Backpacking as a Metaphor for Life

It's amazing how little you truly need in life to make the most of it. You cut the distractions, shed the baggage, pick a path, hope you have what it takes and find out one way or another. At least that's backpacking. And then again, maybe that's life.

All I know is that there's something profound about living out of a bag for weeks on end. And after recent treks through Paria Canyon and Denali National Park it's all starting to make sense.

Rudimentary drawing designed to inspire readers to get awesome outside.

Everyone's Carrying Something

Let's start with something basic. I don't care how fit, prepared, seasoned, _____, you are; there's some humility to putting on a pack. It's an equalizer. And the truth is, everyone is carrying something: pots, pans, food, guilt, fear, regret, worry, desire, loneliness, longing. And whatever it is, it weighs a lot more in the open spaces. 

I'd bet most people lug that something off the trail, too.

Hiking through Denali National Park on McKinley Bar Trail.

Balancing the Basics

Carrying all that weight over long distances, day in and day out takes a toll. You've got to balance the basics. Food, water, rest, laughter, community, camaraderie to name a few. How often are we caught up in the noise of responsibility that we neglect the basics? Relationships are strained, hobbies go dark, tempers flare and we wonder where it all went wrong.

When you're out there burning calories, soaking in the sun instead of social media and embracing that inner dialogue instead of shoving it aside, there's a breakthrough.

Collecting spring water drop by drop in Paria Canyon. The ultimate test of patience.

Pack It In. Pack It Out.

No excuses. This is the first and last true place you'd better own up to your garbage. There are some things in life that you need to handle if you're ever going to grow. That means packing out your crap, dealing with the discomfort and leaving places better than you found them. This means taking ownership when nobody's watching - good old fashioned integrity.

If you made the mess, you can clean it up.

Exploring Denali National Park near Eielson.

Stay the Course

Pick a path and stick to it. Sure there are slot canyons worth exploring, but don't go falling down holes you saw from a mile away. Steer clear from the eddys. I'm all for the healthy wander and the soul searching, but never lose sight of that horizon. Stay the course, remember where you came from and where you're headed.

Hiking through the confluence just past Buckskin in Paria Canyon.

A Step at a Time

There are few secrets to climbing a mountain or taming a trail. Most times it's the simple science of putting one foot in front of the other. I've found that a lot of people can handle that part. It's the getting started that stops the masses. But an object in motion stays in motion. You break that stagnant mind and your feet are sure to follow.

You can climb that peak. You can build that company. You can lead that family. You can break those bonds. Just start.

Hot Spots and Headaches

A blister is a sign of friction. Friction is fine as long as you address it. Leave it too long and it'll burn you, so brace for it. Address it, then push through. Blisters heal faster than quitting and headaches give way to highlights.

Scouting the descent from Crow Pass trail in Girdwood, Alaska.

Half Way There

The summit isn't the end. The descent is just as important as the path to the top. Stay there too long and that sun will set. Hike back too proud and you'll stumble. Burn up your resources and you'll bonk. 

The top is half way there and many are lost on the way down.

Hiking near Girdwood, Alaska. Summer 2016. Crow Pass Trail,

You Have What It Takes 

Peanut butter, AAA batteries, a pocket knife, grit, courage, tenacity, hope, clarity; it's amazing what you'll find in that pack. 

Your pack's a bit lighter on the way back, but your chest is full. Somehow, somewhere out there you found someone. You found you and you've got what it takes.

Toss that in your bag and bring it home.



A few more thoughts that align: