Adventure May 13, 2015

From Backpacks to Tents on Wheels

Valley Residents Take to the Woods

Sam Elmes thought he knew everything about camping until his friend Roger Mankus told him of a growing new trend—bike-packing.

Now, that’s Elmes’ favorite way to access hard-to-get-to places like Frog Lake in the White Cloud Mountains. And he wants to do the 500-plus-mile Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route this summer. The loop takes mountain bikers along dirt roads from Idaho City to Fairfield, Ketchum, Stanley, McCall, Cascade, Crouch and back to Idaho City, passing by some of the Gem State’s geothermal wonders en route.

Sun Valley area campers do it all—from deluxe custom Airstream trailers to getting personal with dirt. Some, like Linda Lynch, enjoy backpacking because it’s so pure: “You’re carrying all the essentials on your back.”

Others, like Ellen Gillespie enjoy the luxury of pop-up trailers that allow you to turn heat on if it’s cold and sleep on queen-sized foam mattresses you can’t pack on your back.

Buncy Jeffrey still backpacks 40 years after she started. But she needs a good Thermarest now—sleeping on the ground is no longer an option. And she carries a couple shots of espresso already made. “You’re not packing that much in because it’s espresso,” she said, “But I love backpacking because there are so many places you can’t go if you don’t backpack. Like Warbonnet Lake in the Sawtooths—you can’t hike to that in a day.”

Lisa Abaid tells her husband to skip the flowers and box of chocolates. “Some girls dream about diamonds. I want better tires so I can go over Trail Creek. I want gear. And I want more days off,” she said. Abaid travels as near as Shoshone’s Buck Lake, which is frequented by migratory birds, and as far as Wyoming’s Wind River Range. “Camping gets you out of your safety zone to go places you’ve never been before. And you discover another side of you,” she said.

Doran Key started off backpacking in a backpacking camp for kids when she was 9. She spent those early years sleeping in plastic tube tents with a rope running through the top and rainwater coming in everywhere. Despite the discomfort, it got under her skin. She still relishes camping by a running creek, listening to “the quiet of the wind” and gazing at the stars splashed across the sky. But she typically does it in a 37-year-old Tioga II motorhome.

Ed and Carmen Northen still occasionally go backpacking as well. But they’ve put 340,000 miles on their Volkswagen Vanagon. “It’s great because it’s good in any kind of weather,” said Ed. “It has a stove and refrigerator for food. It gets good mileage and has good clearance and it’s maneuverable. It’s like always having your tent set up. And it’s a far cry from the tube tent where it could get so wet inside just from the condensation.”

Bob and Kate Rosso introduced their children to camping in the mountains by hiring outfitters to carry their tent and other supplies to the lake destination. That way the children were able to stop and smell the flowers and otherwise explore their environment without being weighed down.

Parents can also start their children out backpacking by renting backpacks and bags at local outdoor stores and doing relatively easy hikes into places like Baker Lake, Hell Roaring Lake or Fourth of July Lake.

The Rossos now generally use a Teardrop trailer when heading to the City of the Rocks or other campsites. “It’s super easy to pull. And you can disconnect it and push it around by hand,” Bob said. “It’s like a tent on wheels.”

This article appears in the Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.