When John and I were in the woods this week, we spent some time talking about why we like backpacking.
I said that I like the aspect of immersing myself in nature and breaking away from the patterns of normal life. You get to spend some time with yourself, and each other (because J is my awesometrustybackpackingpartner) at a pace that is defined by when the sun sets and rises, and how long it takes to get from one stream to the next. It is really cool to be immersed in a great conversation about math/science/education/philosophy/pine beetles and then all of a sudden you have to go up a big hill so you hike in silence for the next hour, just existing in the rhythms of your footfalls and absorbing the landscape around you. Or maybe it rains (pours) and you are cold so you stay cozy in the tent and fall asleep right at dusk, and that feels really rather natural. Or you wake up early and watch the mountain goats playing on the rocks above the alpine lake (that you swam in yesterday in an act of bravery). You just sit, and observe, and laugh when the fish jump so high out of the water that they catch air.
I also admit that I quite like the survival aspect of being out in the wilderness for multiple days at a time. Everything we need is on our backs, and in an effort to keep those packs light, we pare down to just the necessities. It turns out that human beings do just fine with some food, clean water (katadyne + waterfalls FTW), a method of keeping dry/warm, a way to boil water, and very little else except clean underwear (a definite necessity in my book), and the latest addition to our gear, a bear vault (which only kind of eased my total bear phobia but it was helpful to keep organized and made for a nice chair).
For John, the answer was more simple. It’s about the hiking. Putting one foot in front of the other and letting them take you to super special places you wouldn’t otherwise get to experience. He’s totally right, of course. Hiking is both the reason, and the method, and the excuse for getting to experience all of this: