I love getting dirty, I relish in the scent of my own particular shall we say … fragrance after a few hours, days, or more on a camping trip. I don’t mind the sun beating down on my shoulders or a sudden rainstorm forcing me to duck under a tree and quickly pull on my rain gear, cover my pack, and trudge on in a muggy summer rain storm. I am full of glee the moment a bead of sweat begins to form on the nape of my neck. If you haven’t figured it out yet, let me lay it out for you: I deeply love the outdoors. I am happiest when I am on the trail. See, here is proof. I am very happy and incredibly sweaty:
I find my strength on the trail, and even when I forget, the trail reminds me I can handle just about damn near anything. I’ve always fancied myself a Tristan Ludlow. The first time I saw Legends of the Fall, I was mesmerized by Tristan’s connection to the wild; how he would always answer its call, and while he always returned home, it was never for long. I wanted that — I still want to be Tristan. But what the trail taught me was that I was someone else all together. The first time I hit the trail and every time since has solidified that I am in fact Wolverine. Yeah, I’m Logan. Surprised? Identity revealed. Now I have an excuse to go on the lam, hit the trail, do some brooding, howl like wolf! This time I think I’ll head further west.
Each time I return to the trail, I am tested both physically and mentally in ways I won’t allow myself to entertain prior to setting foot on the base of a mountain. I relish in the testing, I have from day one. These tests are my battle scars, and I wear them proudly: the blisters I have to prick open and bandage so I can continue a 15-plus mile a day hike, the bruises and scratches from climbing trees to catch a glimpse of the other side of the mountain, the mangled tan lines from a combination of frayed pack straps and worn out tank tops. I don’t mind the mental exhaustion, trying to accurately tell time by the sun, or stopping to filter and refill water anytime you see a river or a spring because it might be awhile before another opportunity presents itself. The mental anguish as the day wears on. Trying to find a spot to set up camp, passing spots with not enough wood or surrounding coverage, hoping you weren’t a damn fool each time you pass up a spot, and pleading with nature to present you with a decent spot to make camp before the sun goes too far west. Essentially, hiking for extended periods of time can really fuck with your psyche. But again that’s part of what attracted me to the trail: the physical and mental endurance it asks of its passengers.
My first major backpacking trip was to New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains. The Jemez Mountains are absolutely stunning; go see them and stand in complete awe of their creation. You may cry a little. I did. Yeah, I’ll admit it, ain’t no shame in shedding some tears when you’re standing in front of sheer beauty that’s older than Logan himself! Ok, so it’s possible that I am a bit biased since they were my first mountain range, but they are breathtaking. My now ex-husband took me on my first backpacking trip, and looking back I thank him immensely for exposing me to my true love. The trip began with a rainstorm followed by a snowstorm. I was naive enough not to care or be fearful; this was the adventure I had always craved. I was head over heels for Mother Nature, and she put all she had up against me. I didn’t back down — true love never wavers, or that’s what my mom always says. But she also told me I had a second head growing out of my neck as a child, so maybe she’s wrong. But my love for the trail never wavered, neither in the rain nor the snowstorm. My grim covered face was filled with adoration. When that first storm hit, I strapped on my rain gear in my not snowstorm-appropriate clothing and continued on the trail deep into the mountains. Even after my marriage fell apart, my love of the outdoors was steadfast.
I’ve always been fascinated by the frontiersman myth. Maybe that’s why I identify with Tristan and Wolverine. My fascination with this myth is in part what draws me to the outdoors. The call of the wild never leaves me. It’s only a matter of when will I answer its call. I am always ready to shed the yellow and blue jumpsuit, leave the mansion of gifted youngsters, and don the white t-shirt and unleash my howl on top of a mountain. I’m ready for more battle scars.