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Into The Woods

The second time I got lost in the woods, it was intentional.

Glacier National Peak on Image Lake

The first time was almost tragic and yet funny.  

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks” – John Muir

The first time I got lost…

The setting was my first backpacking trip in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, beauty I cannot describe adequately.  I carefully prepared, took classes, bought the ‘good stuff’, read… a lot.

So obviously I was prepared...

In a lot of ways, I was very prepared.  It was my 40th year on this planet and I just knew that it was now or never.  I’m old, done, washed up.  This is my last chance to do something amazing

On that first trip, apparently I was the youngest.  The youngest.  A lot of backpackers have been backpacking for decades and are in great shape, but still, wow!  Yes, 40 is young, in the woods.  Is my life just beginning?

These lovely people are very experienced, unlike me.  They make better decisions, carry lighter packs, and apparently are not afraid to die doing something they love.

I was ready.

Sort of.

I wasn’t prepared for one little detail.  I knew what I needed to do to but I had never done it before.  I don’t know how to say this but…there aren’t any bathrooms in the woods.

My first attempt didn’t go well.  After hiking up steep slopes carrying too much stuff, My legs were jello. The same muscles that were used all day, are used for other duties (squatting).  I was having some issues, that included some ugly crying and wet ankles.  Not a high point in my life.

Working commissary.

Into the woods. Getting lost intentionally.


It was my turn to work commissary.  That is what the Sierra Club calls it when you are on duty for meal prep.  This was a Sierra Club trip.

Report time was 6:30 AM and I would not have time to do ‘stuff’ because we break camp right after breakfast.  So I had to go out early, to do ‘stuff’, basically well before the sun came up.

Three things conspired against me.  My previous failed attempt to do ‘stuff’, the fact that the woods look completely different in the dark and my shyness of doing ‘stuff’ in the woods.  I went out too early, too far and got lost.

Real world lost, I could die, and although I was ‘prepared’, I wasn’t prepared.

I panicked.

I did all the wrong things.

Ran up the mountain.

Ran down the mountain.

Didn’t have my whistle on me.

I had no water.

Kept running left, right, up, down.  I kept running.  I kept running.

I got to know myself very well that early morning.

After two hours I made it back, so grateful and with a new perspective.  The World seemed fundamentally different from then on.  Life tasted different.

The second time I got lost…

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living.  We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.” – Dale Carnegie

Into the woods, getting lost intentionally.

Photo credit Suzanne Diercks

After that first trip, life’s rhythms crept back into their nooks, slowly sucking the life out of living.

More money to buy more stuff to put in a bigger house.  More emails, more texts, more projects.

‘But how are you really doing Tina?’ I have learned to ask myself.

When the answer is just ‘OK’, I go into the woods, get lost, intentionally.

When I come out, everything is magnificent, amazing and different.  Nature puts back what life takes out.

I have learned to be still.

Unplug.  Be still.  Slow down.  Stop running.  Stop running.

Another moment, day, week in paradise.  That’s what I really want.

Advice for newbies

  • After packing your first pack, take out half of your stuff.  That should be about right.  If you are going out for 8 days, you don’t need 8 shirts, 8 pants, 8 undergarments.  You definitely don’t need a 2 person tent if you are sleeping alone, even if it is a backpacking tent.  You don’t need binoculars, they are too heavy for the benefit ratio.  If you won’t use it everyday, do you really need it?  If you are a reader, take a partial book or magazine, much lighter.  Paperbacks can be torn in half.  You will likely be too tired to read much anyways.  I made all of these mistakes on that first trip.
  • Running and weight lifting are great cross training activities for preparing for a backpacking trip but you really need to hike with a weighted pack and the boots you will be wearing.  Even just a few hours will make a big difference.  You feet will develop calluses where the need to and your legs will be in better condition.
  • While hiking, dig a hole.  Practice doing ‘stuff’.  You don’t want to learn after you have climbed 2,000 feet and walked 10 miles.
  • Take care of yourself out there.  If being clean makes you comfortable, be sure to invest time in that activity.  It’s amazing what you can do with a wash basin made out of the bottom of a bleach bottle.  Gold Bond powder is a great investment too.
  • Just get out there.  Even 10 minutes in nature will start to tug at you, inviting you to get lost.

    Into the woods, getting lost intentionally.

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