Big Blue: An Eagle Creek Pack with 40 Years of Memories
Backpacks are more than just gear and what we put into them, they can hold a lifetime of memories, too. One writer takes a trip down memory lane when she discovers her mom’s vintage Eagle Creek backpack.
My mom has lived in the same house for 33 years—the longest she has lived anywhere in the 71 she’s been alive. The house is filled with a lifetime (both hers and mine) of memories—and stuff. Lots and lots of stuff, some of which came along when we moved into the house decades ago and some that has been added over the years. When mom realized the house was overflowing with things she doesn’t use and frankly doesn’t want or need, a household purge was in order and I was her willing assistant.
Growing up, we didn’t lack for anything, but we weren’t splurging very often on stuff. In the early years, my dad worked construction while my mom worked as a nurse at the county hospital in a rural town in northern Colorado. In our house, value wasn’t necessarily placed on things, but on experiences—particularly the outdoorsy kind. My parents, native New Yorkers, relished the wide-open spaces of their adopted home state over anything material.
They were neighbors growing up on Long Island and as newlyweds, bought 40 acres of land near Durango, Colorado in 1974 and ‘homesteaded’ there. My dad built a house that had no running water or electricity but did have 100 chickens, two pigs named Weiner and Schnitzel, and a few Blue Heelers. A couple of years later, I came along, and we moved to northern Colorado a few years later. Clearly, my parents had a built-in sense of adventure, one that I was lucky enough to have instilled in me early on.
Sometime in 1979, my dad ordered an anniversary gift for my mom from a catalogue: a big, bright blue Eagle Creek backpack. That pack (later known as “Big Blue”) came along with us on many an adventure, packed with a camera, sandwiches, granola bars and fruit, water bottles, a blanket, and (my parents being ever-prepared) a roll of toilet paper.
My fondest childhood memories involve our family’s outdoor-loving excursions: Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park at places like Lake Zimmerman and Bear Lake were a regular weekend event. My dad was deeply in love with the running craze of the 1970s, and participated in racing events often, with us (and the backpack) in tow. When we moved to Montana, we went cross-country skiing in the Bitterroot Valley, where the snow so white it was blue. We went to Glacier National Park to see hundreds of bald eagles in their annual migration and road-tripped to the National Bison Range. In the summers we were found canoeing Holland Lake, hiking the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area and camping under light-pollution free stars.
As I got older, our adventures happened further afield and were more challenging. We hiked a dormant volcano in Hawaii, explored villages in central Mexico, climbed the pyramids at Chichen Itza, biked countless Colorado trails like the one from Winter Park to Breckenridge, and explored Ute Mountain Tribal Park near Mesa Verde with a native American guide.
As mom and I sorted through the house and boxes for donation centers started to pile up in the garage, we also took a trip down memory lane. Hanging in the closet was that 40-year old blue canvas backpack. Despite having seen decades of adventures, it was still in great shape. Spacious and sturdy, “Big Blue” didn’t have any of the bells and whistles of today’s backpacks, but after years of use is still in good shape. My own kids and I have started using it again on our hikes and outings, to nearby Chatfield Reservoir to go horseback riding and stand-up paddle boarding, on the trail to Maxwell Falls and Gem Lake near Rocky Mountain National Park. Since it’s basically a canvas shell, it’s lightweight enough that my 8-year-old daughter can carry it with her water bottle and a couple of snacks inside.
As times have changed, so have the necessities we travel with. Today’s outdoor gear has come a long way from the 1970s and Eagle Creek continues to provide top of the line products like the Wayfinder backpacks. Made from recycled and sustainable materials, its lightweight and features a place to stash everything from your iPhone and sunglasses and has ergonomic, adjustable straps. It has a breathable mesh pouch to store wet rain jackets, a loop to attach a bike light, a side stretch water bottle holder, a place for all your tech stuff, from laptop to cords and power banks, a place for pens and a laptop (go, digital nomads!)—it even features a safety whistle.Pretty sure it has room for a sandwich and a roll of toilet paper, too.
Despite the advances in the way we carry our things, one thing that hasn’t changed in our family is that inherent sense of adventure. We’ve been to the shores of Lake Michigan, floated over Snowmass in a hot air balloon, gorged ourselves on green chile in Pueblo, been to a Native American pow-wow, gone dog sledding in Buena Vista, and soaked in a natural river hot spring—and that’s just this year so far.
The world is a big place to explore, and I’m trying to instill that same sense of adventure and wonder at everything the world has to show us to my kids—and Big Blue and our new Wayfinder will be a part of making those memories.
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By Rebecca Treon on September 30, 2019
Rebecca Treon is a Denver-based freelance food and travel writer. She has two children who are learning to be intrepid travelers like their mom. When she’s not busy adventuring with her family, Rebecca can be found experimenting in the kitchen or attempting to have a green thumb.