How I Got to a Wilderness Epic

I crave change. Being outdoors offers so many possibilities for enjoying ever-changing variations: moving water, clouds floating past in a bright blue sky, leaves rustling in a breeze. It makes little difference to me if I’m active or sitting quietly, being surrounded by nature soothes my soul. For many years, that pleasure has mostly been found in my backyard or in a city park. So how did I get to the point of embarking on a wilderness adventure?

When I was young, our family stayed in campgrounds rather than “wasting” money at hotels. My sisters and I were responsible for pitching our own “pop-up” tent—a behemoth of heavy canvas with plenty of space for all three of us. We enjoyed campfires, and washing dishes by hand, and wandering paths in surrounding woods.

I might have lacked fashion...but I had FUN!

I might have lacked fashion while hiking…but I had FUN!

Before my first year of university, I spent two wonderful weeks on a “Wilderness Challenge” in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. We backpacked for 5 days and canoed for another 5 days, portaging between lakes. We were each dropped off on our own private tiny island for two days of solitude. On another day, I was fascinated by—and terrified by—rock climbing and rappelling on cliffs dropping down to a lake shore.

After getting married, we occasionally camped, especially when my mom and I were traveling with the kids. Our family still laughs about the time a little one woke me up in the middle of the night, afraid of the growling bear outside the tent…yep, grandma snored that loud in the neighboring tent! Many years later, my mom was the one worried about bears when we escaped home responsibilities for a 3 day backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Tennessee. I was hooked…dreaming of the day when I could finally spend an extended time living in the wilderness while hiking the AT.

Mom and I enjoy our first backpacking adventure on the AT

Mom and I enjoy our first backpacking adventure on the AT a decade ago

Many things have changed in the intervening years. Our large family is mostly grown and is scattered across the country. We have survived tragedy and have had the joy of a few “Big Epics.” After a time to regroup and reorganize our lives, we are reaching another transition point. As always, I crave change…but, it is not yet time to move on.

This summer my hubby asked me where I would go and what I would do if I could get away for two months. In that moment, I realized it was time to pursue the next “Big Epic.” We may not (yet) be able to make big changes in our living situation, but it IS time to chase that dream of a long hike on the AT. My daughter and I are making plans and gathering equipment, getting ready to spend two months living in the wilderness, carrying everything we need in our backpacks! Wish us luck!

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