This week has been quite the journey as it marks my first time backpacking ever! Out of the 12 participants in the High Desert Center (HDC), we were randomly split into 3 groups of four. My group was a bit special as we had a special guest counselor leading us (a master minimalist backpacker) named Jeremy, along with his dog Mo!
During the 5 days we hiked through the West Elk Mountains of Colorado, and boy were they beautiful. But before we left basecamp in Paonia, we had to pack. Packing light is key in terms of backpacking so I only brought one set of clothes (day clothes for hiking, and warmer clothes for the night) along with 2 sets of warm wool socks. I had 5 packets of oatmeal for breakfast, trail mix and peanut-butter filled tortillas for lunch, and dinner consisted of either pasta with peanut sauce, curry, beans and rice, or mac-n-cheese. We cooked all of our food in a pot of boiling water over stoves that we made out of soda cans!
We averaged out hiking around 6.5 miles every day. During the hikes we were surrounded by beautiful tall, thin Aspen trees. Jeremy taught us how aspen trees are actually one single organism, meaning the tens of thousands of roots protrude from a single root system! In the fall, you can tell which aspen trees are a part of the same organism because the color of their leaves will change simultaneously. Besides being surrounded by these beautiful trees, along the hilly hikes we passed by lots of bear poop as well tons of berries. I love being able to eat what I can detect along the trail, so with the help of Jeremy, I identified and ate rose hips (not my favorite), thimble berries, raspberries, and (my favorite) huckleberries.
The hardest day was the 4th day as we hiked to the very top of the 12,752 ft tall Mt Gunnison. Though the hike up was very steep and especially challenging with a pack on, it was all worth it once we got to the top and I could see a panoramic view of all of the other Mountains in the region and beyond. My advice for anyone who decides to climb a tall mountain is to take a fat nap at the top, it hits different!
Overall, my first backpacking experience was filled with a lot of special memories, and though it was very challenging physically and mentally, there is something really special about living and existing out of only a backpack. It really made me appreciate all of the things we deem as “necessities” but are actually “luxuries” once getting back to basecamp. Thanks for listening and I can’t wait to share more!