Backpacking Goose Creek Trail
Goose Creek Trail
Trailhead: Goose Creek Trail, Lost Creek Wilderness
Distance: 9.4 miles (easy)
Earlier this year, I went on a couple of group hikes with Mtn Chicks Colorado; on those hikes, I met Renee! We chatted about hikes & her upcoming trip to Shenandoah National Park and I was always impressed by how fast she hiked. She reached out to me and asked if Logan and I would like to join her on a couples backpacking trip she was planning. I nervously thought of any excuse I could make, but after talking about it with Logan, we decided going on our first backpacking trip with a group of similar people would really be the best way for us to do it. So I messaged Renee back and told her we were in!
I was a heap of nerves all morning, still trying to come up with a way to back out. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go, it was more the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing whether or not I’d be good at it. The last time Logan and I attempted to go backpacking, it ended in tears, a 15 mile day, and Logan driving 3 hours Home after those 15 miles. I don’t like not knowing what to expect or feeling like I have to ask questions, I’m not good at being a beginner. But that’s why I made myself go - I knew Renee would be the perfect teacher and that she wouldn’t judge us at all for being beginners.
Renee and Nick picked us up at the apartment early Saturday morning. We only had a 40 mile drive, but it was going to take a little over 2 hours to get there because...mountain roads. We missed a couple turns getting there, but eventually we made it to the winding dirt road that would take us to the trailhead. The road was so bumpy, we were making jokes about it needing to be maintained better when we passed a tractor broken down in the middle of the road. 5 minutes later, a man flagged us down. It was his tractor and he was wondering if he could get a ride back to the ranch he worked at instead of walking the whole way. Internally, I was freaking out. This was like the beginning of every single horror movie (and a horror book I mistakenly read right before coming...) - group of young people decide to go backpacking, pick up a hitchhiker, and he murders them all that night in their tent. Renee asked us if it was okay if we took him, and of course we said yes, despite the high murder potential. He was a really nice guy and it was really easy to tell that he felt just as awkward as we did (or, at least as awkward as I did). He pointed out some cool rock formations, told us about the fire that we could see damage from, and explained the history of the ranch he was working at. We dropped him off, told him he definitely didn’t need to pay us, and then we headed back to the trailhead.
My adrenaline was already going from the hitchhiker/potential murderer, so pulling up to the trailhead was not the same sense of relief I wanted it to be. We had to get Brittany and Brian to move their car so that we could get a space at the trailhead (pro tip: if you ever plan on doing this hike, be sure to get there super early!). Logan wandered off to find a place to pee, while I dug out the sunscreen to start slathering up. We all did a lot of adjusting and fidgeting, and finally we decided we were ready to go.
Renee filled out our permit (which is only used to keep track of use), while the rest of us took more pictures. It was comforting going with people who were still newbies, too. I hate feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing, so it was reassuring to know that none of us really knew. We eventually hit the trail, Logan and I taking up the rear (partially because I was taking pictures, but mostly because I knew I’d be the slowest). The first mile or so of this trail is through a burn zone, but it was at least downhill. Nick had told us a story about a man being bitten by a rattlesnake after its head had been cut off, so I was a little jumpy because we were walking though prime snake territory (spoiler alert: we didn’t see any snakes).
After maybe a mile and a half, the trail started heading uphill...and just kept going uphill. I’m pretty confident that my pack weighed the least of the group, but hiking uphill and backpacking uphill are two very different beasts. I was worried that I wouldn’t drink enough water (because I never do), and knew that my water was the heaviest part of my pack, so I made myself a deal. Anytime I though “ugh, it’s so damn hot” or swore under my breath about a hill being never ending, I had to take a couple big swings of water. I’m really glad I made myself that deal, if not for lightening my pack, then because I was only hangry by noon - not dehydrated.
We leapfrogged with a couple of different groups, and at one beautiful overlook we had one of those groups take our picture! The trail also started alternating between uphill and slight downhills at that point, so I was feeling good again. We took off down the trail, and I resumed my water-drinking game. A group with some really cute corgis passed us, and I used it as an excuse to take a break. I was feeling pretty guilty because the others had to keep pausing to wait for me, but i made myself ease my breathing and calm my heartbeat every time I caught up to them (even though my face was so red it gave me away anyways). At one long downhill stretch I realized just how hungry I was, and grumbled to Logan the whole way down. At the bottom was a small stream, with a campsite nearby, but there were also some cool mining ruins that we all wanted to look at.
Once we checked out those ruins, we opted to keep going down that direction instead of returning to the main trail. We found shade (where it had to have been at least 15° cooler than in the sun), and plopped down to eat some lunch. Renee and Brittany went off to explore the creek, but I was not planning on moving from my shady seat until absolutely necessary. Logan and I packed uncrustables for lunch, and I had some beef jerky and granola bars and moon cheese and hazelnut butter and apple sauce and...... we finally decided that we were in as good a spot as any to camp, but I wanted to explore a bit further before committing. We eventually came right back to the spot we originally picked and ended up having to share it with a father and daughter. I felt bad for making us give up some privacy, but Logan and I ended up on a super slanted spot, so I think karma was instantly evened out again.
We all set about lounging around after pitching the tents. Logan and I bunked our hammocks, Renee and Nick shared theirs, and Brittany and Brian relaxed in their camp chairs. Everyone else ended up napping, but I knew that a nap would ensure that I would lay awake all night, I simply read my book (Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed - I HIGHLY recommend it). Eventually we all started to get hungry, so we started cooking. Logan and I brought backpacking meals because we’re lazy and didn’t want to do dishes. They were fantastic. But, I can’t say that I wasn’t eyeing Brittany and Brian’s dinner with some intense jealousy. They legit cooked and it smelled SO GOOD. We all kind of sat around afterwords, tired in a way that can only come from hauling 30 pounds on your back up and down hills all day. The other two couples brought liquor (and were gracious enough to share because that was the one thing Logan and I forgot...), as we swapped stories about pets & home towns & favorite TV shows. In fact, if I learned anything on this trip it’s that I really need to watch more It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
We all slowly ended up in our tents for the night, and I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t more anxious. I still took zzzquil and melatonin (my sleep drugs of choice when staying outside), and woke up more than several times during the night, but for not having access to the hard-sided-and-thus-inherently-safer car, I slept well. The slope we pitched our tent on was super frustrating in the middle of the night, and I did have to put my socks on around 2 am because I was freezing, but I slept well.
Breakfast for us consisted of dinosaur-egg oatmeal (yes I’m an adult, don’t judge my decisions), and some nut butter. We filtered water from the nearby stream and all groaned and compared sore spots as we shouldered our packs for the hike out. Which was pretty damn brutal, if only because my shoulders and hips were swollen and sore from carrying my backpack the day before, AND because we had to start with a long slow uphill slog. And ended on one. Not that I’m bitter about it.
I really am super proud of Logan and myself. Last year when we attempted backpacking, we bit off way more than we could chew and had to limp away from the trail with tears in my eyes (though, we did hike almost 15 miles while carrying our packs that day...so, was it really a failure?). I can officially call myself a backpacker, and I’m so grateful to Renee for planning everything and inviting me along so I could accomplish this!