We set out on our first backpacking trip in many decades with more than enough to get us through 2 full days if needed. Although we had a water purifier and there was plenty of running water along the way, I hauled more than enough fluids for the full trip as practice for where no water will be available on future trips. This meant my pack was topping 45 lbs at the start, but as it turned out it didn't feel overly heavy, with no aches or pains in the aftermath of the trip.
Leaving the west trail head around 8 am the weather was perfect. We kept on the move for just over 2 hours until our first break, where we dropped our packs and did some exploring up a narrow gorge. Then back on the move for another 2+ hours until arriving at a location almost perfect for our camp site. We emptied everything but energy bars and fluids from our packs and took off for some scouting for places of interest for the second day.[Learning Experience #1] Bring a small fanny pack with essentials for exploratory trips instead of dragging the backpack, albeit 30 lbs lighter.
After 2+ hours of scouting ahead we turned back so we'd have plenty of time before sundown to set up camp. On the return as we passed numerous familiar areas we asked ourselves, "did we have our full packs on in this area or not?" Taking so many photos along the way we simply lost track of how long we were hiking back toward camp, and it wasn't until we came to where we took our first break did we KNOW we had missed our camp and gone too far. So we turned around and began the trek back out again to our camp. And instead of arriving back at camp around 2:30pm (roughly the time we passed by without noticing it) it was approaching 6 pm before we arrived and began preparing for the night with possible rain showers in store. With sundown at hand we wasted no time getting settled in before losing the light.[Learning Experience #2]
I neglected to set a way point (or in the case of my marine GPS, press the MOB (man over board) button at our campsite. And yes, at least look at the GPS map and/or physical map to determine camp location before setting out on explorations.
With skies clouding up late in the day we used two tent poles bent across to hold our lightweight tarp over us for some protection if it rained, which it did. Heavy winds ahead of the rain whipped the tarp enough the poles popped out of place and the tarp ended up on top of us. No big deal, at least we didn't get wet. [Learning Experience #3] Plan on how to use the shelter and test the plan before leaving home.
In the wee hours of the morning the sky cleared and we threw off the tarp and there we were, laying flat on our backs looking at the awesome sight above. A panorama of stars, followed by numerous shooting stars, a few satellites and even a UFO. Sure it may have been a UFO only because we were unable to determine what it was. First it appeared to be an airplane with wingtip lights but from the distance apart the lights were it must have been at a significant altitude. But based on the fast and erratic movements in almost all directions, it didn't fit the capabilities of any airplane I know of. So, we left it as unidentified.
Up rising the next morning we set off with just cameras and fluids in hand (no pack at all) to do more exploring before packing back out. The side canyons were so overgrown with thorny brush that we didn't stray too far from the running creek. With little to show for it, we decided we'd had enough for our first backpack in eons and we'd wrap it up a bit early. Just a quick jaunt back to our camp (we know the area by heart now), loaded our packs up and headed out. The 100+ foot climb in the last 1/8th mile from the wash up to the trail head was the only part I really felt I could do without. But neither the steepness, loose rocks nor the thorny cacti was about to stop me for the wonderful feeling of dropping the pack at the car.
So, with a few learning experiences along, some ideas on how to better load and secure our packs, as well as beautiful mild weather and a great location it was a very successful backpacking trip. Although we came back with well over 200 photos I whittled them down to an even 100 to post on my personal web site:http://www.changephoenix.com/10/2010-10-02Aravaipa.html