By Kevin DeVries
When it comes to the outdoors, superlatives sell. So-and-so is the best skier in the world. This particular sleeping pad is the lightest thing on the market. The Pacific Crest Trail is the most scenic thru-hike out there.
White Pine Lake, in the Wasatch range of northern Utah, doesn’t fit any of those superlatives. It’s not particularly long or hard. To be sure, it’s absolutely beautiful, but not quite as iconic as some other vistas in the range. But it’s close to where I live, it’s lovely, and it has a few flat spots for camping. It’s the perfect quick getaway. Perfect for day hikes when I don’t have time to plan trips to more “exotic” destinations. Perfect for escaping the insanity of a bustling city. Perfect for the weekend warrior.
It’s perfect for last-minute overnighters, too. At the end of a long week, I can leave work at a normal time and still hike up to the lake in time to enjoy a nice sunset. The well-maintained trail makes for relatively quick walking, despite several thousand feet of elevation gain. As I approach the lake, the lush forests give way to sparse conifers, and finally rocky tundra.
There are still a few campsites left when I arrive at the lake. The sun shines low in the western sky, its golden light filtering through the pines. The voices of other backpackers murmur softly, just far away enough to still give me a little solitude. The ground is still a little wet from last night’s rain. I set up my shelter just as the shadow of Thunder Mountain bathes the campsite in deep dusk. Dinner tonight consists of expired sausage crumbles and a package of gummy bears – not exactly gourmet, but the only thing that I had in the house. Ditto for the off-brand cola I wash it all down with.
Now that the sun has disappeared, the temperature drops quickly. I sit on a rock at the edge of the lake for a while, taking in the beauty, but the cold soon forces me into my sleeping bag. It’s been a long week, and sleep comes quickly.
The next morning is a time for exploration. I get up, pack up my dew-soaked shelter, and hit the trail. I explore the basin, climbing a few hundred feet above the lake. Talus-strewn slopes ring the basin, and I climb up, over, and around refrigerator-sized rock. From above, I have an excellent vantage point. I see White Pine Lake, my old friend, is in all her alpine glory. In the distance, a familiar, jagged ridgeline jabs upward into the sky.
But all too soon, it’s time to hike back down to the trailhead. I’ve got to work a booth at the neighborhood block party tonight. This adventure isn’t superlative. But it was perfect – a bite-sized adventure. A beautiful adventure. A worthy adventure.
I’ve done my share of long treks: journeys that consume multiple weeks or months, journeys that some might consider “epic”. But I’ve grown to appreciate White Pine Lake and a hundred other places just like it – places that don’t require me to quit a job, get on a plane, or spend weeks planning. Bite-sized adventures can be more than an occasional diversion – they can be a lifestyle.
We all need bite-sized adventures in our lives. We need something to break the monotony or recharge after a tough week. We need a reminder that life is more than meetings and road construction and overpriced coffee and constantly-ringing phones. Being a weekend warrior isn’t just about being a wannabe or training for longer jaunts. Being a weekend warrior means embracing adventure as a way of life.