I have a bit of a backpacking bug that started about 18 years ago when my best friend from high school, who was living in Lone Pine, CA, invited me on a backpacking trip with some other lady friends of hers to the Mt. Whitney wilderness area. I hadn’t been backpacking since a very inauspicious trip as an 8 year old with my dad and brother where it rained all night and our dehydrated spaghetti and meatball meal never fully hydrated so I was cold, wet and eating crunchy meatballs and noodles. It didn’t really make me want to go again. However, I saw this trip as a chance to have a break from hanging out with my toddler daughter and drove the 5 + hours from SLO to Lone Pine and hiked up to above 10000 feet with my friend and a couple other ladies and I’ve been hooked ever since. On that first trip as an adult, I decided I didn’t want to hike up a hill for hours without a reward at the top so I took a bottle of wine with me. I didn’t know any better, so I actually packed up a full bottle and corkscrew and it was worth the extra 3 lbs. of weight and the space in my pack and the need to pack it out. On that trip, we drank a bottle of Saucelito Canyon Zinfandel, which was a wine we used to sell out of the Talley Vineyards Adobe tasting room back when I first started in 1994, and my hiking partners were as thrilled as I was to have that wine after a long trek uphill.
Since that first trip 18 years ago, I’ve gone with a group of ladies almost every year since. When my girls were younger, this trip for me was a lovely mini-break from work and my family and I have always brought a bottle of something to enjoy at my destination. It’s a nice little treat that I know I have earned by carrying 40 pounds up a thousand feet or so for 5 to 7 miles. Sometimes I bring a port, sometimes a nice bottle of Talley Pinot Noir, and up on the mountain those first sips are always the best tasting wine I’ve ever had. The one difference from my first trip to now is that before I start hiking I pour the wine out of the bottle into a special backpacking wine carrier (yes they do make these) so that I have a smaller and lighter container to pack in and out.
One year when my kids were about 8 and 10, Brian Talley invited my husband and daughters to go backpacking with him and his daughters over the same weekend as I was going. It turned out that Brian picked the same backcountry lake as my friends for our trip, completely coincidentally, so my little get-away from work and the family was a bit less of a get-away. Luckily, the lake was big enough so we ladies stayed on one side of the lake while my boss, husband and girls were on the other. The rule for everyone on the other side of the lake was that I would say hi and give hugs if we saw each other but that no one could ask me to do anything for them. It ended up being lovely…having my family with me in the mountains but not having to do “mom” duties. And Brian stuck to the rules of not talking to me about work. It was nice to see their fire across the lake as I was laughing and drinking wine with my friends around our fire without having any responsibilities.
Backpacking is on my mind because I just returned from a wonderful trip with my family and friends where we hiked into the Yosemite Wilderness to Middle Chain Lake. We brought along a bottle of Bishop’s Peak Elevation and some port. We camped at a beautiful location and after a long day’s hike enjoyed our wine around the fire while looking out at the spectacular Sierra Nevada wilderness. I know that not everyone enjoys dirt and sleeping on the ground, so my advice is that wherever you find your happiness, it’s worth the effort to include a nice bottle of wine (especially if its Talley or Bishop’s Peak!). With harvest now upon us, hiking, relaxing around a mountain lake and sharing a glass of wine with my husband and friends was a great way for me to unwind before the crazy that is about to begin. Cheers!