In truth, I was using the kids to figure out how to take Mrs Elliott into the backcountry. She said she'd like to take a trip and I figured I'd use training them as rehearsal for taking my lovely wife into the wilderness. I bought two expensive zip-together sleeping bags.
But back to the kids. The hikes took on a life of their own and culminated in a six-night trip in the Sierra Nevadas in 2003. We entered from from the east side -- from Lone Pine, I think -- hiking up to and over New Army Pass, to camp for two nights beside Lower Soldier Lake, fishing and exploring, before, regretfully, heading back out.
I never took the saucy and sweet Mrs Elliott on the trip I was working so hard to make easy and perfect for her because I got fat, and my ankle packed up on me. I hung up my backpack.
But, huzzah! in 2009, I got ankle surgery, found a nutritionist here in Bend, and lost 55 lbs.
So last year, 2011, September, I took a short overnight backpack trip up to Lancelot Lake in the Cascades, loved it, and invited my son Jim (who now lives here in Bend) to take an overnighter with me a couple weeks later -- and even in the rain, wind and cold, we had a delightful adventure.
So we're thinking we'll take two or three backpacking trips this season.
Mrs Elliott has also allowed that she might enjoy an easy overnight backpacking trip, too. (For this I am considering going to a place like Sparks Lake where you can kayak across to shoreline camping sites on the far side where cars cannot go.)
And I'm planning a couple of short two-night easy solo trips and a five-night solo hike someplace like the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness
Inspired, I have been poring through my backpacking gear, the stuff I used last season, the stuff that was lightweight stuff ca. 2003. Some of it is still perfectly fine gear. Some of the bits are heavier than they need to be but upgrading is very expensive and I have to keep within a tight budget; but others items can be upgraded for close to no money at all by being smart.
For example, ten years ago I packed a fancy Evernew titanium coffee cup (52 grams):
But how about a lighter cup/bowl that is lighter, insulated and lined (the way I like my women):
Believe it or not, this aluminum soup container -- with its snap-on lid (making a useful place to store items such as a tea ball, some gunpowder tea, and a tiny alcohol stove while hiking) -- is eight grams lighter than the fancy titanium cup.
Eight gram? That's not even a third of an ounce!
But at my advanced age of geezerage, every gram counts. They all add up: you gotta carry them. 28 grams are an ounce, 16 ounces are a pound; after miles on the trail each pound wears out the old joints and ligaments and the bottoms of the feets.
It's only April, sure, and there are a few car camping trips in the High Desert lowlands to take before the Cascades open up for old guy backcountry exploration, but I'm already geeking out, weighing everything to within a gram and recording it, examining different combinations of gear to find the lightest setup for the high season, for the shoulder seasons, for the short and long solos, and for the two-person trips.
I'm questioning which items I really need and discarding them or combining two or more items together to make a multi-use item (example: replace Ace bandage and roll of duct tape [used for sprained ankle and repairing things, respectively] with a single roll of leukotape athletic tape: coaches tape up ankles, and the tape can be used for repairs).
I've found a lot of redundancy that way.
backpackinglight.com is a great resource if you're trying to get away from the marketing hype of shops like REI who sell quite good but expensive gear. Check out the forums, it's driven by people who love backpacking, are unimpressed with marketing hype, evaluate the entries into the market, and are ruthless about shaving ounces.
I'm having a lot of fun preparing for the upcoming season.
At least my kind of fun. Geeky fun.