This year for his birthday, Jeffrey decided he wanted to go backpacking with me and some of his friends. Given that his birthday is in late April, that’s a little risky in Colorado. But we were lucky, and we had an absolutely glorious weekend!
Seeing as it was our first trip of the year, Jeff picked a super easy one. We went up to Golden Gate State Park and hiked a whole mile and a half into our campsite. On Friday evening, Jeff and I were the only two up there. He’d originally planned for seven people, so we had a veritable feast of burrito delicious-ness!
It was also something of a comedy of errors kind of a trip – I forgot a hat, and a fork, and a plate, and my headlamp had mostly dead batteries, and Jeff’s water filter broke. But we both had enough layers and we remembered the important stuff, like tents and sleeping bags (I even strapped my half-size pillow to my backpack and packed that in). Luckily for me, Jeff brought his Frisbee to use as a plate and had extra batteries. And even better, when his friends came up the next morning, Matt had his water filter with him.
Also, as previously stated, the trip was a whole mile and a half. We could have bailed fairly easily had things really gotten sticky.
Matt and Jeff both brought fly rods with them, once the six of us were gathered, we spent most of Saturday afternoon fishing in the little pond below our campsite. Most of us even caught fish! I did not, but I did get somewhat better at roll-casting. Matt and his fiancé Lauren are both excellent fisher-people, and Jeff scored the biggest fish of the trip on Sunday morning, at 11 inches long.
I’ve heard a lot of people who were super passionate about fishing extoll the virtues, but I mostly remember fishing from my childhood as being fairly boring. I think I’ve gotten better at sitting still, and I think fly fishing is a very different sport. But I think I can see how people find it so meditative. I really enjoyed letting the time slip gently past as we hung around on the bank and flicked the line back and forth.
I think part of this feeling also came from the fact that there was absolutely no cell service. I even climbed on top of a fairly big rock on a hill, and still nothing. It does feel a little strange to be so removed from my usual constantly-connected life, but I also really, really enjoy it. I left my phone in my backpack, didn’t wear a watch, and kept track of time by how hungry I got.
On Saturday night, Matt made everyone a completely amazing quinoa dish with black beans and chicken and lime and tomatoes and corn and basically, it was really, really tasty. I would like to point out that we feasted like kings for this backpacking trip; it was three of our groups’ first time, and Jeff and Matt were determined to make sure everyone enjoyed themselves. Under no circumstance is this kind of food normal for backpacking! But when it’s only a mile and a half, it’s easy to justify carrying a little extra weight.
One other thing about backpacking that I kind of weirdly love is that everything takes a lot longer to do than it normally would. On Saturday afternoon, we set up a tarp in some trees in case it rained (it didn’t!) and it took an hour of fiddling with ropes and knots and searching for sticks the right height and holding the tarp that was trying to flap wildly in the wind. In the end, we had a fabulous rain shelter that Jeff and Matt were very proud of. Cooking is the same way – with no flat surface, only a tiny little stove, and limited utensils, cooking gets very interesting very quickly.
This sounds like it could turn into a super obnoxious process, but I like the awareness it brings. That meal that took an hour to cook and required building a windbreak out of rocks and is half burnt and half cold? It tastes amazing. Backpacker people call this seasoning with miles. (I will also point out that nothing that Jeff or Matt cooked was half burnt or half cold…but it’s really easy to do with backpacking stoves!)
Sunday consisted of breakfast, a little more fishing, a little more fishing after that, and a very quick hike out. When I got home, I felt strong and capable and absolutely drenched in serenity.
That feeling didn’t last very long against the raging river that is being a teacher in May…but I did learn something about transitions and being intentional about switching between different paces of life that worked out a lot better this weekend!
I’m very, very lucky for many reasons: my brother is awesome and likes to hang out with me, I have the gear and the stamina to go backpacking, and I have such beautiful mountains in my backyard.
Your homework: What’s one thing you think you don’t like that you haven’t tried in a while? I was pleasantly surprised by fishing, that’s for sure!