My friend Cherie, who has twisted my arm into biking, then into running, also got me into backpacking.
The summer after I moved back to Washington, she invited me along on a family backpacking trip. Her dad Jim had been going to this semi-secret lake for much of his life, and in 2013 he was headed to the hills again with his daughter and grandson, a three-generation group. Cherie's husband Brian and I rounded out the pack. The hike was challenging, including a bit of hand over hand climbing, and pushing through overgrown fisherman trails, but I was pretty well hooked from the start.
My family did a bit of hiking and camping when I was quite young, and I started camping again in my early twenties. I love so many things about it. Being outside in the wilderness is restorative. I feel so present, away from the comforts and routine of home. I actually appreciate how long it takes to make coffee and cook food when I am camping. It just seems to make me appreciate everything a bit more.
Backpacking adds another level to it. You have to carry everything on your back, thus reducing how many comforts you want to bring along. You also have to carry this weight up and down hills, rather than just from your car to your tent. When you get to that secret or not so secret lake at the end of the trail, it feels that much sweeter that you got there under your own power.
And once you are there, life is just so gloriously slow. You have nowhere else to be. Time to sit and enjoy your coffee. Time to wade into the mountain lake. Time for a day hike through the woods. Time to sit on a log and read, surrounded by the sounds of nature. Time to fish if you hauled that inflatable raft that nearly crushed you. Time to just be.
I think our group has been on four backpacking trips, but it has been a few years since we headed to the woods together. Summers can fill up fast, and then the pandemic and the appearance of my hip arthritis made it a non-starter. Prior to 2020, I had applied several times to get a permit to hike the Wonderland Trail solo, but have come up empty each time. With the new hip and the limits on running, I want to get back into backpacking again.
My YouTube watchlist has been filled lately with backpacking videos, and also bikepacking videos where they trade shoes for wheels, trails for roads. Part of it is the anticipation and desire to get moving again, but I think this happens every tax season. As the hours increase, and the weekends away from work disappear, mental plans are made for the summer, something to look forward to after April 15th.
In the meantime, and as part of the surgery recovery, I have been going on longer walks lately. The place that has become a regular favorite is Bridle Trails Park. It is a wooded oasis in the middle of the city. There are three main trails - 1 mile, 1.8 miles, and 3.5 miles, and you can mix and combine based on what you need any particular day. I choose the 1.8 when Izzy is with me, and the 3.5 when I leave her at home (much less stopping and sniffing). Every weekend it seems I find a new tree that captures my attention, and the trail is always a little different based on the weather, time of day, and level of sunshine breaking through the trees. From the name, you obviously see horses pretty regularly, but I have also seen owls and deer on my walks.
My body and brain are better for it every time I go for a walk in the woods, even if only for an hour or two.
Scenes from this weekend.