Michael and I know the start of summer as peak backpacking season. We’ve done trips in all seasons, but summer is always the big one. After two summers working at LVR, I was ready for another trip with our friend Jon, who introduced us to backpacking back in 2006. Our destination was Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon. Jon’s been dreaming about this trip since the 1990s, and finally the much sought-after permits were in hand and it was time. Our friend Allen was originally slated to come, but he couldn’t get the time off work. We asked my dad, but he couldn’t swing it on such short notice. This provided the perfect opportunity to introduce Michael’s little sister Sara to backpacking. At just barely 16, she doesn’t yet have a pesky job to hold her back. With about two and half days’ notice, Sara scrambled to prepare for the adventure.
Paria Canyon begins in southern Utah and winds its way into northern Arizona. Michael and I couldn’t bear the thought of a trip out West without stopping at our dear Lutheran Valley Retreat. The best part of his job is the opportunity to accrue comp time. His crazy overtime hours have converted to a lot of potential vacation days. We set out from Indiana four days early, on May 31. We picked up Sara in Missouri and slept a meager 3 hours before hitting the road again. The evening of June 1st, we rolled into camp. Nestled in Pike National Forest in Colorado, it is a mountain-lover’s dream. Sara had never been to Colorado and we excitedly tried to show her everything about the camp that we love. The 2011 summer staff was halfway through training week. We had joyful reunions with the return staff and tried to get to know the newcomers. They told us to stay and we wanted to. As it turns out, they had not hired a maintenance person (Michael’s job last summer) and one of the female adventure staff had backed out at the last minute (my job last summer). Oh, tempting.
Sara had new-ish tennis shoes, and she got blisters out of the way before the backpacking trip. We took her on ever major hike at LVR, hitting Cedar Mountain, Stone Cabin and MyPlace in one afternoon. That evening we hiked to Scout Camp twice, once alone and again with the staff when they went for their camp out. I had the brilliant idea to sneak up in the darkness and scare everyone. Sadly, the first time we went up was too early (no darkness yet) and there weren’t good places to hide because of the burn from the Hayman Fire. Happily, this enabled us to join the staff for campfire devotion led by Whopper and some songs. We sat up chatting with everyone until they started to go to sleep, then we hiked back down to camp to make hot dogs and stuffing at the lower fire ring.
Our last day at camp, we decided to earn our keep a little. After all, they had been feeding us and providing us with a cabin. And after all, we do love LVR. So we helped Todd construct two new “staff storage sheds,” which will be used to store the female staff since they tore down the decrepit double wide trailer we lived in last summer. Perhaps well-built and sturdy…they look…very small. Staff housing is always an adventure. I dedicated a few hours of the day to cleaning out the Quonset Hut where the guys will live. I did the best I could, but it’s still a giant metal shed with a dirt floor. Someday, they’ll build a house on the double wide site for Todd and his family. He’s the full-time site manager and lives at camp year-round with his wife Tammy and their three kids. Once he has a house, the girls will get to live in the apartment above the kitchen. I lived there with the 2009 girls’ staff and it is like a palace. Hopefully the guys will get something decent, too. Meanwhile, the staff just has to remember that they are at camp to serve and not to live in luxury. It’s not so bad. Sara didn’t sign up for this trip to work, but she helped us all day without any complaining.
Early Saturday, June 4th, we were on the road yet again. LVR’s wildlife came out to send us off. We encountered a full-sized brown bear who ran down the road ahead of our car before ambling up a hill and posing for Michael’s camera. Around the next bend, we found 15-20 elk grazing. After that, about 10 wild turkeys crossed our path. How I love that place.