My Faux Backpacking Trip

Dance class was cancelled today, so I was going to take a “zero” day — in backpacking parlance, that means no miles — but since I had nothing better to do, I eventually shrugged on the pack and headed up the road. I figured, in a real backpacking situation, for example one in which I was running out of food, being lazy wouldn’t get me out of the predicament, and the saunters this weekend were supposed to — sort of — mimic a backpacking trip.

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Sixteen miles in four days carrying twenty pounds sounds like a lot (and feels like even more!) but for a real backpacker, that would be a day’s hike with a light pack.

But then, I’m not a real backpacker, and have no real aspirations to be. What I’m aiming for is time in the wilderness rather than monster miles through the wilderness, but one doesn’t get to remote areas without some effort, so that’s what I’m doing. Putting in the effort.

As of right now, I figure I’m carrying the basic pack, or rather the weight of a basic pack, which would include the pack itself, a tent, sleep system (a total of ten pounds for those three basic items), and perhaps another ten pounds of emergency supplies and tools and extra clothes. What’s missing? Yep — food and water.

I could, of course, get rid of some of the emergency items and tools, such as the external battery for my phone and the Solo camp stove, to make room for food, but an even better plan would be to get strong enough to carry more weight.

I’m doing well for just having started my conditioning for a backpacking trip. I’ve also stuck to most of my non-resolutions, such as no sugar, no wheat, almost no dairy, but the not-eating-after-6:00-pm has been a problem. Still, it’s on the list, and one day, perhaps, I can adhere to that item, too. I do other things on the list, such as stretching and lifting weights (very light weights because of my arm) most days, which hopefully will also help get me in shape for the trip. Oddly, dance classes have become something of a respite from the trail conditioning because even grand plies are easier than trudging around with twenty extra pounds piled on my body.

Best of all, by being disciplined and going out for a trudge, I got to enjoy the lovely day.

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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.

A Lilt in My Heart

Ever since I made the commitment to do a solo backpacking trip in May, I’ve had a strange feeling, one to which I am so unaccustomed that it’s taking a while for me to recognize the emotion. Maybe excitement. Perhaps anticipation. Or could it be . . . happiness?

It’s hard to tell. I haven’t felt lighthearted since Jeff fell ill decades ago. Watching him waste away destroyed my happiness, and the long years of grief after his death certainly didn’t do anything to remind me what happiness felt like. And even though dancing has been good for me, brought me back to life after Jeff died, it hasn’t been a consistently lighthearted endeavor. Sometimes it’s frustrating learning a new dance. Sometimes it’s hard making my body do what it’s supposed to do. (Yeah, point those toes!) And then there always seems to be one individual I have a hard time dealing with. (For me, dancing is about paying attention, everyone doing what they are supposed to, all moving as one — the zen of it. And some people insist on doing their own thing, no matter what the teacher says. I try not to let it bother me, but the truth is, their improvisations destroy the energy, pain amelioration, mental stimulation, and the joy that synchronized dancing brings.)

Still, it could be that this feeling has to do at least partly with dance classes. We are learning fabulous dances in both Hawaiian class and Belly dance, as well as reclaiming a great tap dance I sort of learned at the very beginning that got lost from disuse. And Hawaiian class was great this past week, going through all our old routines, which truly gave me the zen of dance feeling.

But that can’t be all of it, because there have been many such dances and days over the years. Mostly, I think, the lightheartedness has to have come from the idea of the backpacking trip.

A long time ago I read an article about dreams. If, for example, your dream is to visit Paris, and you are unable to go there for whatever reason, the suggestion was to figure out exactly what you want from the visit and what would give you the feeling you craved. Do you want the joy of sitting in an outdoor café eating brioche and sipping Café au Lait? Eating delicious French food in a fancy French restaurant? Visiting art galleries? Then try to find a substitute for whatever it is that you want. If you can’t go to a French café in France, find one near you. If you can’t afford an expensive French restaurant, save up your money and treat yourself — though it might be outside your budget, it would be a heck of a lot cheaper than airfare to France, and might give you a taste of the dream. And if art galleries are what you most desire, then visit those you can in this country. Or look for traveling exhibits from the Louvre.

What I’m getting at here is that whatever it is that I want from a remote backpacking trip, I am apparently getting at least a part of it now, though I have no idea what it might be. It’s possible that roaming the desert with a twenty-pound pack makes me feel as if I am already on that mythical trip. It could be the thought of walking around with my house (a tent, a sleeping system, and a camping stove qualifies as a house, right?) on my back like a turtle amuses me, even though at the moment, the turtle effect is only in my mind since the pack is filled with water bottles. (Each .5 ml bottle weighs approximately a pound, which makes it easy to add weight and calculate the total.) It could be that I like the challenge of training. It could be a lot of things, but I don’t suppose the reason matters.

All I know is that I woke this morning with a lilt in my heart that even the soreness of today’s saunter couldn’t dissipate.

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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.