Sometimes when I scroll through social media, I wonder if all adventures are as good as they look. I'm here to keep it real, though. For example: this week. I have been in a slump, as I may have mentioned, since finishing the PCT. It's not that I want to jump back on a long trail; it is the end of something that has allowed me to look forward to, plan, and see progress on a goal. I didn't realize how much I needed that.
On Tuesday, I felt like running in the morning, so I went. And a woman passed me. That rarely happens, not because I am fast, but because there aren't many runners here. Being passed felt truly demoralizing, especially because I was struggling along at a sub-par pace anyway. "I hate being passed!" I said, not meaning to say it aloud. The poor woman jogged away, probably wondering how she ended up in crazytown. Sorry, fellow runner.
The rest of the week went all right, but by Saturday I was ready to get back into the woods. The lake I picked to backpack to is busy, but I thought most of the crowds were gone by now. Optimistically I headed up the steep trail, fantasizing about swimming. Arriving, I started to notice something. Tents! Tents everywhere! Tents too close to the water, tents in every spot, even some hammocks strung over a cliff. Surely, I thought, if I walked around the lake I would find a tucked-away place to camp. The lake is big, and I had to struggle over boulders and swamps, but then I saw it. A peninsula, the perfect place to camp. The dog trailing behind me, I climbed up to find…a tent.
Curses! The entire lake was packed. It was time to go to Plan B. There is a bench on the far side of the trail where nobody has ever camped in my knowledge. It wouldn't be close to the lake, but it would be away from the crowds. Optimistically I climbed the bench to find…you guessed it..a tent!

It looks peaceful but….I soon discovered it was not.

I looked at my watch. 5:30. It was eight miles down to the trailhead, and it is getting darker early now. The trail isn't a cruiser either; you have to pick your way through rocky switchbacks. There was only one thing to do: hike out.
I felt like a failure as we jogged down the trail, the dusk falling quickly. It was almost dark when we got to the car. I was aware that summer is closing up shop, and weekends to camp are probably almost done. Grumpily I sulked home.
The dog, who had easily covered 30 miles, didn't care. I realized I shouldn't either. I could see it as an adventure fail or just a long day hike carrying a lot of stuff. And the next day we could hang out at the lake in town and swim.

Too tired to eat, but happy.

I can't recall ever "backpacking" on a day hike before, but I have had other adventure fails. Forgetting a sleeping bag. Hobbling with major blisters. Overdoing it and having to leave the trail. It happens. I'll go back to that lake in the fall, when everyone is gone.

The big lake is quiet now though! Swimming is great.