We took our very first backpacking trip right before Thanksgiving! We decided that the Good Water Loop around Lake Georgetown was a great first trip for a number of reasons. It is not super remote (so if we got into a bind, we wouldn't be out in the middle of nowhere), it was a reasonable distance (27 miles around the lake), and it wasn't too far away from us. After lots of research, purchasing packs (and proceeding to stuff them full of shit), and planning our route and daily mileage, we headed to our starting point of Cedar Breaks Park. Three days and like 100,000 steps later, we made it back with aching feet but a sense of pride and accomplishment. Was it a perfect trip? Absolutely not. But it was an adventure and there were a few key takeaways that we got from the experience.
WATER IS IMPORTANT
This should go without saying, but we stupidly did not appropriately plan for water. We packed about 7 liters into our water bladders. I was convinced I was overpacking and never considered the alternative. Well, on the second day, we ran out of water with about three miles left in our hike. This happened due to a number of different factors, but it doesn't really matter WHY because, really, it can be anything. It's not so much about the why but about the obstacle that it presented. Everything I read recommended two different methods of water - packing in, a water filter, boiling, iodine tablets, etc. All we did was pack in, thinking that we'd have plenty to get us from refill point to refill point. I had carefully planned out where we would be able to refill and when we'd get there. All that went out the window when we got on the trail. Without a back-up plan for water, we were left thirsty AF and had to ask some fellow hikers for a spare bottle (that we proceeded to chug the fuck out of). Luckily, there were plenty of other hikers on the trail with us, but I will never again not have a back-up way to obtain water.
STRATEGICALLY PLAN YOUR ROUTE
We didn't think much about our route besides mileage. I wish that I had done more research and considered the difficulty of each section of trail, as well. We did the hardest part of the trail on the very first day when our packs were at their heaviest. This then led to us stopping short of our daily goal, which had a ripple effect for the rest of the trip while we tried to catch back up. This won't always be possible if the trail has one very defined starting point, but for a loop like the Good Water Loop, there are so many different places you can start and, if and when we do it again, we will be starting from a different location next time!
We were a little too optimistic about what we would be able to accomplish each day, I think. Especially considering that we did not do any training with our packs (lol oops don't judge). Our plan for each day was (in chronological order): 6.5 miles, 9 miles, 6 miles, and 5.5 miles. What we ended up actually doing was: 4.5 miles (that for real almost killed me - I totally puked), 6.5 miles, 10 miles (this was rough), and 5.5 miles. I wish I had been a little bit more realistic about what we would be able to do each day and planned accordingly. Because we had a finite amount of time, we had to push really hard on that third day to catch up from falling short the first two days. I'd probably throw an extra day in there if we do it again. There are absolutely people that can do the whole loop with only one night on the trail. We are NOT those people. And that's okay.
TRUST THAT YOU CAN DO IT
For me, this was just as much a mental challenge as it was a physical challenge. After the first day, I was seriously considering giving up. We talked about maybe just staying at that first campsite the whole time, but then I realized we couldn't do that because we needed water (refer back to the first point haha). At the end of every day, our feet were hurting, we were tired, and every step was a feat (feet lol) of strength. But through the hurt, through the exhaustion, through the weight of the packs and the humidity and the puking and the blisters, we fucking did it. I needed that reminder. The reminder of how strong I am, how much I am capable of. A reminder of how fucking AWESOME my body is, the body that carried me slowly but surely over 27 miles of rocky trail with 40lbs of weight on my back (and, for a while, Lily's pack on my front to give her a break). It may be soft and squishy but it is also fucking strong. It had been a while since I had been challenged the way this challenged me and it was nice to feel it again. I feel different on the other side of the trip. The experience changed me in a way that I don't really know how to describe just yet. It wasn't life shattering or anything, but I feel renewed.
If you're considering going on your first backpacking trip, DO IT. Be prepared to be challenged and be prepared to leave it all out there. You can do it!