I had all of the gear and none of the experience.
Regardless, I was about to find out if my aging body could handle a 30-pound pack and 1,500 feet of elevation gain.
The goal was to navigate three miles into the Salmon-Challis National Forest with six other novice backpackers and two guides from the College of Southern Idaho’s outdoor recreation center. Some were students, and others were community members.
Adding more food to our packs, I introduced myself to Shayne Commons, 33, a small business owner and entrepreneur. He wanted to push himself outside of his comfort zone, something I could relate to.
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Most of the group rented backpacking gear from CSI’s outdoor recreation center, a service I was unaware of after spending hundreds of dollars on my own pack over the last year.
We loaded our gear, and away we went to the Pioneers mountain range in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.
We stopped in Hailey for snacks, and I quickly realized I had been so concerned about weight that I had left my wallet back in Twin Falls. “Such is life,” I thought and continued to push for a positive attitude.
As we continued our journey north a large bag of gummy bears was passed around. I hadn’t had one in probably 20 years and found them to be delectable. So much so it became a running joke throughout the trip.
CSI's Maren Hunter, trip coordinator, adjusts Elle Folks', 20, pack while Sarah Kirchner, trip leader, and Drake Folks, 19, look on before hea…
After a four-hour drive, we reached our trailhead. It had started to rain and the group sought what little shelter they could find under a canopy of trees. I pulled out my backpacking stove and started to boil water for my dehydrated lunch.
It was a blissfully warm meal on an increasingly dreary day.
After lunch, we had a team meeting on trail etiquette and pacing. While I normally don’t use trekking poles going up trails, I figured it would be best to try and take as much pressure off my knees now that I weighed nearly 200 pounds.
Sydney Schoth, 18, decided to come on an overnight backpacking trip with CSI's Outdoor Recreation Center on Saturday, July 31, 2021, in the Sa…
As our elevation increased so did the rain. I had an emergency poncho but I was already far too wet for it to be of any use. I shrugged off the rain and smiled. It felt like I was hiking through the Andes along the Inca Trail again in a warm rainstorm. Our breaks became shorter, and we became more determined to reach our destination. I was running low on gummy bears and was looking forward to making camp.
The last push was several hundred feet of elevation gain. The trail was being washed out in front of our very eyes. I was elated with how my Arc’teryx trail shoes were holding up. The group had grown quiet as we sloshed our way up the trail. I was soaked to the bone and just focused on moving one foot in front of the other.
Upon rounding a corner we came upon our third creek crossing along with a gorgeous mountain lake. We had arrived!
Campers pack up their bed rolls before heading out on a short hike to another lake Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in the Salmon-Challis National Forest…
I quickly found a tree at the edge of the water and hunkered down. Trip coordinator Maren Hunter asked if I had a tarp with me. I tossed her my tent footprint, which I almost hadn’t packed to save weight. She began to make a shelter for the kitchen camp. The rain paused after about 20 more minutes and I quickly set up my new one-person tent along with my two sleeping pads and 20-degree sleeping bag.
I changed into a dry shirt and my pullover fleece (I only had one pair of pants) and looked to the sky. I’d better toss on that poncho as well, I thought. Ten minutes later it started raining again.
Pulling out my new ultralight camping chair, I quickly realized that I was the only one that had one. I took a seat and watched our motley crew began to set their gear up. I tossed them my mallet so they could get their tents pegged down and finished off the rest of my irresistible gummies.
Maren Hunter, trip coordinator, talks with Sydney Schoth, 18, while helping fix dinner during an overnight backpacking trip with CSI's Outdoor…
Once our kitchen was set up, it was a team effort to get everything going. Trip leader Sarah Kirchner had a Gado Gado pasta recipe she wanted to try out involving rice noodles and a spicy peanut butter sauce.
Once our stomachs were full it was time to learn how to properly wash our dishes, what to do with our dirty water and keep food particles from tainting our campsite. Once we had a much better understanding of leave no trace ethics we moved over to the lake and learned how to stay hydrated while backpacking in the backcountry. Showing us the proper way to fill our canteens and different methods to sterilize and purify, Kirchner and Hunter covered all the bases.
