Tighten boot laces. Adjust the pack straps. Check the map. By the third day, the morning routine is set. Back on the trail, we are ready to discover what is around the next bend and over the next ridgeline. Ready to find a perfect, remote swim hole or stumble across a chance encounter with local wildlife.
Backpacking allows one to go deep into the wilderness to connect and become part of the landscape. It is a wonderful summer tradition that challenges and rewards.
Preparation is one of the biggest tasks, requiring conscious choices and detachment from everyday comfort items. It requires getting down to the basics.
A lightweight pack is key to an enjoyable trip. The right sleeping bag for the weather should compress to take up as little compartment space as possible. A reliable sleeping mat is invaluable. Add a good water filter and a simple stove.
Food must meet a list of requirements: high-energy, healthy, hearty, non-perishable, doesn’t melt, light-weight, compact, and little to no packaging. Does it all fit in a bear cannister?
Learning about the terrain and choosing a route is important; figure out how many miles to travel in one day. Are streams flowing to resupply water bottles?
Don’t underestimate the importance of knowing the weather patterns. Prepare for windy afternoons, cold nights, even possible thunder and hail storms. Pack layers.
Once on the trail, keep a steady pace – perhaps pushing some physical limits. Eventually you can get into the zone, forgetting about the distance and the weight of the pack. The rhythm of footfalls becomes a walking meditation. Breathing fresh air and connecting with nature through movement and sensory awareness is what it is all about.
Why is being able to carry all your basic needs so satisfying? There is beauty in the simplicity. A successful backpacking trip leaves one with a sense of accomplishment and confidence. Everyday challenges seem easier, knowing you can be self-sufficient in the wild.
Backpacking at least once a year is a good and healthy practice. It’s a great way to reset.
Looking for a local backpacking trip? Scope out the trail camps at Big Basin, Henry Coe, Castle Rock or Butano State Parks. Delve into the Ventana Wilderness in Pine Valley, Arroyo Seco or along the Big or Little Sur rivers. National Forest lands in the Sierra Nevada offer countless opportunities to explore trails and camp under the stars.