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Shakedown Canyon

By Ann Driggers

I headed out for the first backpacking trip of the season this last weekend. It was a good opportunity to pull the pack together, make sure I had everything ready to go for the summer, test out some new gear and just generally blow out the cobwebs. I thought I was doing quite well when I managed to locate the vast majority of my gear despite the fact we are still living out of boxes to some extent. That was until I got to the trailhead.

The plan - leave after work on Friday, head into the Flat Tops Wilderness and rendez-vous with friends Pete and Holly who had (hopefully) set up camp earlier that day somewhere within a few miles in this communication-less location. On the drive up the dark clouds that had been billowing to the north morphed into a steady but light rain and by the time I reached the trail head it really started to set in hard. There is no bad weather, only bad clothing I thought, at the same time remembering the rain jacket, thermal underwear and down sweater I had packed. Or not. In fact I had mistakenly pulled two black thermal bottoms out of the black drawer and failed to bring any tops. Well doh! First mistake. Still I carried on, throwing on all the clothes I had, and figuring if it got really cold I would just have to swaddle myself in my (new) down quilt.

After an hour or so hike through the rain and into the dusky gloom of the unknown canyon I found Pete and Holly and their camp. My arrival was heralded by clearing clouds and a low angled blast of sunshine for which they were grateful having spent the afternoon hunkered down under a tarp in a stormy gale. Along with the sun, a cup of hot tea and a roaring fire lifted our spirits and dried us out.

After a solid nights sleep we were up and raring to go for a hike next morning.

We roamed along several trails in this beautiful canyon with its towering rock walls and floor of open parks of sage brush and stands of aspen their neon green leaves now unfurled.

Another shakedown of sorts on this trip was Miska, Pete and Holly's rescue sled dog. Having spent the first six months of her life on a chain and the second six in a shelter, the lucky dog was adopted into a caring and understanding family who have spent another six months teaching Miska how to be like a dog and not a caged wild animal. This was her first big trip out in the woods, overnight and off the leash. What would she do? Hang with her new pack, or run?

Miska decided that she likes the life of a camp dog and that she would hang with her new pack of peeps. It was a joy to see her sniffing, routing, running and generally learning what it was like to be a real dog in the outdoors. Yes, she did like to take off chasing squirrels or chipmunks but with a little shout or whistle she quickly returned.

Early spring flowers are starting to bloom. Violets, serviceberry, columbines...

After 11 miles or so of hiking we returned to camp and another night around the fire, cooking, stories about winter skiing, planning summer backpacking trips, a little whiskey sipping and, if you were Miska, stalking squirrels.

Sunday morning, as another sunny day dawned bright, we headed out, happy with our little season opener, a successful shakedown backpacking trip. 

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