I return home to Boulder, CO from a weekend backpacking trip in Roosevelt National Forest, and the first motherly-respected text I receive is “What was your favorite part?” I pause before responding, and wonder why this question is always so difficult whether you’ve returned from a day’s, a weekend’s, or an extended long vacation. Which answer am I suppose to give in the 180 character text limit? Which round-about story do I even begin to explain without being overbearing, confusing, or simply without speaking too much? Is it worth picking up the phone to give the long-winded answer? Do I need to download my photos and give a show-and-tell before answering?
Because all the answers I want to give, are truly the answers that don’t make sense. They are the tid-bits of experiences that are felt deep down inside; they are the ironic moments that made me laugh, cry, and make me wonder why I must eventually return to life’s usual routine. They are the answers that I know my mother cares about, but they are also the answers I want to keep a secret. They are the answers that simply call for a you-had-to-be-there-moment.
So you ask me…”What was your favorite part?”
Maybe my favorite part was something extreme like stretching the optimism dial to the red zone when Maggie and I concocted our own bear canister after opting out of lugging the 5lb bullet proof one to improvise with a wedging a highlighter-pink duck-taped sealed cooking pot and a nalgene bottle between two trees with rope thrown in the pack at the last minute. Maybe after seeing both a moose and a bull by our campsite, we believed our next-door neighbor’s live fish will deter them from our home-made canister.
Or maybe my favorite part was breaking the second backpackers rule of never eating or cooking in your tent. But when it begins to Colorado-thunderstorm, what else would you do to stay dry? Tent already perched, belongings snatched up in 30 seconds flat — including the running stove — we continued to cook our Indian curry in the dry and warmth of the tent. Or maybe my favorite part was actually enjoying our crunch rice, 10 minutes later when the sun came out. Or maybe my favorite part was when no rule said it was wrong to be done, packed away by 6:30, in the tent by 7:00, sun down by 7:30, and snoring by 8:30. Who says time was a factor?
Quite possibly my favorite parts are the simplicities of backpacking — of never missing my instant oatmeal; of going through the routines of packing the pack each day and night and seeing how fast we can gather our things and filter the water; of relishing in the idea of the using the U-Digg It (back-packers secret) in the middle of a sun-lit meadow, enjoying the scenery.
Maybe my favorite part was carrying the extra 2oz. of luxury — of completing each meal with Justin’s and a bar of dark chocolate just ’cause we can. Or of anxiously waiting for our backpacker’s pesto pasta with salmon fillet. (Trust me–the weight’s worth it all)
Or maybe, just maybe, my favorite part was examining, the blisters, feeling the 45lb backpack digging deeply into the bones of my hips and leaving bruises for evidence, and wading through rivers with locked knees, calloused feet, and knives through the calves. Maybe the pains of backpacking are what make this sport come alive. Because without The Backpack, the scenery, the 8+ lakes of Rawah, and our friendly passerby’s who join us for a mile or two and then some, just wouldn’t exist. Maybe backpacking really is a luxury–a luxury to explore, live, and breathe the wilderness. Being able to predict the unpredictable timing that showered upon us as we waited it out under a tree (of course–cozy tent already set up back at the sight) is just one of the many factors that marked the favorites of my Labor Day Weekend.
And maybe, just maybe, I’d rather pack up my cleaned-out pack that’s already calling my name, and head out again to break just a few more backpacking rules of the wilderness.
…Just as long as when I return, you refuse to ask me “What Was Your Favorite Part?”