On a high ridge deep in the Sierra back country, you zip your
warm, down sleeping bag shut against the chill of a fall evening.
The sun has set and all that remains is a thin slice of ice-blue
light on the western horizon. You think,
I have never seen that color before.
On a high ridge deep in the Sierra back country, you zip your warm, down sleeping bag shut against the chill of a fall evening. The sun has set and all that remains is a thin slice of ice-blue light on the western horizon. You think, “I have never seen that color before.”
Lying back, you look up through the opening in your sleeping bag’s hood at the evening’s first stars. Slowly their numbers increase until the moonless sky is dazzlingly studded. You think, “I have never seen that many stars before,” and then – a little scared, a little excited – you think, “I have never been this alone before.”
When you awake, morning light warms a crystalline scene that looks exactly as it did eons ago before the first person set eyes on it. Warm and refreshed, you sit up and try to take it all in. It occurs to you, “I have never heard such complete silence before.” Beside you, your water bottle sits frozen solid.
Backpacking asks a lot more of us than most pastimes, but it gives far more than it asks. The trick is knowing what to bring and what the practices are to be safe and comfortable. You want to bring everything you need, but you don’t want to carry more than you need.
If you have thought about backpacking but don’t know where to start, consider coming to a two-hour introduction to backpacking class I will be giving through Gavilan College community education March 30 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30.
In our day-to-day lives, a small mishap does not usually have dire consequences. A cell phone will take care of a roadside breakdown. If you run out of something, a quick trip to the store solves the problem.
But in the backcountry, a small matter can have huge implications.
I can think of no other pastime where you are so completely self-reliant. The camp stove breaks. You’re above timberline. It’s hailing, and thunder and lightning are crashing around you. A bear got your food last night. Your friend sprains her ankle. What are you going to do? No cell phone. No car. No internet. Just you and what’s on your back.
The difficult situations you will face; the utter reliance on you alone to deal with them all in the midst of a remote and amazing wilderness will test your mettle and give you memories golf or tennis or a Caribbean cruise never will (don’t get me wrong. I love those things). When you have dealt with those situations and prevailed, then gazed upon the sights I describe above, you will be a changed person. From now on, when faced with life’s challenges, you will know, “I can do it on my own! I’ve overcome tough problems before!”
Full disclosure: At times you will walk up a seemingly endless hot dusty trail and think, “Holy *#*@#, how far is it to the top, and when the #*@** will we get there?” A host of discomforts and difficulties await you – guaranteed. But if it were easy, that Sierra ridge top would require day-use fees, and you would be surrounded by minivans.
So, if you think the effort might we worth the reward, but you don’t know the what’s or the how’s, I invite you to join me. These two hours will give you the information you need to set out on the trail properly equipped to manage the difficulties and comfortably enjoy the rewards.
A schedule of Gavilan College community education classes is available online at http://gavilan.augusoft.net (click courses. Under leisure, click outdoors), or call (408) 852-2801. See you there.