What I learned backpacking for 10 days

If you read my post from two weeks ago you know I recently backpacked for 10 days here in Central Oregon. If you missed it and want to catch it, here it is. I’m still reflecting on my time spent on the trail both alone and with my friend. In some ways it seems surreal that I was even out there. I came home and jumped back into normal everyday life.

I thought I’d share the things that did pop up for me while I was out there. Some of it may even be practical for every day non-backpacking life.

Susan Grace Carroll, Life coach, Bend, OR

1- Training makes all the difference- I did prepare my body for about 6 weeks before the trip. I slowly worked up to 14 miles with a 28 pound-plus pack on my back. My body felt great the whole time, unless you count the end of some days when I was just tired in general. Overall, I was physically ready. I’m sure I could have done it without the training but I’m not sure how my body would have liked it. Take Home- If you prepare, you an do almost anything.

2- Saving cell phone battery- While I was out there, I sometimes had cell service and sometimes didn’t. And I never knew when I would or wouldn’t. The most helpful thing was to put my phone on airplane mode when I didn’t need it. That saved my battery, which made my phone last waaaaaay longer. So much easier to take pictures when you have battery. Take Home- Do you really need to be available 24-7? You can turn off that phone anytime and messages can come through when you’re ready for them.

3-I learned to read maps better- If you read a few posts ago, you know how stellar I am at reading maps. NOT. The map has all sorts of trails, creeks, and lakes, but it also has little topographic lines that when closer together mean it’s going to be steep. It took me quite a while to understand how that all worked. I will say most of the time I didn’t look at that part because I didn’t want to know if I had a hard climb coming up ahead of me. Better for my brain to not know ahead of time. Take Home- Find out what you need to know, let the rest be a fun mystery.

4- Having more than one source of place is really helpful- I did have a real honest-to-goodness paper map, but I also had an app on my phone that had GPS and could show me where I actually was on the map in real time. I could keep my phone on airplane mode then take it off to briefly check where I was before turning it back on again. That saved me a couple of times. I would think I was one place and found out I was either behind where I thought I was or ahead. It gave me comfort to know I hadn’t missed a trail junction or that I was almost upon one. Take Home- It’s not often we are ever totally lost and don’t know where we are. But there’s nothing wrong with stopping to find out if you think you might be. The peace of mind you gain is worth it.

5- Food as fuel gained a whole new meaning- In this country we have access to refrigerators and cabinets filled with food (as well a grocery stores down the road) anytime we want. I had to carry all my food with me. Trying to figure out exactly how much you need is quite a task. The practice backpacking helped but after several days out there I noticed a general increase in my overall hunger. I really did need to eat something every couple of hours to keep up my energy. There is no way to really configure how many calories you’re burning hiking uphill with 30 pounds on your back. You just know you are burning a lot. My friend started calling my droopy drawers on the trail because I’d lost a little weight and I kept having to pull up my hiking pants. I was most definitely eating to live and not the other way around. I finished with two small snack bags of food left. I did have enough and I wasn’t hungry at the end, but what was leftover wasn’t much. Take Home- We all know that we eat more than we really need. We have a lot of wonderful and amazing food that is both healthy and not so healthy. Eating only when you’re body is truly hungry (not when your mind thinks it’s hungry) is a huge shift.

6- It’s okay to bring more toilet paper- Let’s just say I used my last square of toilet paper on my very last day. It’s incredibly lightweight and one of those items that if you have some left over at the end, it’s not a problem in the least. Take Home- I think you get it. ;)

7- Deodorant is completely under-rated- I’ve gone for a short time without deodorant. Like maybe just over 24 hours. It’s extra weight to carry. Not a lot, but still, those not a lots add up. But here’s the thing. When after a certain amount of time you can’t stand your own body odor (even if you’re alone) that’s a sign. I went 6 days without using deodorant. That was 5 days too many. I would never have realized this if I hadn’t experienced it. Now I know. Honestly, I don’t know what people did before deodorant. I’m convinced that if deodorant hadn’t been invented, the population of the world today would be about 20 people tops. Good God, I wouldn’t have pro-created with myself much less someone else. Take Home- Thank GOD someone invented deodorant.

8- Some needs are needs and some wants are needs- Every backpacker will tell you there are some things you just need. Like rain gear, a water filter, dry socks. And then there are the things that you’ve found you don’t really truly NEED but want them bad enough (like deodorant for me). You know that a want is a need when you are willing to carry the weight of it on your back. I took a little journal. I didn’t write all that much but it was worth having it for when I did write. Take Home- We all know shelter, food, water, and oxygen are basic needs. But we each have certain needs that are very personal and help make our lives that much better. Make sure you surround yourself with those things.

9- Flexibility is super important- I was supposed to hike 101 miles with my friend on the AT. I had it in my head that when I headed out to hike here I needed to do that number. And I was already in the low 60’s by the time day 6 finished. But then something happened. I realized that my goal of getting those miles in was trumping my goal of enjoying my backpacking trip. Plus, a lot of those miles were miles that needed to be hiked in the upward direction. Let me tell you that a 6 mile uphill day can be WAY harder than an 11 mile flatfish day. Plus I started to get a little more fatigued. Which is why I did my best to not pack in the miles at the end.                      Take Home- There’s that saying that the only constant is change. And it’s not only unexpected change that comes along. You can be the one to make the change anytime. And not feel bad about it.

10- I gained tremendous confidence- When my plans abruptly changed and I was not going to be hiking with my friend who had our entire trip mapped out because of her past experience, I was put in the driver seat of my own experience. I was the one who had to decide where to go. I was the one who had to decide how many miles to hike on a given day. I was the one making all those decisions for a new, quickly created adventure. For some reason I never wavered. I just knew I was going to do it and that was that. For whatever reason fear didn’t even enter the picture. Doubt never entered the picture either. I just knew I could do it. Maybe because all that preparation and planning got me to that mental space. Take Home- It’s truly amazing what you can do when you put your mind to something. I look back on my life and realize I have done A LOT. I bet you have too. Who knows what I’ll do next with my increased confidence. That remains to be seen.

What do I know to be true right now?

When they say, “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”, it’s dead on. We (our minds specifically) are the only thing that stops us.

So if you want to go try something new and different, why not I say?

Leave a comment on the blog below if you’d like.

If you think, “I know one friend who would really like this”, please forward it to them.

If you found this helpful, let me know. I’d love to hear from you. Coachwithsusan@hotmail.com.

~ Susan

Get Outside and Nurture Your Life