This last weekend, myself and three other girlfriends set out for the Seven Devils peaks that tower over North America’s deepest canyon, known as Hells Canyon. Our trip started just like any girls’ road trip does- lots of talking, laughing and belting out various tunes from this 90s teenager’s musical repertoire. You can better believe that included Whitney, Salt-n-Pepa, Shania and Mariah – I’m not even ashamed to admit it! For some on the trip, this was their very first true backpacking experience and although, you try to convey what the hike will be like, it is hard to firmly grasp the reality of it until it finally comes to fruition. Every backpacker understands the physical and mental tolls one goes through to venture into places that the average person does not get to experience. Every backpacker also understands the sheer gratification that comes from, as Courtney described, “going over the mountain rather than around it.”
As we parked at the end of the uphill dusty and bumpy road, we geared up and took pre-hike photos, of course. We said goodbye to the car and left a few modern comforts behind – although we are privy to prepackaged freeze dried meals, JetBoil stoves and water filters, not exactly Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery, but at least we didn’t bring a fifth-wheel. We may not be the first ones to explore this beautiful wilderness but we certainly felt hardcore and for some in the group this was uncharted territory.
As we cinched and clipped on our packs and began the climb reality set in. It’s the little things you don’t realize until you’re already committed. For example, the one toe nail that’s a little bit too long that you wished you gave more attention to before the hike. Soon, every muscle within you begins to burn and you begin to question what items you could jettison along the way. Each steep and rocky step brought us closer but we had to convince ourselves we could do it. We finally reached the ridge overlooking Mirror Lake, with the “Tower of Babel” peak showing off its menacing crags. We are only halfway to our destination, Sheep Lake, which requires a steep and loose rock descent. Dusk was nearing so we had to keep moving so we could find a camp spot before nightfall.
As we began our descent, the scenery beyond looks like something from the movie, “Homeward Bound.” You know the one, where the three domesticated family pets get lost in the wilderness and have to find their way back, all the while sharing in quirky commentary. Finally, we make our full descent into Sheep Lake and search for a spot to rest our aching bodies and forget about the eventual climb back out of here. We pass a Boy Scout group, whose leader shares that we are the second group of all-women backpackers they’ve seen and asks if it’s some sort of “women in the outdoors holiday.” Diva informs him that they are the first all-male group we’ve seen and we leave them at that and try to believe that they weren’t being condescending. Just as a side note, women are taking over in the outdoors so, move over guys!
We found a beautiful spot overlooking the lake but the price of its views came with a slanted night’s sleep in our tent later. We built our fire along a small cliff that peaked out over the water and shared in conversation and our freeze dried meals (which tasted like heaven after our hike). Growing up, I had a hard time relating to a lot of women my age, I assumed I was different with my love of the outdoors and sports. As I have opened myself to the company of women, I have found that I desire their presence more than most. Women have a bond, that when shared with one another without the walls of mistrust and comparison, has such a dynamic attached. Women know how to laugh, be vulnerable and encourage one another unlike many other relationships.
At the end of our trip, we knew we shared something together that would not be forgotten anytime soon. We were exhausted but blissfully content. We challenged ourselves and felt stronger for doing it. It almost seems apropos to include a John Muir quote but alas, I leave you with this parting personal sentiment: there’s nothing like getting the girls together to play outside.