Peering Through a Glass-Bottomed Boat

I love taking up a new hobby. It’s fun to learn something new. I’m always up for learning a new skill. Every hobby has a community built around it that I find even more interesting than the activity itself. When I started running and subscribed to Runner’s World magazine, I found out how the running community worked, the topics that interested them such as proper protocol for doing #2 on a run and all of the different types of equipment that are available for running.  Now that community seems like my own, and I would be surprised if someone else thought we were strange. But, I remember being fascinated by it at first.

When I decided that I wanted to learn backpacking, I joined the Louisiana Hiking Club. I can tell they have their own little subculture that hikes all the time for fun. While the rest of the world spends their weekends at Target or at football games, these folks are up early and out in the woods. Then, they write and share emails detailing their adventures. This subculture overlaps with the paddling subculture, so, as I’m watching the club emails pass through my inbox, I’m getting to know those folks as well.

My friend Linda urged me to look up the podcast TrailSide Radio after I posted my blog about wanting to learn backpacking. I googled it and listened to the podcast show that featured a panel of serious backpackers rating trails, backpacking equipment and home-brewed beer – which is apparently shipped to them all over the country. They were funny. A trail hostel (I had no idea there was such a thing.) owner had died, and they memorialized him and his amazing hostel which they said “everybody” knows about. I thought it was fascinating to get a glimpse into this world which I had never seen before. It was like peering through a glass-bottomed boat into an unknown, unseen world.

Click here for TrailSide Radio.

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There’s another funny podcast called The Trail Show. It’s totally hilarious, and I don’t even know if I can describe it. You’ll just have to listen to it. Consider it your adventure for the weekend.

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I was having so much fun listening to these wacky, funny folks, I decided to subscribe to Backpacker Magazine. When I came home this evening, I found not one but three issues of Backpacker in my mailbox. Apparently, I got the August, September and October issues all at once. Oh well… I’ll have plenty to keep me busy over the weekend. I was thrilled to see an article on “Women and Backpacking” and not so enthusiastic over one that details which insects you can eat to survive. Hmmmm … this is going to be different than Psychology Today …. and even Runner’s World.

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I flipped through pages of ads for Backcountry Dog food – for dogs that love exploring – and Wilderness cat food. Apparently, even backpackers fall for pet food marketing that reflects their own interests. I was thrilled to see many trails in different parts of the country featured complete with directions to the trailhead, photos,  campsite locations and trail descriptions. That will be fun to explore. There was an article on how to care for your feet. It was NOT pedicure-related.  I now know how to lance a blister, toughen up my feet before a long hike and treat blood under a nail. Runner’s World might benefit from a reprint of that last tip. This magazine is not for sissies.

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Backpackers love their celebrities, too. A short interview with Nick Nolte and Bill Bryson about the upcoming movie A Walk in the Woods was featured in the front section. My hiking friend Susan in North Carolina gave me a copy of A Walk in the Woods to read a few weeks ago. I’m eager to see the movie now. I flipped another page and learned how difficult it is to start a fire without a match. Gratefully, they finished the article with detailed instructions on how to do it. So, now if I get lost, I can start a fire and cook up some insects for dinner. No problem. I got this.

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A pair of hikers got caught in a volcanic eruption in the Andes, and they wrote about their adventure for one of the long feature stories. The magazine highlighted ten of the best park rangers in the country in another feature-length piece. They are featuring National Parks that I didn’t even know existed. I think I’m going to learn a lot from this exploration. I’m starting to get overwhelmed with all of these places I need to go … and now want to hike. I’m going to have to quit my day job. Oh yeah.. and there’s a job board for women who want to work in the outdoors. You better believe I’ll be perusing that baby.

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So, I’m going to settle in and start peering through the glass-bottomed boat into the underground world of backpackers, hikers and adventurers. I’m not a part of it yet, but one day I may be. I know that running changed my life and brought me all kinds of amazing new experiences. I met really cool people and ran races in lovely cities all across this country. Could my feet bring me into another world through backpacking? Perhaps. Only time will tell. For now, I’ll let myself vicariously learn about an unexplored subculture that seems to be pretty wacky and adventurous. Tomorrow morning, I’ll get up and practice the new drills to help me balance when walking across a log. At least I won’t have to snack on bugs tonight.

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