This is my blog dedicated to my REI Challenge Grant project completed in July and August of 2012. Below I have answered the questions required as part of my grant funding and also included a brief narrative of my trip with my photos and video journals that I took during my trip!
- Name: Katelyn Redinger
- Age: 25
- Job and REI Location: I work for store #89 in Hillsboro, OR. I am a stocking specialist.
- How long have you worked at REI?: I have worked at REI for well over a year now. I was hired in the Spring of 2011.
- Trip title: “Solo Backpacking in Indian Heaven”
- Briefly describe your itinerary: My trip was planned using a Green Trails Map (No. 365S). I started at the Thomas Lake Trailhead to the west of Indian Heaven and hiked in on Trail 111 to the PCT (Trail 2000). I camped my first night at Elk Lake. One day two, I traveled to Lemei Rock and Wapiki Lake at Trail Junction 34. After my detour, I went north on Trail 33 to the Cultus Creek Campground where I would spend my second night. On day three I started on Trail 108 on the northeastern side of Bird Mountain to then join up with the PCT and head south back to my trailhead at Thomas Lake. I would have spent my third night at Elk Lake, but due to an overwhelming population of mosquitoes, I chose to return to my trailhead and wait there until the next day for my ride.
- What made this experience a personal challenge for you?: This trip was a personal challenge for me because I had never backpacked solo before. I had never even gone on a hike by myself before. There is some stigma against women traveling in the wilderness alone, but there has been some new light shed on women alone in the wilderness (take “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed for instance). I decided that I needed to bone up and spend some time out in the wilderness by myself. In doing so, I could test my own limits, allow myself to make mistakes, and own up to them since I could blame no one else but myself should something happen while I was out there.
- Noteworthy experiences that happened during your challenge: The most noteworthy parts of my trip include my ability to navigate and some the biggest feats that I was able to accomplish, regardless of the elements. I was able to navigate all my trails successfully with a map and compass. I never got lost and was able to maintain my entire schedule, backpacking more than 10 miles on my last day on the trail. I navigated through a snowfield where the Lemei Rock trail was by following deer prints in the snow. I was able to get to the highest point on the trail (roughly 5500 ft elevation) and take some awesome photos. I was able to accurately locate water sources, filter them and suffer no ill side effects. I fell in a snow cave out by Lemei Rock and twisted my knee, pulling or possibly tearing a muscle in my leg. Despite being in a great deal of pain, I still managed to backpack the remaining six miles of my third day, then over ten on my fourth day to complete my trip.
- What did you learn about yourself during your challenge?: Throughout this expedition, I learned that I am braver and stronger than I have ever given myself credit. I used to be a very jumpy person, and I think I am less susceptible to loud noises due to my time in the woods. I was jumping at every little noise on my first couple days out there, and slowly my paranoia went away and I became more comfortable with my surroundings. This trip helped me prove to myself that should I ever be alone, I can take very good care of myself, regardless of situation or physical ability. I haven’t had the opportunity to really use my wilderness skills in a while, but this trip was a testament that they are still in good working order and they are sharper than ever.
- What was the best piece of REI or Novara gear you used on your challenge and why?: The best piece of REI gear I had on my trip was, by far, my trekking poles. I was able to purchase a pair of Traverse PowerLock Women’s trekking poles, the ones with the cork handles. I wasn’t sure that I was going to need them at all when I applied to buy them, and even my mom made fun of me for having them when she dropped me off for my trip. Until I started hiking, I wasn’t sure how much help they were going to be. I would not be joking to say that the trekking poles probably saved my life. They helped me get over snow piles that I could have slipped on and fallen very hard. They helped me get out of the snow cave and to my campground when I fell out by Lemei Rock. I was able to lean on them more when my knee couldn’t take the pressure, and helped me regulated the weight I had on my back and my hips. I will use them for hikes on days to come and recommend them for anybody that is looking for a perk for the hiking and backpacking trips.
- Now that you have had this experience, what is your next challenge?: Now that I have backpacked by myself, I am ready to do it again in a new area and maybe over a shorter span of time so I don’t have to pack as much gear. Four days was a long time to be out there alone, and I am more than eager to it again. Just changing basic elements, such as duration of trip, the terrain, and the amount of gear I have. Also taking a smaller liter pack would be fun to try.
