By Danny King, Headliner Columnist, June 24, 2022
For the last several months my wife, Mrs. King, along with my brother Warren and I have been planning a backpacking trip to a lake located at the beginning of the Uinta Mountain range for Memorial Day weekend. We did our research, spent months learning what we needed to survive a quick overnight hike and spent a good chunk of dough on equipment that would make us comfortable as we trudged through nature like our ancestors of yore.
The name of the lake is Ibantik and the plan was to hike the four miles up to the lake, set up camp, enjoy the evening and then hike back down the next day. As Memorial Day weekend started rearing its head towards us, the more excited we became. In anticipation for the hike, we took several “practice hikes” to get ourselves accustomed to the elevation and setting up camp. Nothing could go wrong, we thought of everything, and we were about to backpack the hell out of this trial.
The day came, we packed our gear, ate some Jeremiah’s in Ogden and made our way to the trailhead. As we climbed higher and higher in our newly acquired Subaru Forester (we had gone full “granola” before we knew it), the more uneasy we became. Not only was there snow, several inches deep on the side of the road, but there were banks preventing us from driving up to the trailhead to even begin the hike. We tried maneuvering our way past the banks of snow to reach the trailhead but decided to bail and head back down to a lower parking lot and hike our way up to where we needed to go.
Undeterred by the setback, we maintained our enthusiasm and began our hike a little earlier than expected. As we trekked on the road and through the deep snowbanks, we finally made it to a fork in the road. A nice man with some sort of indiscernible breed of lapdog asked us where we were headed and told us where we needed to go. We went in the direction he pointed with beaming smiles and light in our eyes.
As it is want to do, the snow got deeper the higher up we went. The banks went from one to two feet deep to several feet deep. We tried walking on top of them only to have our legs sink all the way up to our thighs. We reached the trailhead and could not find the trail that led us up to the lake. Mrs. King, the cleverest of the three, suggested we turn back and try again later in the summer but thoughts of months and months of planning and training, not to mention the sheer amount of cash we spent on this stuff, prevented the rest of the group from agreeing. We picked a lake that was closer and pressed on.
Less than half a mile up the trail we had chosen was the dirtiest, ugliest, little pond that could have ever been put into existence. In our exhaustion and sopping wet socks, we tried to decide if we should camp here in a clearing surrounded by snow and red ants or trek back down to a campground closer to our beloved new car. After a pretty loud conversation between my wife and I, with Warren awkwardly throwing rocks into the pond pretending that he couldn’t hear us, we decided to slosh back through the snow and make our way to the campground.
The hike back was as bad as it was going in, but once we reached the campground the trip seemed to have been saved. We made a roaring fire, set up our tents and ate some delicious food. We even took a bone rattling dip into the nearby lake just to say we did. Feelings were mended, bellies were filled and we were alone in the beauty of nature. Isn’t that what it was supposed to be about the whole damn time? As the sun descended and our worry that we were being watched increased, we decided to call it an early night and we all retreated to our tents, the end of a trying albeit relationship-building day.
I was awakened from my slumber by my own name being whispered right by my ear. My brother was awake saying he wasn’t feeling very well and asking if I wanted to take a walk with him - at 4:30 a.m. in the morning. Having heard the tails of the mountainous Windigo that feasted on human flesh, I asked him to tell me something only Warren would know, he did, and as politely as I could, I turned down his request for an early morning jaunt. Then he threw up (he was later diagnosed with altitude sickness). After that we all decided it was probably best for us to get up and make our way back down to our brand-new car and call the trip a little early.
We were tired but all in all the trip had been a good time and we had learned a lot about backpacking and even more about ourselves. Beautiful, right? We got to our brand spanking new car and were on our way. We laughed at the things that went wrong and asked ourselves what else could have gone wrong. While we were laughing about fictional robbers stealing our car in the night or bears attacking us and turning us into one of their own, a deer jumped in front of the car.
Narrowly missing the deer, all eyes were on it as another one of its friends hit the car directly in the center. We stepped out of our beautiful new Subaru and inspected the damage. The fender was ripped off, the hood was bent back on itself, and the lights were broken. We had the car less than a month. Our trip lasted less than 24 hours and we hiked for less than two miles. The price we would pay in the end far outweighed the trip that was planned, right?
After thinking about it more and more, I kept asking myself why anybody leaves their house at all. Why leave the safety of certainty for a world that is unpredictable and full of deer? I kept thinking about a quote from John Steinbeck, “We don’t take trips. A trip takes us.”
Oftentimes when we travel somewhere new, we are vulnerable to the random attacks that the world can throw at anyone at any given minute. We can research as much as we want, plan everything to a “T,” but things can and will go wrong. Should this keep us from ever leaving the house? From traveling and meeting new people? I say no, and so would anyone else that is a traveler of the world. When we travel, we open ourselves up to the universe and ask it to show us its beauty and wonder. However, we also open ourselves up for discomfort and for any number of unfortunate happenings.
While the price I will have to pay to fix my car is steep, the memories I made, the things I saw and the relationships that were strengthened will be worth everything that happened. If all else fails, I have a story that will hopefully make my kids laugh one day.