Ode to Backpacking

Backpacking is extreme exploration. It is taking everything you have in your life, stuffing it into a pack, and heading out into the natural world to experience its wonder. The goals of packing can be at times contradictory. Because you have to carry everything with you, there is an extremely strong incentive to pack as lightly as possible. I particularly find this true for myself since I tend to run and climb for exercise. These activities are rewarding of being as efficient and strong as possible with only your  own weight. Carrying extra makes the task very quickly more difficult, so backpacking is by its nature against the way I train. Equipment takes on a huge appeal based on its weight. Food is taken on only two criteria: lightweight and high in calories. The taste of the food is semi-optional as most things taste good when you have been exercising all day. In the goal of packing as light as reasonable, you find yourself constantly wondering how important that water filter really is (very important). Will your friends be bringing their stove? Or do you have to carry your own? Etc.

On the other hand, it is a constant temptation to carry the comforts of home with you into the wilderness. What could possibly be better than the unparalleled views in the outdoors accompanied by the unparalleled comfort of fleece pants? Thus, you are constantly wondering about what you can get away with taking and what you will be so glad to have carried the weight of when you get to camp. Gear is always a large topic of conversation and all the gadgets that people find are quickly passed through the guise of being jealous from one person to the next. Generosity and sharing come to the forefront of your mind both in showing your latest gadget and sharing victory and motivation snacks like gummy stingers and milanos. You find yourself packing extra things, particularly food, so that you can share with your adventure buddies.

Regardless of your packing decisions, wise or otherwise, the trip will be amazing. There is a great sense of accomplishment in covering a lot of terrain, and that is augmented by the feeling of having taken everything you need to survive and even be fairly comfortable across that terrain under your own power. Since you can spend multiple days on a backpacking trip, you are able to see more terrain than usual, and you can enjoy amazing views of sunrises and sunsets with the stars and weather in between. There are small victories of getting over an obstacle and large victories of climbing gargantuan peaks and descending into abyssal depths of canyons. Each is similar in the feelings of the pack and movement over the trails or routes, yet each is entirely unique. There are so many places that you can go and so many amazing things in each segment of trail that it is hard to fully comprehend each and every wonder you behold. The chance of seeing an animal, the mystery around the bend, the vast panorama over the rise…each is waiting in its own fated moment. Each is a wonder and beauty to behold.

The rest you receive in mind as you backpack is accompanied with the weariness that comes to your body. The exercise is intense; the sleep, deep. You are easily swayed into the positive nature of the world and the amazement at what it has to offer. Laughter and smiles come easily at the end of a productive day of hiking, and it is quite simple to take in all of the great benefits of friendship, exercise, aesthetics, caution and daring. Jokes are shared, stories of adventures and mis-adventures, past experiences, and present trials and victories. Sharing feelings from physical soreness to psychological trials on the trail become far easier when you are backpacking such that you find the friends you share days in the wilderness with are those that you would trust most in society.

You can take pictures of the amazing things you see, yet the sensations from the feeling of acrobatic movements to vistas to sounds and smells are so etched into your mind that you can recognize long missed places by their mere scent. You can easily look into the future to think of new, exciting adventures to be had and use each past experience to improve those to come.