Backpacking = Freedom
During my childhood I spent a lot of time camping. I LOVED every minute of it. Blueberry pancakes and sausage for breakfast. Exploring and hiking during the day. Campfires in the evening. Night hikes where my brother would always run ahead of the group and hide and eventually jump out and try and scare the bejesus out of someone. It was wonderful. I looked forward to every trip.
I always wanted to try backpacking but for some reason it never manifested. I was going camping regularly enough that backpacking just turned into something I would do eventually. My first backpacking trip took place just off the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. Our site was only a mile and a half in. We figured we could cover that distance pretty easily so if we had to take multiple trips that would be fine. Sean and I were total beginners. We didn't really have any of the gear we needed. We carried in our own clean water. We packed really heavy foods. I didn't even have a proper sleeping bag. I draped the blankets I was going to use over my shoulders between my backpack and my neck. I really don't know what we were thinking. We knew these things made no sense....but since it was only a mile and a half hike we just didn't feel the need to pay attention to these obvious details. I really don't have a good excuse. We made it to the site just fine-albeit it would have been faster and easier with proper gear. Who carries in jugs of clean water?? That's what jet-boils are for! We camped along a river and were able to do day hikes from our site. It was a nice introduction to backpacking. We were on our own but not so far away from civilization that I was nervous. There was a regular campground nearby as well. It was sorta like a blend with backpacking and regular car camping.
Our next backpacking trip we were a bit more prepared. This time our trip was in the Bitterroot Mountains in MT. We decided to check out the Canyon Creek area. Our hike had many different aspects to it. First we were in the trees hiking next to stream. Before we knew were traversing upward and running into lots of snow. The it started snowing. Due to the weather we were unable to make it to our final destination but we found a good camp spot with plenty of coverage for the changed weather. That's the cool thing with backpacking. You have to prepare for all sorts of varying conditions. Rain, snow, sunshine, and winds. You have NO control of the weather. You can only control your attitude about it and how well prepared you are for it. I remember waking up and looking out at the mountain ridgelines. It was so beautiful. So awe inspiring and peaceful. I wanted more of this feeling. Our instant coffee packets filled our new lightweight backpacking mugs-which also turned into to bowls. I was home.
*Tap right to check out more photos in each photo reel
Our backpacking trips from this point became even more properly planned and exciting. The Bitterroot Mountains became an area we came to know very well. We love that mountain range. Each drainage has its own unique feel. One by one we started to explore different lakes and peaks. Most of our backpacking trips included a climb ( ones we could do with no gear) on the second day of our trip. We would eat a big breakfast ( my fav was dehydrated eggs , peppers, and sausage with wheat tortillas and hot sauce) then head out on our adventure. The book " Hikes and Climbs To Bitterroot Mountain Summits" by Michael Hoyt became our backpacking co-pilot. This book opened us up to a whole new experience. Safe climbs to summits that required NO GEAR. His descriptions got us to the summit every time. Being able to see your tiny campsite below and look out onto this vast mountain range was absolutely amazing. Something about seeing how far you can climb in a few hours is remarkable. You literally feel on top of the world. The air is fresh. The sun is warm. You feel so free.
After our daily adventures we would just relax and enjoy being at our campsite. One of my favorite camping essentials is a plastic bottle of whiskey. I know it may not be the "healthiest" choice but sippin on a lil whiskey after a big climb just feels really good. We always had intentions to read or draw but we never ended up doing those things. We would just be there. There with our thoughts. There with each other. Nothing from the past mattered. Nothing that was lingering in our email box mattered. None of our financial or personal issues mattered. Being in that spot at that time mattered. Backpacking provided us with the freedom of a calm mind. That freedom is so powerful. When you are in that space you can really appreciate every moment. The campfire, the sunset, the instant coffee, the sunrise, the breeze, and the beauty of mother nature.
When you are backpacking you have to work for everything. You have to carry anything you may possible need on your back. You have to hang your bear bag ( sometimes this involved Sean climbing multiple trees ). You must boil every Nalgene of clean water. You set up your tent. You bury your personal poo waste. Everything you earn is from calories you burn. Everything you earn you appreciate because you worked for it. Gratitude. I have never been so excited over a trail mix granola bar dipped in natural peanut butter than I have been when I am backpacking.
I never feel as refreshed and ready to take on the world as I do after I come back from a backpacking trip. I really think the freedom to just be yourself and clear your head of distractions helps relive anxiety and encourage creativity. I don't have the science on it, I just have my own experiences. If you are looking at getting into backpacking I highly recommend it. Do your homework though and research your trip. It can be very dangerous and weather can change on a dime. It's all part of the adventure.
Backpacking to me equals freedom. Freedom to try new things. Freedom to choose how you will handle a situation. Freedom of judgement. Freedom from unending news/social media/bad TV. And MOST importantly freedom to be yourself.