Mentors!

It’s hard for me to escape the status quo of my life, to be spontaneous and just take off, so when I accepted an invitation from my sister in Seattle to visit her around mother’s day to make candy turtles in our mother’s honor, I immediately began making plans for what I will do once I have escaped my bonds. Camping. Sauntering. Visiting friends.

As if that weren’t enough to pile into one short month, I also thought it would be a good time to try my hand at dispersed camping or a short pack backing trip, something that would take me out of the relative comfort and safety of a national park campground and put me alone in the wilderness for a night or two. (Which is why I’ve been wandering around the neighborhood carrying fifteen pounds on my back — I need to get used to carrying a pack.)

I couldn’t even begin to guess where to start in my search for an appropriate beginners backpacking trip, but apparently, both my sister and her husband are experienced wilderness campers, so when I mentioned my problem to my sister, the two of them volunteered to help me plan a multi-day saunter during my stay. Not only that, they will know where I am, and if I don’t wander out of the wilderness in a reasonable length of time, they will be able to send rescuers or come look for me themselves.

When I spent those months in northern California a couple of years ago, my friend would drop me off at a trailhead and pick me up at the other end. Although there was always a moment of trepidation before I took that first step onto the trail, the nervousness didn’t last long, partly because I knew she had my back.

I’m sure the same thing will hold true this May — that awful realization I was on my own, then the fullness of the experience and the comfort of knowing that someone was waiting to hear how things went.

I have so many questions that need answering before setting out, but I am thrilled to actually have someone (two someones!) who can help me figure out the right trail for me, places to camp, where to look for water and how to use my water purifier, what weather to expect, and oh, so many other things! (And help me adjust my backpacking straps. Every time I add more weight to the pack, the straps need adjusting, but I can’t adjust them because of all the weight.)

I could, of course, do what I have always done — research, make the most informed decisions possible, and then hope for the best, but it will be so much better to know, rather than guess. And this is such an important step for me. It might kill the whole idea of an epic hike or it might stoke the desire even more. Either way, it will be nice to know that with the help of my mentors, I will be giving the project my best shot.

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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.