We decided to spend our summer vacation on a 3-day pack trip in Eastern Washington. Since I am not a camper (have I mentioned I grew up in Bellevue?), this was a compromise between the way that Mike and I like to travel – shopping, eating, and strolling a city, and what the kids like: constant entertainment and activity that does not take the form of shopping, eating, or strolling. Actually, this was not at all a compromise, but a testament to how much I love my family that I was willing to take on this hardship in the name of fun.
Willing, that is, until I read the packing list. That was when the reality of the situation hit me. Why in the world would toilet paper be found on a packing list? Why would it not be found inside a perfectly good bathroom?
I spent the last few days before our departure hoping the Wolverine wildfire would somehow get me out of the trip. Unfortunately Chelan is not as close to Entiat as I wanted it to be. But a night in Wenatchee was able to take some of the sting out of the ordeal. We had a great Last Supper at our favorite Eastern Washington restaurant.
If you’re in Wenatchee, you must check out McGlinn’s. This is pub fare at its best, with well-executed food, a killer bar, and great service. Summer or winter, it never disappoints.
The next morning we met
my fate our guides from Icicle Outfitters & Guides at their ranch.
I seemed to be the only one filled with dread about what lay ahead.
But at a certain point, you have to buck up and get on that horse.
The guides could not have been nicer. Once they got the gear packed up, it was off to the trailhead in the Wenatchee National Forest.
And then it was time for my wilderness training to begin.
Lesson 1: You don’t just plop yourself down on a horse and ride.
Horseback riding, as an athletic endeavor, is no joke. This is some serious and constant core and leg engagement the entire time you’re riding. As much as it may *look* like you’re just sitting in the saddle, you’re actually closer to standing in the stirrups, working with the horse. We rode 4 and 5 hours each day, so this really was a fantastic cross-training experience.
Lesson 2: Unlike running, riding downhill is a lot harder than riding uphill.
I know this now from experience. This was not some gentle, meandering walk through the woods. This was a serious mountain trail with thousands of feet of climb and descent. Downhill on horseback requires some cooperation on the part of the rider. Especially when there is a precipitous drop off the edge of the trail, you’re doing all you can to help the horse maintain its balance. Which in this case meant standing in a reverse plank position while absorbing the side-to-side and up-and-down movement of the horse’s gait.
Lesson 3: Just because you’re camping in Eastern Washington does not mean it will be hot.
This is also a lesson learned through experience. Crossing the pass means temperatures in the 80s and 90s, does it not? That’s certainly what went through my head as I was packing and ignoring the items on the list like gloves and warm jackets. What crazy person needs a winter coat in Eastern Washington in August? Thankfully Mike added hats to our bags before we left. Base camp happened to be at 6,000 feet of elevation. Do you know what happens at night at 6,000 feet? Stuff freezes. Including people sleeping in tents who didn’t think it would be cold in Eastern Washington.
Thankfully some of those mule packs were full of coffee, hot chocolate, and good things to eat.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to call this glamping (did I mention freezing in a tent?), I would definitely consider it highly sherpa-ed camping. Our guide, Bailey, and wranglers Mitch and Justin, took great care of us. We had amazing hot meals, even despite a ban on campfires due to fire risk. Dinner one night included homemade enchiladas and cheesecake “baked” in a dutch oven. Who would think pancakes could be a reality in the middle of a national forest?
Day two brought a trip to three different lakes and a beautiful ride up and down Kelly Mountain.
Once we were done riding for the day, the kids had the opportunity to help with the horses. They were unsaddled, brushed, and let out to graze.
If I haven’t mentioned it thus far, I ended up really enjoying the physicality of riding. They were long days, for sure, but the scenery was stunning and the riding was great fun. The most amazing part about the trip is that neither kid complained. At all. About anything. Which leads me to believe that their love for horses might not be a passing fancy.
I can’t say enough good things about Icicle Outfitters. This was a truly incredible family vacation and one that I would wholeheartedly recommend. Toilet paper and all.