Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Unreal Support

Before I even dive into my first backpacking adventure, I wanted to touch on a different topic first. As many of you now know, I decided to set up a GoFundMe campaign to help with the bionic back bills. If you didn't know, here's the link: Tiff's GoFundMe. I explain a bit of the background on why and my personal struggle with asking for help on the page itself, so I'm not going to go into details here. I honestly wasn't expecting much to come of it. Well, I should have known better! My mind has been absolutely blown with the amount of support that I have received so far. After the first weekend (started on a Friday evening), I was over $3k. That next day, I was over $6.5k thanks to a jaw-dropping donation. The amount of support has been unreal, and I'm speechless. As I type this, I'm closing in on my goal and I cannot believe it - less than two weeks! I honestly cannot thank everyone enough who has donated - it means the world to me. I know there are a lot who cannot donate, and I completely understand. But the amount of support I've received though this, along with all of the encouragement and support I've received throughout this entire recovery process, has meant the world to me. People are amazing. 

The Return to Backpacking

20 months. It had been 20 months since I backpacked to Precipice Lake in October 2012. 20 months feels like eternity when you use to spend practically every weekend backpacking. Well, the backpacking hiatus ended this past weekend. I went backpacking for the first time since breaking my back and it was AWESOME! 

After a several weekends off from hiking, partially due to my crazy bionic back and Dave being gone on his ski touring adventure, I finally started doing some serious day hiking again. I hadn't done anything close to 10 miles since I started back at work last September. Well, that was changing. It started out with a little 9 mile leg stretch to Mist Falls in Kings Canyon. The following weekend, we decided to do a little backpacking practice - long day hike, minimalist car camping, day hike. I was honestly surprised how well that went. We hiked up the Sphinx Creek trail in Kings Canyon and followed it up with the Park Ridge Trial (tame in comparison to the Sphinx Creek switchbacks). We had planned to backpack the next weekend, but put that off and decided to day hike up to Kearsarge Pass instead. It was a little exhausting for me because it was my first hike at altitude in a long time, but it was good. I was thrilled with how it went. I was honestly amazed to have three weekends of "longer" day hikes in a row with a back that was behaving. Dave and I knew what the next step was... backpacking!

I was nervous leading up to backpacking. What if it ended like the failed attempt we had last fall? What if something happened to my back? But...what if I was able to actually do it? I spent Friday afternoon packing my "new" Arc'teryx Altra - a sleeping back, sleeping pad, clothes, my camera, a silly little bear. When I was done, the pack weighted in at 14 pounds. I was hoping it was less, but I was not complaining. I tried it on. It felt a little weird - a backpack with a suspension system is going to feel different than my Quintic ski pack - but felt much better than when I tried to carry it last fall. Maybe this was a good sign? I hoped so. I felt ready.

Saturday, we left for Sequoia. Our destination was Little Lakes, which is situated right below Mt Silliman. Our friend, Steve (@YosemiteSteve), had told us about it last fall. Once we had our permit for the Twin Lakes trail, we were off. It was weird carrying the pack. It just felt different in so many ways, but it didn't feel bad. The one nice thing about my backpack is that the weight is all on my hips, not my new back. Plus, the pack doesn't even touch my back where the hardware is (occasionally my other pack bothers me because it lays perfectly on my back), so there was no irritation. It was hot out, but the first 2+ miles felt easy peasy to me. Maybe this was a good sign?! Once we got to the Silliman Creek crossing, we took the use trail that leads toward Mt Silliman. When we reached the meadow with an amazing view of the endless slabs leading up to Silliman Lake, we started looking for the best way to get to Little Lakes. After some bushwhacking and figuring out what we wanted to do, I decided that maybe we should just camp in the great little spot I had seen not too long ago. I really wanted camp at Little Lakes, but I didn't want to spend too much more time looking for the best way to get there. Plus, I wanted to just relax and not push myself too much on my first backpacking trip. Dave was okay with it. We were in nature, what did the destination really matter? We set up camp, did some exploring and just soaked it all in. It finally started to sink in that I was backpacking again.

Endless Slabs to Silliman Lakes

Sunday morning, I woke up with a slightly stiff back, but that always happens when I camp - especially now. Once I started moving around, the stiffness went away. We had breakfast, packed up camp, and started heading down the trail. Carrying a backpack started to feel natural. It threw off my balance from time to time (I still have some balance issues, and the pack does have a swivel hip belt), but nothing too bad. Dave was pretty surprised that I was able to keep up with him most of the way down. I tend to go up faster than coming down, so this is a little sign of progress, I think. As we approached the trailhead, it really hit me that had just completed my first backpacking trip since the accident. I was so happy, I was almost in tears. I celebrated with an It's-It at 10am, because that's just how I roll.

This is what you call a #happytiffyface


I've had a hard time expressing just what backpacking means to me. I was ecstatic last summer when I was able to hike again and spend more time in nature. The Sierra feels like home to me, so being able to hike again was like going home in a way. A lot of people know how much skiing again meant to me, but anyone who really knows me knows that backpacking is what means the most to me. There is something magical about sleeping under the stars with nobody around. It's almost therapeutic, soaking in the amazing vistas that surround you when in the wilderness. I can't find the words to describe it completely, but it's different than day hiking. It's magical. I think this backpacking trip made me realize just how much I missed that feeling, but it's back now. I feel like another piece of me, a big piece, is back after my life was shattered in a split second. This piece might have been the piece I needed the most. 

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares drop off like autumn leaves." - John Muir