Or at least your backpacking trip
I’m very new to backpacking world. Before meeting my fiancé Alex, I didn’t really understand the concept of loading everything I would need onto my back and hiking off into a forest.
I’ve found that for me hiking comes in stages similar to the stages of grief, much to Alex’s grief as well.
Weeks Leading Up to the Hike
This is Alex’s favorite part. He gets so excited figuring out how light he can make the packs or new uses for gear. I’m generally less than enthusiastic about having to do this part, wanting to soak up every last minute of the comfort of home before hitting the trail. The day we head out to the trailhead is when the excitement hits the deepest for me. The idea of unplugging and getting away from all the noise of society with my best friend is my favorite part. I use that excitement to really knock out that first mile.
Stage 1: Denial
Alex loves to backpack. In the mountains, on the plains, desert or lake; he loves it all. The first time he took me backpacking, he may have kept it to himself that it was an advanced trail. Usually within the first few elevation changes, fully feeling the weight of my bag as I’m scaling the side of the mountain, shock inevitably sets in…what on earth did I sign up for?
This is when the tears set in if they’re going to. I always forget how hard grinding out those first few miles are, especially when you have 30+ lbs of gear on your back.
Determined to have a great hike and not cry like I did last time, I jump head first into denial. “Right around this corner, there will be some flat ground. There is no way it can keep going up”. Spoiler alert: it keeps going up!
Stage 2: Anger
This is the part the D@#% mountain keeps going UP! Tired and sweaty, I go full steam ahead into the anger stage. It comes with lots of water breaks and threats of never backpacking ever again. Alex is always there with his encouraging “we are almost there” pep talks, and I know that no matter how angry I am that it will all be worth it in the end…. or at least it better be after this.
Stage 3: Bargaining
This part of the trip is a two-sided balancing act between me asking if we can set up camp and Alex wanting to push through “Don’t you want to stay by the lake? It’s only a mile or so up the trail.” Ceding to defeat, I pop in a Jolly Rancher and keep on trekking.
Stage 4: Depression
Invariably one more mile slowly and painfully turns into three more miles. Alex knows me well enough that this is the time to take an actual break. At this point, it’s all about reminding me why we came out here. I have to start focusing on the serenity of it all and the beauty of everything that I have missed during the first 4 stages of the hike.
With the break over and another Jolly Rancher consumed, I slowly transition out of this tough stage. This section of hiking is always filled with renewed energy while I slowly begin to feel the weight of my bag again. I settle into the pain and make my peace with my sore legs and shoulders.
Stage 5: Acceptance
I transition my thoughts away from my sore hips or exhausted legs to the little purple flowers or the astounding views. Sidebar: Yes, for me the purple flowers rank right up there with the astounding views : ). This is a much slower hike pace until I hear the magic words, “Do you see that clearing? That’s where we are setting up camp!”
Alex always finds these awesome boulders next to babbling streams. We get to take off the packs and I finally start really appreciating the journey. It’s a reminder of why I volunteer to leave the comforts of modern life behind to go get lost. Lost in nature and lost in self-reflection.
On our last trip, we stopped to lay down on two huge boulders stacked on top of each other with a small but steady stream of water coming out from under them. The boulder is stronger than the water initially, but after some persistence, the water manages to make its way through the boulder to shape a new stream. This is very similar to what I face during the 5 stages of grief. With persistence, that which seems impossible is made possible.
Once, in the northern Sierra Nevadas, we had this beautiful lake all to ourselves with the mountains framing the background. The water was so peaceful with the occasional fish trying to catch its dinner. What’s better than the sounds of birds chirping and water flowing, and it NOT being on Pandora? I found my favorite rock and just sat down taking it all in…something is to be said about sitting there and feeling all your cares and stresses of daily life just melting away. Feeling your tired ache muscles relax for the first time in hours.
Going on these physical and mental journeys always reminds me that we often spend so much time rushing to our destination that we rarely stop and appreciate where we are right now. Some points in life are hard, and to be honest, can just downright suck. It’s so easy to want to give up and throw in the towel and hike back down the mountain. If you do quit, you might just be missing out on some of the moments that will take your breath away. So, pop in another Jolly Rancher, and enjoy the hike. Camp is only a few miles ahead.
#jollyranchers #notgrapetho #stagesofgrief #enjoythejourney #wearoneshareone