- How have you shared these experiences with REI customers?: I have already had a lot of opportunities to share my backpacking trip with customers. I have had many recent conversations with customers regarding backpacking, so it’s easy to say “Oh really? Well I just went on a backpacking trip myself.” A common customer response has been “Oh neat. Who all did you go with?”. When I respond that I went alone, I think the idea of women being alone in the wilderness gets less and less obscure, and I feel I bring a greater respect to my gender. I inspire the female customers I speak with, and I empower my gender and myself when I speak with male customers.
- How did your challenge make you a better REI employee?: My challenge has made me a better employee because of some of the products I used in the field. I used a water filter that I had no experience with that I can now promote to customers. Now that I have eaten new kids of Backpacker’s Pantry, I can speak to higher testament as to taste and how filling to food is. I could talk all day about everything I used on my trip, but in addition to my experience with my gear, I feel I represent the REI Staff in a greater retrospect as an employee that truly gets out in the wilderness and enjoys the world, the same wilderness that we outfit our customers for everyday that we are in business.
- Describe your trip’s funny, scary, etc. moments: The funniest moment of my trip by far was the moment when I realized how alone I was out in the middle of Indian Heaven. I had conversations with myself, talked to animals, made fun of oddly shaped trees, and sang the theme from Pokemon. I found myself quoting the internet and movies a lot and not speaking in coherent sentences, because grammar doesn’t matter when nobody else is listening! My scariest moments could easily be described by the dozens. My first night on the trail I couldn’t sleep more than an hour at a time because I was afraid of bears and big kitties. I was bitten by mosquitoes over a hundred times, a lot of the bites on my face. I cried the morning of my second day while I drank my coffee because I was afraid of being forever scarred. Failing in the snow cave out by Lemei Rock and injuring myself worried me that I might have broken something, and that I would be unable to finish my trip. I was constantly asking myself if my party would find me if I was to be stuck out in the woods, unable to make it back to my trailhead.I was terrified of getting gardia, so I was ultra paranoid about using my filter on any water. I even prolonged getting my first water on my trip when I ran out because I was afraid of getting sick.
- My moment of inspiration: The inspiration came to me right on time on my third day. Injured, running low on water, perpetually attacked by mosquitoes, and with over ten miles to backpack, my morale was running low. I was on the Pacific Crest Trail when I met Dan. We stopped and chatted for about ten minutes. I was traveling south, he was going north. I was telling him where I had come from, letting him know how much farther he had to go before the trail split. I took out my map and he was admiring my map case, saying “Wow! You have a case for your map? Man, my map doesn’t look that good. Yours has so much detail!.” I showed him on my map where I had started, where I had been, and where I was headed. When he asked me where I got on the trail, I told him about the Thomas Lake trailhead and that I was heading back there today. I asked him where he got on the trail. He simply said, “Mexico”. He had been out on the trail for over two months, and had just over two weeks until he would complete the Pacific Crest Trail in its entirety. He gasped in awe that I was all by myself, and I used a great deal of profanity praising the fact that he was almost done with the whole PCT. Dan inspired me on my last day and I think he got me through the last ten miles of my trip on sheer charisma.
- What is your advice for someone who plans to do a similar adventure/challenge: I recommend everyone do Indian Heaven if they have the chance. Due to the remaining amount of snow the mosquitoes were much, much worse than they should have been. I would have brought bug netting to protect my face. I would also have gone later in August when the snow would be gone, the mosquitoes heading into recession, and the huckleberries would be out. I hope to use this trip experience as advice for other individuals that want to backpack alone, more specifically women. It’s crazy the amount of responses I got from people that i met on the trail. From an old man and his horse at Lake Wapiki – “What’re you doin’ out here all by yourself!? It’s not safe for a young woman like you!” From a group of boy scouts – “You’re out here alone? Dude, that’s hardcore.” An old lady with a fanny pack in a group of senior citizens “All on your own, huh? Well, I’ll be damned.” The people you meet out there are more impressed with the feat than you would think.