On the Prelude to a Backcountry Trek

(NOTE: My thoughts on my trek through the Zirkel Wilderness are coming, but I wrote this post on the plane to Colorado.)


I’ve never started the review of my now annual backcountry trek before the actual trek, but here I am on the plane to Colorado, severely hopped up on coffee following my usual sleepless-night-before-the-adventure.

As my dog, upset by the packed bag at the front door, nervously paced the hardwood floors all night (click, click, click, click), I hopefully (hopelessly?) gazed at the ceiling trying desperately to sleep. Despite my best efforts, it never happened. Despite channeling every guided meditation I could remember, it never happened. Despite repeating mantra after mantra, it never happened. Despite using the breathing techniques I’ve been learning in my newfound yoga practice, it never happened. The thought of sleeping through my alarm trumped shavasana and prevented any hope of sustained sleep. And that’s just fine, for I know the adrenaline shot of the Zirkel Wilderness will soon propel me through four nights and five days. Sleep? I don’t need no stinkin’ sleep!

The days leading up to this trip have been difficult. I’ve felt myself somewhat cave emotionally. A week ago, I battled a major case of self-doubt. I wondered if the visions I had for the wide variety of projects on which I am working were wrong. Personally, I found myself short on patience, biting with sarcasm and annoyed at the slightest slips of those around me. And I was especially annoyed with my own self-perceived slips. Self-doubt coupled with self-judgment. Not necessarily the ingredients one wants creeping into A Day Well Lived. Everything felt like drama. I was cratering.

It’s not the first time this has happened before setting out on these adventures. So, I sent Jeff a text that read something to the effect of, “I wonder if I subconsciously crater in the weeks and days before the trip or if the end of the summer is a natural letdown for me?” I like that I can send him this kind of text out of the blue and he doesn’t blink. No questions asked, he wrote that I should journal on it. I told him I was thinking it would be the subject of the post-trek blog. He said he looked forward to reading it.

Turns out I jumped the gun. Here we are.

I don’t yet know the answer to the question I posed in the text, but I suspect it’s somewhere in the middle. A mix of both. I think there’s some truth to the fact that I appreciate how raw I feel when I’m out in the wilderness. So perhaps the more emotionally raw I feel…the better I think the experience will be. And I think the end of the summer is hard. I love all the extra time with my son. Witnessing the freedom he feels. The freedom that I feel. Letting go of that is difficult.

Funny thing is, however, now that I’m actually on the plane and even with no sleep, that cratering feeling is gone. The wilderness heals – even when I’m not yet in it. So, perhaps the cratering isn’t only about the rawness and end of summer, but it’s about the anticipation of being in what is a truly authentic and vastly open space. Open topographically and open spiritually. It’s perhaps based on impatience more than anything else. Impatience for the adventure and impatience for myself. Why can’t I feel that kind of authenticity and openness everyday? Hadn’t thought of that until just now. Jeff was right.

After loading my gear last night, I read the posts from the last two hikes and felt a sense of accomplishment about how far I’ve come. Although I’m by no means an expert outdoorsman, my experiences, confidence and expectations for this trip are vastly different from the first and even the second. Gone is the crushing anxiety and fear. Gone is the insecurity of needing to bring more. And, frankly, gone are any pre-determined expectations. I learned to let the moments happen and to appreciate them on the last trip. I’m bringing that lesson with me on this one.

It’s a different kind of start to the trip this time – no hiking today. We’ll drive from the airport to the trailhead and car-camp the first night. I’m okay with that. And we’ll have a dog with us for the first time. I’m more than okay with that. The “ding” sounds and all electronic devices must be turned off and stowed for landing. I’m okay with that, too.

Now the adventure really begins. And if, following the trip, I continue this post with my thoughts in the very next paragraph, those thoughts will only be a hard return away. But the time and experiences filling that space will be,

will be

will be

will be

well, I don’t know how or what they will be. And to say anything different would be to offer some kind of expectation. So I guess, that’s exactly what the time and experiences filling that space will be. They will just be.

“See” you in a few days.

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