Sunday, June 2, 2013

What I Learned by Spending Six Days in the Wilderness

Maisy and I recently went on a 6 day, 20 mile backpacking trip on the Superior Hiking Trail in Northern Minnesota with our friends Laura and Piper. It was my first time doing this; while I adore hiking and have been camping, I’ve never combined the two before. Here’s what I learned from my experience.

There’s no sense in worrying about things you can’t change.
Leading up to the trip, I worried about a lot of things. I worried about the trail conditions; reports were that there was still snow on sections of it. I worried about whether it would rain. I worried that it would be hot, or too cold. Well, there was a tiny bit of snow on the ground, and it definitely rained, and I was cold one night. But all my worrying did nothing to change this, and I had a great time anyway.

Photo by Laura

Hiking in the rain sucks. Camping in the rain sucks more.
We had rainstorms two days on our hiking trip. As much as carrying 50 pounds uphill in the rain really sucks, huddling in a tent in the rain was even worse. At least I was warm while I was moving. Also, I’m pretty sure there’s a metaphor in there about life; I'm just not sure what it is yet.


Don’t pack cotton. Just don’t.
Once it gets wet, it’s wet. And wet stuff is heavy. Pack things that will dry fast.

If you pack cotton, you'll have to take an entire day in camp to dry stuff out.

Appreciate the small things in life.
Roughing it really puts things in perspective. At various points during the week, I was cold, I was wet, I was muddy, I was smelly, I was tired, and I was in pain. But as long as my feet and undies were dry, I could really deal with all that. It doesn't take much to be happy... we just think it does.

I'm happy the girls played together! Photo by Laura.

When things are miserable, sometimes all you can do is to keep putting one foot in front of another.
There was one day where it was raining pretty hard and everything I owned or was wearing (including my socks and undies) were wet. I discovered that I’m pretty out of shape, so I needed to take frequent breaks, but as soon as I stopped moving, I was freezing cold. In short, I was miserable. There was nothing I could do but keep going. 

If you suffer through the hard days, you are rewarded with days like this.

When you don’t know how far you’ve come- or how far you have left to go- you can either endure it or enjoy it.
Hiking on backwoods trails is different than hiking in the city. The trails do not have regular signage. I had a map, but it was pretty hard to tell where we were on it. Most days, I didn’t know how far we had hiked, nor how long (we didn’t bring watches). On those miserably wet days, there was no way to know how much longer we had to go. Certainly, those days were about enduring hard times. But all the same, there were moments I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of the woods. 


Laura can make fire out of water.
Well, water-soaked wood. Which is pretty much the same thing.

Photo- and fire!- by Laura

Less is more.
When you’re carrying fifty pounds on your back for miles every day, every ounce counts. It’s hard enough to carry the necessities, so don’t pack more than you need. And you need less than you think. Let go. Another metaphor for life- you got that, right?

Photo by Laura

Even well-maintained trails will have obstacles, but there’s always a way around them.
The Superior Hiking Trail has a great group of volunteers that go out and clear fallen trees off the trail pretty regularly. Still, they are volunteers, so there were places they hadn’t gotten to yet. Some of the obstacles were small and easy to step over. Others… well, they took more creativity. But there was always a way to carry on.

This was an easy section.

The best views come after the hardest climbs. Enjoy them.
‘Nuf said. 



The best dog is the one you’ve already got.
I didn’t know what Maisy would think about backpacking. She doesn’t like to get wet. She gets overheated easily. She is probably just as out of shape as I am, so I thought she’d get tired and I’d have to carry her at times. Her routine was disrupted, and we shared a small tent with a boxer and an adult human. And, predictably, she had moments of snarkiness, but overall, we both had a great time. I'm so proud of us both!  

Photo by Laura

1 comment:

Joanna said...

Beautiful post!