First Backpacking Trip! Barclay Lake

It was our family’s goal this summer to try out an overnight backpacking trip. We already love camping — the kind from a car where you bring every amenity possible and your friend who’s an actual chef cooks you insane meals. (You know who you are.)

BUT, at the same time, we have been craving simplicity and wanted to see what it felt like to camp with only the the things we could carry on our backs. We’re also prepping in anticipation of Olivia being in Kindergarten a year from now and losing our family day. We need a weekend getaway plan!

Thanks to some incredible friends of ours, we were able to borrow nearly everything we needed. Packing for our first attempt ever was not necessarily simple since we had no idea whatsoever what we were doing. (See a list of what we packed at the bottom of this post!) Once we have our own stuff, it will be SO easy to get out of the house, even on a whim. I also love that these will act as earthquake emergency kits, something I’ve been meaning to build for our family.

We got to the Barclay Lake Trailhead late in the afternoon — probably 3ish (we work Saturdays and the trailhead is almost two hours from Seattle). This was a perfect first hike to practice carrying heavier packs since it’s an easy two miles to the lake.

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When we got to the lake, we saw quite a few camps already set up on the beach. We expected this, but were crossing our fingers that we’d find something secluded! Another hiker told us if we kept walking past the lake, we’d find more sites. And we did find the perfect site with an incredible view that was very private. It was so quiet that our ears were ringing. We city folk need this more often!!!

The other nice thing about Barclay Lake is that there are actual campsites (which makes it slightly less adventurous, I know, I know). There was a smooth flat spot for our tent, a fire pit (that will be great when the burn ban is lifted), and even a stump-made-table. 🙂

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We set up the tent (in about 60 seconds), and then Darrick and Olivia went to pump water from the lake while I was supposed to get the rope wrapped around a branch for hanging food and garbage. I threw the carabiner so hard that it wrapped itself around the branch TWICE and I couldn’t tug it down. Shit. I tried throwing rocks at it to unwrap. Great idea if my aim wasn’t so terrible. Then I decided I could use a really really long stick to push the carabiner back over the branch. I ended up having to tie two sticks together. Great idea! I could reach it! I started pushing the carabiner over, but when I lowered the branch to regain my balance, the second stick stayed lodged inside the carabiner, high above my head! LOL! At this point Darrick and Olivia were back and I was dying laughing. (Worse-case scenario, we were buying new stuff for our friend.) Luckily, all my attempts loosened the rope enough that we were finally able to tug it all down. Success! Darrick tied the rope to a fat stick and was able to toss it over the branch successfully. A hilarious challenge to begin our overnight adventure. 🙂

Next was dinner (delish), and wine (delish). We even roasted our mini marshmallows on our mini stove! Because it was cold and we couldn’t have a fire, we all ended up in bed by about 8:30. Olivia and I shared the tiniest air mattress you’ve ever seen, and Darrick just slept on the ground. A double sleeping bag for three people also lets in a ton of air, so me and Olivia were pretty cold all night. That’s the only thing we’d change about the whole trip! We’ll either get the same tent in a triple, or look into hammocks … an idea I LOVE.

The most amazing part of the tent is that the entire top of it is just a screen. Which means you get to fall asleep looking at the stars. That may have been my favorite part of the whole thing. I didn’t realize how much I miss seeing the stars.

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There is nothing better than waking up on a chilly morning, to beautiful light cast across mountain trees, staying snuggled inside your sleeping bag for as long as possible. Then boiling water (SO fast with this stove!) for our instant coffee and hot chocolate. And spending the next hours with your two favorite people in the whole world, with messy hair and dirty faces and cozy clothes, not really doing anything, just being. Seriously, nothing is better.

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After breakfast and packing up, we tromped through the grass and made our way to the other end of the lake. Such a COOL area to explore! It is insane how low the lake was, which created a playground of boulders and logs. I wonder if the lake has been low for awhile now, or if it’s just from one very dry season. Again, the morning light was so beautiful I could hardly stand it.

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After exploring for awhile, we headed back out toward the trailhead. We had a blast, but it does make me wonder if we’d get bored if we stayed for a couple nights. I could see hiking to a new camping spot. I’ve also seen some good suggestions for backpacking activities I can look into. And I could definitely see bringing one of Olivia’s friends (or their whole family!) along.

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All-in-all we had an AMAZING time. We are hooked. Olivia said she can’t wait for the next one. What an incredible way for us to spend time together as a family, finding both adventure AND rest. We are so grateful.

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Packing list:

Darrick carried a double tent with ground tarp, a double sleeping bag, one air mattress (we should have had two … don’t ask), the first aid kit, dry bags to hang food and other smelly things, rope and carabiner, an empty 4-liter water bag, a water filtration device (the brand I linked to lasted our friend 17 years before a plastic piece broke), a headlamp, a flashlight, a backup battery for our phones with 2 USB cords, a pocket knife, his clothes (pants for sleeping, long-sleeve tee, fleece, extra socks and undies, hat and gloves), a couple snacks, cigars, and a full water bladder.

I carried two gas canisters with a stove and a pot, a lighter, the food (we were told Backpacker’s Pantry is the best, and we were not disappointed!), coffee, hot chocolate and mini marshmallows, wine (obviously), cups and silverware, toiletries (wipes, toothbrushes and paste, glasses for me, deodorant, my and Olivia’s clothes (long-sleeve tee, fleece, leggings and long pants, extra socks and undies, hat and gloves), a blow-up pillow, a headlamp, and a full water bladder.

Olivia carried her usual hiking backpack, but we got her some more safety stuff. It now includes a full water bladder, plenty of high calorie snacks, the straw portion of this water filtration system (so she can drink straight from a water source), a flashlight, an emergency blanket, a whistle, bandaids, and one extra pair of wool socks and undies (the undies were not wool).

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