Mary Taunton, Backcountry Paddler

Mary Taunton, Backcountry Paddler
Location: Seattle, WA

  • Models paddled: PackLite Kayak.
  • Water that she paddles: Remote Lakes and Waterways.
  • What she uses her kayak for: Adventure Travel and Paddling Remote Lakes While Backpacking.
Raised in the swamps of Florida with a canoe paddle always in hand, Mary feels at home on the water. She spends her weekends backpacking in the Pacific Northwest with her dog, Nym. Together, in a PackLite Kayak, they explore alpine lakes, meandering streams, and chase waterfalls. Their favorite part? Finding a hidden place to enjoy a game of fetch while they wait to watch another sunset. When not out adventuring, you can find Mary, along with Nym, in a dog friendly coffee shop with a book in one hand and a cappuccino in the other.

You can read more about her adventures at

Favorite AE Story:

A Unique Summit Lake Experience

I have a new toy and this weekend was all about giving it a test run. My search requirements: perfect blue lake, dog friendly, 8 miles or less, and a view of Mount Rainier. This led me to Summit Lake which is a little over 5 miles round trip and the most amazing shade of blue.

So, what was I testing? My new Advanced Elements Packlite Kayak! It weighs four pounds, has a pretty compact foot pump, and the paddles can breakdown into four separate pieces for easy packing.

Inside my bag I have the kayak and foot pump, a sleeping pad, Jetboil, granola bars and soup, headlamp, dog food, water reservoir, and my sleeping bag. Then outside and in the top pockets are my tent and the paddles, extra clothes, my Kindle, first aid kit, and various other small items. It wasn’t heavy at all! I initially had the kayak on the outside of my pack and that wasn’t comfortable, but once I put it in the bottom of the pack, the weight was hardly noticeable.

Summit Lake is a fairly easy hike that most anyone can (and should) do. The path is lined with wildflowers and the lake is set into a basin with the most incredible backdrop. And oh, that blue! So beautiful! There are nine established camps around the lake and even one on the ledge above. If you are a night photographer, I highly suggest getting there early and grabbing that spot! It has a view of sunset, sunrise, and at night the Milky Way is right over Mount Rainier.

When I arrived the first night it was cold and windy despite the sun. I hiked up to the ridge behind the lake and basked in the glory of Mount Rainier looming nearby. Nym did some rather adorable posing and I captured what is probably my favorite picture of her.

We headed down to the lake to set up camp, play fetch, and make some dinner. Sunset is opposite from Mount Rainier, but it still turned the mountain a lovely shade of pink. One of my favorite parts of camping by a lake is that you get double the views. Not only do you get to see the mountain and stars in the sky, but you get to see them reflected on a beautiful, sparkling surface as well.

The next morning it was much warmer with no wind, so I decided the time had come to try my kayak. The process took me around 15 minutes: five to inflate the kayak, ten to try and fail to get Nym to accompany me in it. After being rejected, I set off while a friend kept Nym entertained with fetch. To keep the nose of the kayak from being too light, I put a good-sized rock in the bag. This was perfect! No more swaying at all (in a test run in Lake Washington earlier in the week there was a bit of extra work trying to keep the nose straight). The kayak handles well, you don’t feel the cold of the lake seep through, and it is surprisingly comfortable.

I paddled across the lake and enjoyed my breakfast with a view. One of my favorite parts of this lake is how absolutely clear it is. I could see to the bottom in all but the deepest spots. There were logs strewn about, big rocks, and little schools of fish. What an amazing way to spend a sunny Sunday.