That One Overnight Hike I Did With My Mom

✍️ 🕑 July 15-16, 2022 family bondingNational ParksNorth Cascades National Parkriversstream crossingshiking and campingmosquitosCascadesWashington State • Places: Tricouni Campground

View from the Diablo Lake Vista Point, just past the Thunder Creek Trailhead... and up a fair ways.
View from the Diablo Lake Vista Point, just past the Thunder Creek Trailhead... and up a fair ways.

Many, many moons ago, I hiked a trail called Old Logger's Path, which I completed in 2.5 days and three nights. Around when I was leaving, I said, somewhat in passing to my mom, that she should feel welcome to come with me on some other backpacking trip if she was interested.

And guess what. She was interested.

We had discussed maybe doing an overnighter on a section of the Appalachian Trail, but we never got around to it. I was busy that summer, visiting my old haunts of Pittsburgh and New York, apartment hunting in Seattle, and eventually moving there. In fact, I had would up only deciding on one backpacking trip in all of 2021, and I bailed on that trip pretty darn early.

So, when my parents finally came out to visit me in July for the first time and enjoy Seattle's lovely, lovely, lovely temperate summer weather, backpacking with me was one of the top things on my mom's to-do list.

Ibid.
Ibid.

The goal then was to pick something relatively moderate, without too much elevation gain, but something still substantial enough for my mom not to feel like she had wussed out.

Eventually, I settled on the Thunder Creek trail in North Cascades National Park, which seemed pretty flat and easy. I was able to score a permit for two campers in the Tricouni Campground, located at mile marker 7.

Seven flat easy miles of forests and creek. A hiking companion that was somewhat dependant on my expertise.

Would it be as easy as I hoped?


My mom, pre-most of the hiking. 

Would she still be smiling afterwards?
My mom, pre-most of the hiking.

Would she still be smiling afterwards?
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The answer to that is a resounding no, but not for the reasons I expected. 😉

The early stretch of the trail, to the first bridge is an easy 1.5 mile hike, and it's definitely the most popular section. You get nicer views if you keep going, but it is enough to give you a taste of the forest.

You're beside the roaring thunder creek, and its presence is soothing.


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Shortly after that, you start passing the earliest of trail camps, two in quick succession. And then you continue in the woods for a while.


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Remember when I said the journey was going to be seven miles each way?

 

Trail Information
Name Thunder Creek Trail to Tricouni Camp
Type section hike
Location North Cascades National Park
State WA
Country USA
Miles 8.5
Check out the trails index for information on more trails!

It turned out it was actually eight-and-a-half miles.

Whoops. I probably would have picked something else if I had realized. Seven was pretty much the upper end of what I wanted to do with my mom for a first hike.

Carrying a backpack on uneven terrain for that long, with lots of stream crossings is a work-out, an increasingly demoralizing one once you realize you're past where you thought you were camping with no end in sight.

My mom mid-hike. She's a trooper, all right!
My mom mid-hike. She's a trooper, all right! open_in_full   info

Speaking of which...


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Not far from mile 6, two college-aged girls passed us going quite quickly uphill. Ten or fifteen minutes later, we passed them, taking a break and out of breath.

They were on their way to the McAllister Trail Camp, and were wondering where it was. They had already passed mile 6 a fair ways back and had expected to hit it by then, but it was nowhere in sight.

My map was sketchier than I'd have liked. I was beginning to realize that the curves and switchbacks had been simplified into a straight line that wasn't quite accurate. My best answer was that the camp was still somewhere ahead. We continued onwards, and maybe another half a mile further or so, we passed it.

This stream crossing was one of the ones with a bridge.
This stream crossing was one of the ones with a bridge. open_in_full   info

I should have read the official trail guide more closely. I glanced at the overview and the milemarkers, and the inaccurate map, and missed the part that started counting from zero... at the first bridge, a mile and a half into the trail! I'm not sure why they decided to do that.

That's a lesson learned.

My mom's least favorite stream crossing.

Picture credit: Mom.
My mom's least favorite stream crossing.

Picture credit: Mom.
Caught in the act photographing! Photo Credit: Mom
Caught in the act photographing! Photo Credit: Mom

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Eventually, we made it to our campsite. I set up the tent, and went to collect & filter some water. While I was out, my mom said she saw a bear. (Good thing I accidentally left the bear spray in the car -- another lesson learned.)

Along the way, I realized I had even more lessons learned from this trip -- lessons that will be useful the next time someone wants to go backpacking with me:

  • I should always, always start packing and getting prepared earlier. I always forget how damn long it takes for me to be organized.
    • As a corollary to this, I really should have been more on top of a few first aid kit items than I was. I will not hike with another person without making sure that I personally have a couple of items, even if they have a full first aid kit. There are some things I thought of bringing, but didn't that would have been a good idea, like leukotape for my mom's blisters.
  • It would have been really nice & smart to go on a dayhike together before planning the overnighter. Unfortunately, this wasn't possible with our schedules.
  • Trekking poles are great for long hikes, uphill hikes, hikes with a backpack, and heck, even just speeding along long flat sections. My mom loved having her pair.
  • Don't assume that other people eat as many calories as you do, and don't assume that they will eat as many calories as you would while exhausted because they are exhausted.
  • Bringing extra snacks that are accessible is smart, but make sure that you have enough room to fit everything in a bear canister so that you're not desperately munching granola bars and then re-screwing a lid.
  • Turn on tracking early

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The next morning, we got up, and made our way back down the trail to the car. I definitely tuckered my mom out more than I intended the previous day, but we rallied and made good time on the way back.


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The views through the trees of the mountains were nice, the area was pleasant and not too popular for a Friday-Saturday hike. The entire experience wasn't the most exciting, but it wasn't supposed to be.

For me, the highlight of my trip was having my mom along with me, getting to spend hours walking and talking, and enjoying each other's company at whatever stages in life we're in.

The fact that I got to make my non-outdoorsy mom sleep in a tent? Icing on the cake.

And fortunately, she says she enjoyed it.


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When we got back to the car, we were both smiling. And we kept smiling the long drive back to Seattle.

Thanks for reading!

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