Always a little hesitant to try it out on our own, Karl and I tagged along with some of our friends. Our friends are avid backpackers and they were an excellent group to join. Two of them are medical doctors (both trained in public health, one in family medicine, and the other in disease pathology), the pathologist's dad is a retired mountaineering ex-pilot, and the doctor's wife is an environmentalist gourmet chef. We were in good hands. In terms of gear, they helped us figure out what we needed to take, and since other items like the cooking stove, pots and pans, water purifiers, and snacks and meals were shared among the group, we got to try it out and learn without having to be responsible for getting too much gear. The best way to learn how to do it right is to go with people that do it right. And don't mind answering a lot of newbie questions.
Karl and I joined for 2 days while the group was doing 4 days. On our first day we started from the West Fork Foss trail to Trout, Copper and Little Heart Lake (about 5 miles one way). It is fairly easy to Trout lake, but the trail does climb steadily and switchback until Copper Lake. There are established campsites along each of the lakes; we camped at Little Heart Lake. The next day we trekked up to Big Heart Lake and jumped in the icy water and sunbathed before heading back down. Our friends continued on for some trail and route finding.
All in all, backpacking is better than car camping. One enjoyable aspect of backpacking is that shorter distances are traveled, usually with plenty of time to rest and soak in views. Once the final destination is reached, you can chill out and unpack, and chill out more. Since there are usually only other backpackers on the trails that stay overnight, there is also ample privacy, and no annoying car engines or RVs making noise. While I enjoy an exhausting day hike, I liked breaking up the distance traveled.
Where we went and how to get there: West Fork Foss River and Lakes in Washington's Central Cascades
When we went: First weekend of September
Special permits: purchase and display a NW Forest Pass, fill out Alpine Lakes registration at trailhead.
Total miles hiked: about 15 miles in 2 days.
Where most gear was purchased: REI
We survived. It was amazing, and we returned eager to try it out again on our own.
To you: Sars, Larry, and J+J. Thank you so much for taking us!
Copper Lake, lunch spot.
West Fork Foss Lakes Trailhead
J+J on our climb up to Copper Lake
J on the way to Little Heart Lake
All of us at Big Heart Lake
The lovely Sars
The group trailfinding with Big Heart Lake in the distance
Bouldering and more trailfinding