A version of this story appeared in the 2020 Uncommon Path edition.
We had just made it to our camp above Crater Lake when large, wet snowflakes fell from the sky. My 8 year old twin sister and I were on our very first backpacking trip, 3 miles from the starting point, and we didn't have to look long at the incredibly blue, incredibly deep water of the lake before our father got us to start building the camp.
We fished our foam pads out of our brand new backpacks – stiff and unworn, straight from our equipment trip to REI. We unfolded our bulky sleeping bags, dived into the tent and accepted the security that arises when we crouch in down feathers amidst a subdued landscape. But it wasn't long before hot cocoa steaming from new enamel cups and a campfire drove us back into the snow globe.
After this first trip, my sister and I spent the next few years guiding our father through the woods and meadows of the Pacific Northwest with our bright red, box-shaped backpacks. Mine hugged me tightly when I first saw an old, moss-covered spruce tree in the Hoh Rain Forest, and the countless times my father made my sister and I giggle by poking around tree trunks on our walks. When we got too big, we passed them on to younger cousins to remember second-hand before they grew out of the carriers. Then our backpacks of time were lost.
That is, until this summer when my uncle spotted her deep in his attic. Tears of surprise rose in my eyes as I held one of the worn packs in my hands and wanted to keep them tight so they would never get lost. It was the perfect size for my own 5 year old daughter. Our first stop? Of course the incredibly blue, incredibly deep Crater Lake.
– Nicole Smith, REI employee, as Aer Parris was informed
Gear I Hold Dear: My first pack first appeared in the REI Co-op Journal.