Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cabin Fever

After my first backpacking trip, during a 2 week stint at Girl Scout camp when I was 8, I swore I would never do that again!

Of course, one of the first lessons I learned in life was "never say 'never'" and true enough, some 20 years later, out of the blue and with no apparent provocation-- I was sitting in my apartment one day and realized I HAD to go backpacking!

Kinda the same way you realize you HAVE to go pee right when the movie is getting really good.

I just had to do it.

Lucky for me, about 10 minutes after this came to my attention, my good friend Amber called. At the time we lived some 400 miles apart and hadn't been very good at keeping up to date with one another-- that was back when the internet was very young and only doctors and drug dealers had cell phones. Not that the modern marvels of email, text messaging, and Facebook have spurred Amz on to being any better at keeping in touch!

So there we are, chatting away about all that had been happening in our lives, when my dear friend Amber says to me-- completely out of the blue-- "I really want to get into backpacking!"

Wow. Maybe I'd been channeling her enthusiasm or something? Whatever-- backpacking we would go.

And backpacking we did go. And have gone. And will go again. And again.

I have more money invested in my backpacking gear than I do in my car. Or about anything else...possibly second only to my investment in glitter.

No seriously, I have a LOT of glitter! And various colored acrylics, gels, confetti, mylars, and miscellaneous doo-dads crammed into every nook and cranny of my space both at work and home-- but that's for doing nails and covered under a seperate insurance policy-- therefore, it doesn't figure into this conversation.

For the last 10 years I have spent countless hours pouring over maps, planning trips into the wilderness. And I've spent countless dollars pouring over outfitters' catalogs, websites, and showrooms, amassing a collection of gear that is now sufficient to outfit a small army-- an x-boyfriend actually suggested that I have more tents than I do friends. It goes to note, I have more x-boyfriends than I have tents.

As it turns out, I suffer from an extreme case of "delicate princess syndrome." With joints that don't bear weight well; skin that sunburns, chaffes, cuts, bruises, blisters, and scrapes easily; a slight tendency to tachacardia on uphill climbs at high elevations; and feet that were decidedly not made for walking-- no matter what boots I put them in.

Nevertheless, I keep on going out there. Sleeping on the ground, carrying a pack, putting one foot in front of the other.

Amber, on the other hand, seems to be built of solid pioneer-woman stock. She swears she never had a blister until our Skyline-to-Sea trip 2 years ago when we walked 35 miles over 3 days with her in new shoes. Yeah, right, like that tiny little blister on her toe even counts!

I get blisters on my blisters. Amber has seen me get blisters just walking from the car to the trailhead! She has seen my feet covered in blisters from boots, trail-runners, tennies, sandals, slippers, Uggs, and barefoot. She shakes her head and wrinkles up her face and probably wonders how I manage to live a normal life at all. But then again, Amz brings her own adventure to the table, so she can't say much.

The good news is, after a particularly heartbreaking and painful attempt at a section of the John Muir Trail in 2005-- where no one on horseback appeared to rescue me from my fate, despite my spending many tearful hours slowly trudging on bludgeoned feet promising God that I would never backpack again if only someone would come to my aid (read the story at after waiting 2 weeks before the swelling went down enough to put shoes back on... I spent several months and hundreds of dollars researching and tracking down just the right boots. The boots, the laces, the orthotics... that would see me through the miles of trail that continued to wait for me.

I can only hope that Montrail never stops making my Blue Ridges.

Well... After a little hiccup in the timeline where Amz moved out of state and the personal budget and boyfriend conspired to chain me to "real life" and "responsibility" -- the planets have realigned once more and I am spending my afternoon sitting on the floor among the topo maps.

Ahhhhhhh.... where will we go first?

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