I saw the movie “Wild” a month or so ago on the recommendation of a friend. “She reminds me so much of you,” my friend Tiffany proclaimed. I didn’t really think so. I mean, I camp, but I’ve never backpacked in my life. I’ve always thought that leaving the hot showers and real food behind and traipsing off to bathe in streams and eat dehydrated food sounded … well … not very fun. Truth is, it seemed a little scary. And I’d have to carry that big pack. I know how I am. I never pack the right clothes when I go somewhere, and I can’t leave behind my yoga mat, my hair products or a great pair of wedges. I’d be stuck if I was out backpacking and brought clothes that weren’t warm enough or – heaven forbid – too warm.
After watching the movie, I started to think about backpacking. I even wrote a blog about my thoughts of being alone on a trail. Could I do that? Would I want to do that? The more I noodled it, the more I liked the idea. But, I don’t know what to bring. What about water? Do I really trust that whole iodine solution to clean my water enough so that I don’t get sick? Can I bring Ashok? She’d never let me go off backpacking and leave her at home… nor would I want to. I got interested enough that I looked up the Louisiana Hiking Club on the internet and attended a meeting. It was fun, but when a couple of women my age got up and talked about hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail their first time out, I got really excited.
These two women – whom I now admire – told me that they took a backpacking course at LSU with the club’s president, Katherine. She taught them what to bring, how to pack and even helped them pick a destination for their first adventure. So I started looking for the class online. I couldn’t find it, but then I started wondering if I’d rather take a class in the mountains where I could learn while I backpack. I could see whether or not I even like it. Then a weird thing happened. It is rare that my female friends want to join me for my adventurous outdoor hobbies. When I told the women in my Meetup Group that I was considering learning to backpack, they ALL wanted to take the class. Really? You mean, I have come to Louisiana and am going to find a backpacking community. So, I signed up for the class today. At least two more of my friends have already registered, too. From October 7 – November 11, I will be learning to take care of myself out in the backcountry!
The class will also help me meet more people who are learning to backpack. If I go away for a weekend workshop, none of those people will live close to me. I’d still have to build a local community. Of course, the hiking club has lots of folks in it that already backpack, but I don’t know most of them. After spending 6 Wednesday nights in class and going on an overnight hike, I’ll know some of these people really well. And, hopefully, they will be excited enough to try out their skills that they’ll want to go on a hike real soon. I’m already thinking that a winter backpacking adventure to Big Bend or the Ozarks between Christmas and New Years sounds like a great idea. My office is closed, and I never have anything to do. It drives me crazy. Backpacking seems to fit the bill, and it’s affordable, too.
I’m already daydreaming about waking up in the middle of a National Forest or Park somewhere on a cool morning. I stretch as I climb out of the tent and a doe and her fawn are standing about 100 feet to my right. I stop and watch. The sunlight is filtering through the trees, and I listen to the quiet. There is nothing except the breeze moving. I can hear the river roaring behind me. Breathing in … breathing out …. I realize that this is all there is. This is all there ever needs to be. I look at Ashok. She looks back at me. We have a quick breakfast, pack up and take off down the trail. It’s going to be a beautiful day. I see a really long walk in my future. I just have to figure out where it’s going to be.
BTW … if you are interested in learning to backpack, why don’t you join a class in your area or the one in Baton Rouge if you’re local and join us on our new adventure? I’ve linked the details below on the Baton Rouge class. Backpack in the woods, backpack Europe, backpack anywhere. Maybe you won’t like it at all, but wouldn’t you like to at least try?! And if you don’t want to backpack, learn something else. It’s how you stay young.