The sweetness of scotch broom hangs in the warm, soft air. It is still, and the stillness is filling, as if the quiet peacefulness of this place might hold you up in it. A light breeze picks up and rustles the thick leaves in the tree above me. The echoing wind high in the pines stirs the soul; then the quietness returns. Chirps and whistles of birds in the nearby pines accent the silence, for it is not really silent at all, but void of all the noises we grow accustomed to in cities. When those noises no longer sound we sense their absence as perfect stillness; it is only after a moment of drinking in that silence that our ears make room and we begin to take in the sounds of nature—the buzzing insects and the whispers in the grass, the depth to the birdsong, each song overlapping, from near and far their melodies intermixing.
Jack and I are taking to the road. Our mode of transportation is a beast, or more lovingly the beast: a combination of Wiley, a three quarter ton Chevy pickup with four wheel drive AND four wheel steering—a grandiose hand-me-down from my soon to be father-in-law—and a slide in, pop-up camper nicknamed Anita after my maternal grandmother who had a travel bug to rival mine.
My parents took me backpacking outside of Ketchum, Idaho practically every summer of my childhood starting when I was 3 or 4. I loved being totally immersed in the mountain forests. I am lucky to have been exposed to the incredible isolation and remote wilderness that backpacking brings from a young age. I am also fortunate to have been taught the skills needed to be so isolated from civilization. We brought my best friend, Josie, to Idaho with us when I was in high school and she predictably fell immediately in love with it. This summer I decide to plan a trip to take four of my best girlfriends backpacking. For two of them it would be their first trip.
I selected the Duck Pass trail in the John Muir Wilderness for a few reasons. 1. It looked incredibly beautiful 2. The trail passed 3 smaller lakes on the way to Duck Lake. I wasn’t sure how well everyone would do hiking with packs so the lower lakes gave us alternative camping options 3. The trail to Duck didn’t seem to long or challenging but was far enough to get us out of most day hiking range. 4. There were trails that we could day hike on once we set up camp.