On Backpacking

It’s always fascinating to me how carrying a pack changes the way in which I hike. Physically, as well as emotionally. I find that the weight changes the way that I step, creating a methodical, purposeful walk that carries with it the feel of a pilgrimage — something of spiritual journey; a mission of self-discovery. I put effort into the balance of the weight, minimizing the inevitable discomfort, learning through every step how to be with this experience that is so far outside of my everyday existence.

By the end of the first day, typically with the last few miles, the final switchbacks, the crest of the summit in sight, I find myself wondering why on earth I would do such a thing. I ask myself time and time again why I would venture this far from creature comforts, from the reclusive hideaway of a warm, soft home. I tell myself I shouldn’t try so hard to do this; I should find another hobby to spend my time off doing. I re-hydrate my dinner, I have a bit of chocolate, I methodically arrange my sleeping space. I fall asleep with fresh air on my face, the trees and sky visible through the tent mesh, the sound of the breeze through the branches. I turn in the night, the rustling of the wind in the tent fabric audible through the thin veil of wilderness sleep.

Before I know it, I’ve slept through sunrise. The morning air is cool and crisp and I become refreshed at the thought of another mountain day. I methodically go through my morning routine, savoring every purposeful step. I note the tenderness in my hips where my pack’s belt sits. My shoulders and back feel used, my leg muscles a little tight, my body feeling strong. I nurse my knee with some Ibuprofen and I am happy to feel it gaining strength as time goes on. I pack up my things and realize that by the morning of day two, I never want to go home.

In the wilderness, nothing matters aside from the here and now. The moment you are in is the most important moment, and the people you are with become the most important people. Everyone you see is brethren; you all share a connection that can only be gained by venturing off the grid. All of a sudden your cell phone doesn’t matter; you couldn’t care less about your inbox, or your mailbox, or your anything else. Your house could burn down and you would cease to care until you were back on the grid. In fact, it’s quite possible that you would care far less, regardless — after all, the mountains want you back.

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