A 3 Part blog to bring you through the feels of a hard but very rewarding experience of backpacking.
To listen to while reading:
PART 1. You
First there is you. Your abilities. Your excitement. Your doubts.
There is working through the moment, at midnight before you hike out, that what you’ve been told – a 4 mile hike in and out - is actually a 7.4 mile hike each way. You hold back tears (which come mostly from over tiredness, but also from fear that you can’t do it, that your body will not hold you all that way.) You let a few tears fall just because it feels better that way. Then you try to get some sleep.
There is the early morning drive, and psyching yourself up. Willing yourself to get excited about doing something that may or may not suck. Then there is letting go and trusting. You have everything you will need. There is nothing left but to allow. Watching the greenery fly past the car window, the mountains and the open road beckoning you. The hawk trolling the skies, welcoming you. That familiar feeling of freedom.
PART 2. The Trail
Then there is the start. The trail head. You use the facilities for the last time before you’ll need to fend for yourself. Clicking the buckles on your pack, you’ve got hiking poles in hand. You’ve got bug-spray, sunblock, freeze dried food, bars, blister Band-Aids. You have everything you’ll need for the next 35+ hours on your back and in your bones.
As the trail begins, it’s buggy. Along the man-made lake it’s a marshy haven. The path follows a river all the way up to Crater Lake. The scenes get more and more beautiful as the trail goes on. You pass meadows, groves of trees, river crossings, waterfalls, and more flowering plant life than you’ve ever seen in a forest. Adjusting the pack helps alternate the weight from shoulders to hips to shoulders to hips. It’s sunny, hot, but the beauty is stunning. This is the “soul food” of the forest. Each green bend in the trail reveals another reason to take a deep breath of gratitude. And each brake encourages your shoulders to float away when you remove your bag.
When it gets hard you pump yourself up with pep talks in the third person, to help you and those with you. Keeping the energy up helps you all power through the final switch backs – a punishing end. When you reach the lake, you know why you just hiked 7.4 miles.
PART 3. The Reason
In the end there is the reason for accepting the challenge. Inviting the blisters, the tiredness, and the hard work, because the reward is beyond words. Crater Lake, a glacial lake, is pristine. A few waterfalls adorn the sides of the bowl, one towering and sending water barreling down in a steady stream, feeding the lake directly. You can literally see the source of your water. You set camp up on the hillside, and climb down to the lake to soak your feet in icy water. The company bubbles with laughter over freeze dried meals and the stunning view. As the sun sets, you feel a deep sense of accomplishment and kinship. You also feel how simple life really is, and how grand at the same time. You feel humbled, determined and sleepy. There is something so pleasing about watching the stars come out.
There is undoubtedly soreness, but there is also a fullness gained from doing something like this. Being a part of this much nature and effort is what we’re meant to do. To view nature NOT from behind a screen, and to build mental and physical muscle. There is a reason we put ourselves through difficult things. After 14.8 miles and 2,000+ feet of elevation gain, you appreciate those who kept you company and who kept you going. We do it for adrenaline. Satisfaction. Joy. Triumph. Camaraderie. To see and feel deeply the beauty in the world. To live life to the fullest extent. We experience and take in the vibrations around us – and the vibe of nature like this is as pure and grounding as it gets. This is real soul food.