A lot of folks have asked me why our family likes to go backpacking. I’ve been pondering that, and I think my answer is “because it makes life simple.”
When I go backpacking, there is no 12 step Mary Kay skin scrubbing/ rinsing/repairing/preserving routine with a lotion for daytime, a lotion for nighttime, a lotion for putting over the daytime and nighttime lotions, and a special lotion to erase those little pesky lines around your eyes—Oh and don’t forget the lip balm for those dry and cracking lips. No, when I go backpacking, I bring no lotion because lotion is not completely necessary. When I go backpacking, my skin is lucky if it gets a quick splash from the 45 degree lake before I sink into my sleeping bag.
When I go backpacking, I don’t fix my hair. There are no electrical outlets in the forest, so I put a hat on the sparse hair that I have and I call it good—not pretty—you are never pretty when you are backpacking—but good.
When I go backpacking, I wear no make-up. Like I said, you are never pretty when you are backpacking…nor do you need to be—the other hikers, and the bears you hope that you will not see, do not care.
When I go backpacking, I bring two sets of clothes. You got it, two sets—one for wearing during the day and getting stinky in, and one for putting on at night after you attempt to wash up with an old Winnie the Pooh washcloth in the 45 degree lake. These night clothes are never worn during the day because then they would become stinky nighttime clothes, and no one wants to share a tiny two-man tent with a stinker.
When I go backpacking, I only do my laundry—no one else’s—the daytime set—and I wash it in the freezing cold water while slugs affix themselves to my skin. I then hang these clothes on our clothesline and hope they dry by morning. They usually don’t dry, so I wear them wet the next day—nothing like wet underwear to get you going! They always dry on my body by mile 3. Unless it’s raining—then they never dry.
When I go backpacking, I don’t have to clean the bathroom. There really are no bathrooms—unless you count those disgusting biffys we occasionally find on the more travelled routes. Lands sake! The whole forest’s a bathroom—who needs a biffy? Nuff said.
When I go backpacking, I can eat a Snickers bar at 7:30 in the morning and feel good about it. Snickers really satisfies. And I need to be satisfied if I am going 14 miles with a pack on my back.
When I go backpacking, I know exactly what I am supposed to do. I am supposed to put on a pack filled with food, a sleeping bag and pad, camp stove and fuel, and maybe a copy of a year old Reader’s Digest, and I am supposed to walk and walk and walk until I get to my next chosen campsite. I am supposed to arrive at this campsite without spraining my ankle or getting eaten by wildlife. When I get to this location, I am to set up my tent and sleeping supplies, eat the meal that my husband and daughter have prepared, and then wash the dirty supper dishes in lake water—exactly 200 feet from the lake (soap kills the fishes!). After drying these dishes by waving them in the air like a crazy person, I put them in their mesh pouch and carry them camp-ward. There are exactly six plates, six cups, and six sporks (combo spoon/fork/knife—clever, huh?) in the bag. Bedtime directly follows supper—even if it’s only 6:45 pm. We do this every day…and night. You can set your watch by it—if you actually bring a watch—and you probably won’t because it’s not completely necessary.
When I go backpacking, I can’t check my email or scroll down Facebook checking out everyone’s weekend plans. I can’t make a phone call or watch a movie to relax. But I can talk to my family as we trek the trails together and make up new words to the song “These are a Few of my Favorite Things” because we can’t remember the real ones. And I can laugh for the hundredth time at yet another “leaking bladder” joke as we fill our camel-back water bladders with filtered lake water.
And I can listen to the symphony of bugs and birds and wolves that howl as I look at obscenely bright stars shining in the sky.
When I go backpacking, life is simpler and purer and better. As one weathered and dirty thru-hiker told us as he passed our group on a warm Colorado day, “Nature heals, man.”
I tend to agree.