Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Oh, to go backpacking.
Before I thru-hiked the American Discovery Trail with my mom in 2006, I had only been on a handful of backpacking trips, none more than a few nights long, and most being a night here and there. My first trip ever was to the Porcupine Mountains in Upper Michigan, and despite the name of the park, there really aren’t any huge mountains. Government Peak is probably the biggest hill you’ll climb and that sits at about 1,850’. But it was my first trip, and it was pretty rough. I still think it’s pretty amazing that I’ve gone back to backpacking after that experience. But it wasn’t the hiking and the cooking and the freezing (it unexpectedly snowed 3 feet a couple days before we went), or even the nature. It was the camaraderie, the courage and strength it took to push through something very difficult, and mostly, it was the accomplishment of coming out on the other end, alive and well.
Since then, I’ve logged quite a few miles. Besides the nearly 5,000 miles backpacking across the country on an epic mother/daughter charity hike, I’ve thru-hiked the Tahoe Rim Trail (165 miles), thru-hiked the Lakeshore Trail at Pictures Rocks National Seashore a few times (just recently in only two days, 43 miles long), and gone on countless numbers of weekend excursions with our awesome group of backpackers in the Fox Valley Backpackers Meetup Group.
I’ve met some of my very best friends through Meetup and backpacking, and I have to say my life would not be the same without all of it. I love putting my pack on and heading into the woods to live off of only what I carry. Sleep on the ground, stare at the stars, drink from the rivers, swim in the lakes, keep warm around campfires, sip from random flasks that friends bring to share, eat highly carbohydrated and salted meals, eat Snickers bars, get dirt under my fingernails, dig catholes, put my greasy hair up into a pony tail, try not to smell my socks, push through muscle pain and sometimes blister pain, walk and pray, laugh, and just simply enjoy my surroundings – people and places.
My plan is to never stop backpacking. I love it. I learn something new almost every single trip I go on. It’s not always related to backpacking directly – what gear is best, how to use a stove more efficiently or how to make tiramisu on the trail – a lot of times I learn something new about myself. Or a friend. Or a chipmunk named Clyde. Either way, it never, ever, ever gets old.