Pop Goes the . . .

Today as I was walking — simply walking slowly with a weighted backpack, no false step or stumble — I heard a tiny pop in the front of my thigh. There was no pain, but after walking a bit farther, I felt a faint ache. I had no trouble walking back — the road was downhill all the way, which uses more hamstrings than quadriceps — and when I got to the house and shucked off my pack, I iced the thigh. Now I have it wrapped in an Ace bandage to contain any damage, though there’s still no real pain. It’s entirely possible the effects of any damage will show up tomorrow, in which case I will have to decide if I should rest or if it would be possible to continue my backpack training.

Or it could be nothing.

Still, this is the sort of thing I’ve been concerned about — I know a person can develop muscles at any age. Even the feeblest person can get stronger with a bit of effort. The trouble is that as one is getting in better shape, the body continues to age. My quandary has always been to see if I can get strong enough for a backpacking trip before my body falls apart enough to make it impossible. People always say age is a state of mind, which is true to a certain extent, but age is also a state of body. As of right now, there is no way an average person can reverse the aging process. (I say average person because who knows what mad scientists, holed away in secret laboratories, are cooking up to create everlasting bodies.)

But, as one friend said recently, “What other choice do you have?” We can’t just stagnate, waiting for age to take its toll. We have to try . . . something . . . whatever that something might be. And, for lack of any other dream pulling on me, this fabled backpacking trip is my something.

The more I practice backpacking, the more the dream changes, and it remains to be seen what, if anything, I will end up doing. My research into the Pacific Crest Trail culture makes a thru hike, or even a long section hike, seem less a spiritual journey and more of a bacchanalia, though how people who have hiked all day can have any energy for drinking or sex is more than I can understand. (Admittedly, this is only a small part of the culture, but nothing I want to have anything to do with.)

And then there are the problems of feral dogs, wild bulls, and hikers that disappear off the grid.

Not exactly my idea of a spiritual journey.

I get a bit embarrassed at times when people express their appreciation of my courage and adventurous spirit, because as of right now, my only backpacking experience comes from my local weekend saunters. But even that is something. I mean, how many people strap on a twenty-six pound pack (plus a two-pound belly pack) and go walking. For fun.

Well, we shall see what happens. I hope this “pop” turns out not to be anything serious. I’d certainly hate to give up the dream — whatever that dream might turn out to be — because of something that doesn’t even hurt.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.


A friend recently complimented me on my adventurous spirit, but last night while driving back from the ocean, I had to wonder if, in fact, I have the spirit of an adventuress. I was cold, tired, hungry, driving in an insane amount of traffic for a dark Sunday night. I felt desolate and isolated, and very grateful to be headed for a warm house and a familiar bed.

I tried to imagine what it would be like if there was nothing familiar on the other end of my journey, and all I could imagine was even more desolation and isolation than I already felt. Despite all those miles of civilization alongside the road, I didn’t see motels, camping spots, or even any place to pull off and hunker down. Even worse, though my poor ancient VW had zoomed to the beach without a single hiccup, it began backfiring and sputtering (something to do with the spark plugs, I think, even though they’d just been replaced).

Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about being stranded on that six-lane highway. The car sputtered and coughed and fought me all the way back but didn’t completely die until it was safe in the garage. I was safe, too, and a few minutes later, I was also warm and fed, but still, the thought lingers about my suitability for an adventurous life. I like comfort too much to enjoy being cold and alone in the vastness. I’m also too much of a natural hermit — I could (and probably would) surrender to isolation, which would be even worse than the stagnation I fear would ensue from a more settled life.

It’s strange to think I once dreaded coming here to my father’s house to look after him and stranger to think that now I dread leaving. But I don’t have to worry about that tonight. Nor do I have to worry about possible isolation or stagnation, adventure or inertia. For now, I still have a familiar place to stay and tomorrow I have dance classes.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.