I sipped on my hot chocolate as we gathered around to play a game I had not heard of: Rose, Thorn, Bud. The point of the exercise was to share a highlight, a challenge and ending with something the participant was looking forward to after the day’s events. Most of us were just happy to be in touch with nature, we mostly brought up the rain as challenging, I know I wished I’d brought another pair of dry socks. I looked forward to more backpacking trips and the knowledge that the CSI Recreation Center was providing us.
The morning came early and my joints were stiff. Our trip leaders already had clean, hot water on hand so I used my nifty GSI Coffee Rocket and brewed up a cup of my finest medium roast.
CSI's Sarah Kirchner leads the camp through some yoga poses before breakfast Sunday morning, Aug. 1, 2021, in the Salmon-Challis National Fore…
The crew laid out their sleeping pads and followed Kirchner along in some mediation and yoga poses. One of the campers needed a pad so I loaned her mine and I opted to take photos of the event instead of participating. Watching as the camp sprung to life in front of idyllic mountains while doing warrior poses felt like something out of a movie.
After a 30-minute yoga session, it was time to make hash browns and avocado toast along with all the trimmings. All that extra food they had us carry was really paying off.
Kailea Albrecht, 25, takes picturs of clouds rolling in during an overnight backpacking trip with CSI's Outdoor Recreation Center on Saturday,…
After breakfast, I met up with Kailea Albrecht, 25, who had just finished up taking photography courses at CSI and was now moving onto Boise State University to finish her degree. We wandered about to another side of the lake and made photos of wildflowers and a small creek running into the lake. We talked about shooting different film stocks and some of the adventures we’d been on. It was a nice reprieve to get to talk shop with another photographer.
The group had decided to go on a short hike to another lake, but I thought it best to try and dry out my damp clothes, get a nap in and start packing up my gear. Once the group was ready to go we donned our packs and started our journey back down the trail. The only thing missing was gummy bears.
Hiking in the social distance: Exploring the Magic Valley
Finding gems while hiking in the Magic Valley and making pictures.
The Auger Falls loop is one of the closest hikes to Twin Falls proper, allowing for a nice view of the famous I.B. Perrine Bridge as well as Auger Falls itself.
Almost immediately after setting foot on the trail I thought to myself this would be the near-perfect place to shoot night photography.
This jaunt delivers almost immediately with a gorgeous view of two crystal clear spring ponds from the canyon rim.
Getting eye-level with Idaho's famous Balanced Rock will only take five to 10 minutes.
Not much has changed in the area since the Hunt party took on Star Falls (Cauldron Linn) back in 1811. Try packing a lunch and go enjoy one of the most tumultuous waterfalls in the Magic Valley.
A another beautiful, albeit rugged way down into the canyon. NOTE: Please consider taking a bag to collect trash on your way out.
The Mogensen Trail takes hikers through the Snake River Canyon starting near Centennial Waterfront Park and under the iconic I.B. Perrine Bridge where BASE jumpers from around the globe gather to jump.
Dierkes Lake has long been a destination for recreational activity, and hiking is no exception.
This short journey has something for everyone. There's not an enormous amount of elevation so this hike allows those that don't want to huff and puff find a nice middle ground.
Anyone that travels into the South Hills should consider taking a quick detour and make the hike up to Ross Falls.
If you're looking for a short stroll to see cascading waterfalls then this hike is for you.
There's some really amazing views along this trail if you're willing to tackle some elevation dips and gains. Walking through a dead tree, coming across a collapsed lava tube and crossing a 15 million year old lava field were highlights of the hike.
The Creekside Towers loop took us through trees (shade) while also giving us awe-inspiring vistas and rock formations. There were several small bridge crossings over a creek that added to the natural soundtrack of song birds and a soft breeze rustling the surrounding trees.
This hike offers beautiful vistas through forested areas with the payoff being not one, but multiple alpine lakes.
Photojournalist Drew Nash has worked for the Times-News since 2009. In his free time Nash is an avid hiker and landscape photographer.