Have you been hesitant to go backpacking? We’ll don’t be. There are a lot of things that hold us back. But it is something you can do. Ambassador Jana tells us about her hesitation, what she did about it, and her first time on the trail.

My fascination with backpacking started many years ago when I read “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson, and then of course, more recently I read “Wild,” by Cheryl Strayed. I was enchanted with the simplicity of the idea of putting everything I needed on my back and just heading out. Back then, 25 years ago, I couldn’t imagine actually doing it. I mean me, actually doing it. Backpacking. To just walk through the woods, eat, sleep, repeat. No phones, no cars, no unnatural noise. Just shelter, food and water.

Then the internal voices and the doubt got loud and harder to ignore. “You want to do what? You’re how old? You’re how many pounds overweight? How many years has it been? You’re going where? Why on earth??? How will you ensure your safety?”

The endless self deprecating comments. The uncertainly. All from within.

After a little while though…. I realized that I had the power to shut it down. To quiet the critical voices. To choose to change my overweight body. To reach for that goal. To move forward one step in front of the other, both figuratively and literally.

I’m 49. I want to go backpacking in the wilderness. The blessed quiet of the wilderness. The stars, the trees, the rivers, the stillness. All waiting for me.

After hours and hours watching backpacking videos on YouTube, I decided, why not?

So I did.

I decided.

To start with, I needed to believe I could do it. That meant clearly seeing the steps required to make it happen. I needed a plan. A plan that included loosing some weight. I decided I wanted to loose enough weight to be able to go on a 3 day trip with my teenagers. I wanted them to see that their mom could do it. I wanted to set an example for myself, for them and for anyone else that is doubting.

So after nearly a year and 40 pounds shed, I was ready to buy some gear! I researched gear, we raised money for equipment with garage sales, after a weekend shopping trip, we were outfitted!

Now to do more research to pick just the right trail for our first multi-day trip. We settled on the Encampment River Trail in SE Wyoming, a moderate hike along the Encampment River. Since there are no large towns in the area, the trail is less used than many others. My teenage girls were unsure about this adventure, but they were game to try. They’ve both always loved camping and hiking separately, so why not!

A friend of mine came along, so there we were, four women and a dog.

Young and not-so-young, headed down the trail, laden with everything we would need for three whole days.

The first few miles were spent fidgeting with straps, hip belts, retying shoes, and just getting used to being away from cars, noises and screens.

It was glorious. In that first day we saw deer, butterflies, and all manner of birds. The river sang to us and we relaxed.

We ate lunch sitting on rocks near the water, marveling at the damp sweat stripes that marked our shoulders. We smiled and felt tough. We weren’t self conscious in the least about how what we looked like, or the thoughts of others. We simply hiked, rested, ate, drank and hiked some more. We laughed, we played cards in the tent, we were tired and we rested.

Throughout that weekend there were several times that we all had to raise up some confidence. I had to rely upon what we researched about bear bags, camp set up, our new gear, and having enough food for hungry teens. My girls were challenged as well. There were some difficult stream crossings that required logistical team work and just a bit of bravery. We all stumbled and even fell. But we persevered and can’t wait to do it again.

What that trip, or rather, the whole year leading up to and culminating with that trip, taught me is that we are stronger than we know. My teenage girls are brave and tough. And maybe, I can hope that they learned a little of that from me.

4 comments on “Making the decision and saying “why not”

  1. This article has made me smile and has given me a little boost to get more active. I am currently what I would describe as an enthusiastic walker rather than a hiker or backpacker. Excuse 1- I am overweight BUT I have already lost 28 pounds walking. Excuse 2- I am recovering from health problems BUT walking has already improved my vitamin D levels and given me more energy. Excuse 3- I have children BUT they can come with me. Excuse 4- I am nearing 40, so surely I am too old to start this? But clearly not from reading your article. I think I should take the plunge!

    • You can do it! You should totally take the plunge! Find someone that wants to go with you and start with just an overnight trip. You might really love it! I’m planning the “Backpack 50 Hike” for my 50th birthday next summer and while I still have 30+ pounds to loose, I’m doing it regardless! You can too, you just need to believe it. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

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