First Solo Backpacking Trip

Location: Middle Fork Trail

D's bestfriend from back home flew in and the two of them set off to embark on an intense adventure of doing a winter mountaineer's ascent of Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. 

This left me with roughly 4 days to journey on my own. 
I decided to tackle the west side of that very same mountain range and go on my first ever solo backpacking trip in Sequoia National Park, taking the Middle Fork Trail ~13 miles back to the largest and most secluded Sequoia grove.
Peep my mule deer friends that kept me company along the way.
Paranoia of black bear run-ins set in before I even left (as irrational as those fears were). Some research resided my fears as I found out out bears would likely still be in hibernation, although, occasionally, young, hungry, and horny males come out early season... Even still, unlikely, and because of that, I didn't take bear precautions with me to store food and what not - I didn't want extra weight.

Now, I went to school for natural resource management with a focus on wildlife. I am an educated person when it comes to that arena of information. I know black bears are generally non-aggressive, as long as food and/or their babies aren't involved. I know a respectful distance and making your presence known (with noise, not brutality) is enough to keep you safe. I know these things, and because of that, am very aware my black bear fears were irrational. Nonetheless, I felt them.
After a glorious (and paranoid) previous evening and night, I set off on day 2 of hiking and was ~12 miles back, pretty close to the grove I was aiming to get to, when I saw it... Freshly imprinted in the snow and large - also headed in the same direction as me - bear tracks.

The tracks, combined with mysterious and quite large piles of poop I'd been seeing, caused my anxiety levels to sky rocket. And thus, I turned back, unwilling to face what was potentially ahead. 
Now… for the embarrassing part of this blog: hindsight being 20/20, I now realize these were most likely not bear tracks, but mountain lion tracks instead, given the size, the lack of claws, and the general shape. I think I was so hyped up on fear and paranoia of bears that my mind twisted the first signs of “evidence” into bear tracks, rather than looking at the facts. Oddly, I don’t feel a lot of fear towards mountain lions, and likely would’ve continued on if I had thought of this.
Because of this, I had my longest hiking day ever: 15 miles! I didn't even have a hiking day that far the entire 33 days I was on the Long Trail in Vermont LOL.

With the funny turn of events and all, the backpacking trip was a complete success in my mind and I cherish the memories and moments of that journey! Here's some lovely scenes from along the way:
The following day, I drove Bernie (the camper truck, to refresh your memory) up-slope and explored the snow-laden wonderland existing within the ancient Sequoias. It was awe-inspiring.

I had been to visit with the Sequoias on one other occasion, nearly 4 years earlier, and it was during the summer. It was such a beautiful contrast to remember the warmth and wildflowers everywhere during my first visit, and see the sparkly, snow-covered land during this visit.
First time in my life I have memories of being completely mesmerized by the snow. Absolutely GORGEOUS.
A quick trip to the clinic to get a pesky tick head removed and antibiotics to reduce the risk of limes and I was back, picking D and J (his bestfriend) up (they didn't make it to the top by the way, the weather conditions weren't allowing for this). 

With all the unexpectedness of this solo trip, from the early turn-around on the trail to the painful tick bite and clinic visit, it was so amazing. Honestly. I sincerely wouldn't want it to have went any way other than how it did. I was continually smiling, cracking myself up (I find myself very funny), and just having the grandest of times exploring the winter wonderland and being on my own. I'm so thankful for this experience.
Inhale peace, exhale joy.

With Love and Light,


If you would like to contribute to further backpacking trips and hear of these interesting adventures, here’s how you can do so (it’s super appreciated!):

  • Paypal:
  • Cashapp: $elizabethbuttram
  • Venmo: @elizabeth-buttram-1

Published by roaminglizard

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