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Progress Report: Backpacking All Year

Posted by Anna Roth at Apr 05, 2018 10:39 AM |

Washington Trails editor and mom Jessi Loerch set a goal for herself to backpack once a month this year. She's on track, and finding the sweet spot between spending alone time in the wilderness and sharing nature with some close friends.

Washington Trails editor and mom Jessi Loerch set a goal for herself to backpack once a month this year. She's on track, and finding the sweet spot between spending alone time in the wilderness and sharing nature with some close friends. 


As a parent, it’s hard to make time for myself. My husband and I both work full time. Weekends are precious family time, and I give that up when I go backpacking alone. But it’s important to me, and I think it’s important for my daughter, Hazel, to see me make space for the things I love.

When I was young, I remember my mom going on her own outdoor adventures, usually birdwatching or camping with friends. I joined her for many birding and camping trips, but her solo trips reminded me she had her own life beyond her (to me) all-important role of mom.


Of course, it's also important for me to have fun with my daughter.

To encourage myself to make that space for year-round outdoor time, this year I set myself the goal of backpacking once a month. I'm lucky my family supports this goal. Though my husband, Jerry is not interested in monthly backpacking trips, he's helping me realize my own goal. Of course, he’d happily go disc golfing in the rain in January, and I think disc golf in the rain sounds terrible, so we’re even. It’s a balancing act. I’m thankful for the space we give each other for our respective passions. Sometimes it’s a bit messy figuring it all out, but we make it work, and I get my alone time. 


I knew that making this happen for the first three months of the year would be the hardest. If you’re not equipped to sleep on snow—and I’m not—finding a place to backpack in the early months of the year can be hard. But I managed. In January, I backpacked along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River. In February, I headed east for an overnight at Ancient Lakes. This month, I headed west for a lazy weekend on Second Beach.

For my first two trips, I went by myself. I appreciated the solitary time. I read for hours. I wandered quietly and had time to just be alone. I’m a better parent, a better employee and an all-around better person when I have time to recharge alone in nature.

Plus it's nice to come home to these sweet faces. 

But for my trip this month, I was ready for company. Since rain is still a threat this early in the year, my family wasn’t ready to join me quite yet. Luckily Michelle, one of my closest friends, was happy to join me at Second Beach. Michelle and I have been backpacking together for a decade. It’s something we both work hard to make space for in our lives.

We lucked out on a gorgeous weekend at Second Beach. We found a nice dry spot above the high tide. We set up camp, then propped our backs against a log and stared at the water for hours. We watched an eagle on the beach. We watched ship slip by far out at sea. We told stories and laughed. I caught Michelle up on all the things Hazel has been up to lately. She told me about her nieces and nephews.

When we went to bed, we both drifted off quickly, listening to the sound of the waves.

We woke up early the next morning. The sky was clear. We drank decadent coffee (no instant coffee for us!) and slowly packed up camp. As we walked back to the trailhead, we talked about coming back in the summer with my family.

Sharing the beach with friends is a great way to spend my backpacking weekends, too. 

Setting a good example

I want Hazel to see that my own adventures are important to me. But I also want her to have a love for adventure herself. I already have a weekend planned for an April backpacking trip. A friend who is new to backpacking is coming along, and I’m delighted to introduce someone new to the joy of sleeping outside.

Even better, Hazel and Jerry are going to join me for this trip. Or, I should say, they are going to join me for this trip if the weather is decent. Jerry thinks—and I can’t say I disagree—that if my goal is to make Hazel like backpacking, taking her on a rainy April weekend maybe isn’t the best bet. 

Either way, I’ll go backpacking. And, I hope, when Hazel grows up, that she will, too.


Old Ourdoorsman on Progress Report: Backpacking All Year

Hooray for Jessi, it sounds like she has a good balanced approach to backpacking. We all need alone time in the woods, as well as family time. For some time now, when civilization gets too much for me, my wife will say "You need some "mountain time". She means for me to go into the woods for a day or two or three all by myself for renewal. And, my sons and now my grandson thank me for taking them and getting them hooked on the wilderness while they were too young to know any better. Backpacking through the generations.

Posted by:

Old Ourdoorsman on Apr 11, 2018 10:42 AM

chrissp on Progress Report: Backpacking All Year

I gave Jerry a hard enough time about it that he now says he'll go even if the weather isn't great.

Posted by:

chrissp on Apr 13, 2018 08:57 AM