipped out his knife and started smoothing out the handle. Ok, time for a pee break for me while you whittle or whatever. I wander up the trail a bit, check behind me (ok, good to go!) and find a nice bush that blocks me from the trail where my brother is standing. I am almost done when Shiro bolts past me... followed by a biker. I make eye contact and say hi. Half squatting with my pants around my ankle. Thanks for the warning bro!

I call Shiro to me so he doesn't bug the probably traumatized biker any more. I yell at my brother that I am done. And some smart ass remarks about not warning me or the biker. Oh well. He is pleased with his new walking stick. Shiro is jealous. He loves sticks. To retaliate, he jumps off the trail into a huge mud pit. Gross. The black really brings out his eyes. He proceeds to run all over the place. I get a lot of comments on my dog "He is so dirty!" (tell me something I don't know), "I love his pack!" (that's right, you carry your own food fucker!!). "He has so much energy!" (yes, yes he does...), "your dog is so cute!" (what, he literally looks like he is covered in shit) "Why is he beeping?" (because my voice doesn't carry but the radio frequency that makes his collar beep has a half mile range!). Yup, he is a popular mutt. Shiro finally gets his revenge on my brother. He jumps in front of my brother, causing him to break his stick. Now they are both stick-less.

 Warming up after the swim

Warming up after the swim

We continue on rather uneventfully. After about three hours, we lay our eyes on the Williwaw Lakes. There are already a handful of tents set up. It is a large valley and we are able to find a nice secluded spot. I start to set up the tent. My brother pulls out a swimsuit and announces he is going swimming because why the fuck not. I give up on setting up camp-its not like we are losing day light anytime soon (yay for summer in Alaska)-and follow him down to film the spectacle. He wades carefully out over the rocks in the frigid water.  Shiro starts to follow him-then turns around when he gets chest deep. I guess he is not a water dog.

My bother gets out about mid-thigh deep. Looks at me, says something about being cold, and then dunks himself. Applause erupts from the other side of the lake. He has an audience. Excellent. That shit should be witnessed. He quickly gets out of the water. Good thing he has a 20 degree synthetic sleeping bag waiting for him. He suggests I try to. Ok, fine. I am not prepared. So I strip down to my underware, wade out, and plunge in neck deep (my hair takes hours to dry and I don't want hypothermia). Well that was refreshing and cold as fuck. But not as bad as that time I sat in an ice bath for 20 minutes for EMS training to "observe and treat the effects of cold water immersion."

We head back up to the not-quite-set-up tent. We change out of wet clothes and get the tent set up. There is no rain in the forecast and clouds are minimal so we decide to leave the rain fly off.  I then start to cook up some mountain house. My brother is skeptical of food that comes from a bag. He ends up being pleasantly surprised. He starts shivering and gets in his sleeping bag. Shiro is shivering now too and won't come close enough to me to warm up. Better make that fucker move. I get up to go get water. Both guys follow.

I get down to the lakes. There is a section of flowing water. Shiro jumps into the water again. Great. I show Zacharry the secrets of purifying water in the back country. He appropriately responds with "that's it?". Yup. Well now he knows!

We head back up to camp again. Shiro has stopped shivering. It is about 10 and we decide to go to bed. Shiro stares pensively off at the sunset before curling up between our feet.

 Sunset over the lakes

Sunset over the lakes

 Shiro staring off at something in the distance

Shiro staring off at something in the distance

I sleep pretty well. So does my brother. We get up and fire up the jet boil so I can introduce my brother to shitty instant coffee and oatmeal out of the pouch. He is pretty impressed. He heads down to practice his new water purifying skills while I pack up the tent. We decide to take the shorter, but steeper, way back. We set off. After about 30 minutes of walking it looks like the worst is past us. Just kidding. That was a warm up. We look up at the trail... it traverses a steep scree slope. I spend a lot of time in the mountains and that route looks...unpleasant. Well, up we go. About an hour later, we finally make it up to the ballfield. All downhill from here. My knee is still holding up. Man, I can't wait for it to be 100% again. I need to get out more. Only a few more weeks until my 6 months from ACL surgery anniversary.

 Mission accomplished

Mission accomplished

We take a snack break on a nice rock. I drop my jerky on the rock. Ok Shiro, you don't usually get human food but here ya go. Shiro is stoked for his snack. We follow the Ballfield back towards Anchorage. About an hour and a half later, we are back at the truck. I am pleased with the outing. My brother enjoyed himself and wants to go again. My dog is tired and happy. I got to spend a beautiful few days and night outside.