I looked upward at the sun, this great ball of hydrogen and helium and a symbol of light. And the bane of my existence at this moment. I had dreamed of being a Boy Scout for quite some time now. With all the great trips like rock climbing and whitewater rafting, who wouldn’t want to do it? I thought that this would be absolutely perfect.
Waking up at 6 in the morning wouldn’t be something I would typically do on a Saturday. But this morning would be an exception. It was my first time backpacking.
It was an early morning and a warm one at that. It was in the middle of June, of course. We sat down at the table to eat breakfast that morning and talked about what was going to happen today.
“Alright,” my dad said, clearly as anxious as I was. “Are you ready for your first trip?
I ignored the fact that my dad was talking to me like he was speaking to a five year old because I was just filled with excitement.
“Oh, am I! … So what are we even going to do there?”
“We’re going to have to drive to the mountain, which should only take an hour or two, and park here,” he pointed to a spot on the map in synch with the “here”. “Then,” he smiled. “We’re going to get our backpacks on and start hiking!”
My dad glanced at me and saw that I was genuinely eager for this, and not just faking it and being sarcastic, like most people typically are. It was apparent that he appreciated that as well. It was most likely that this would be the first of many backpacking trips. I had been in Cub Scouts previously and camped in my backyard loads of times before, but nothing quite like this.
“Wow,” my brother gaped at the map. “I can’t wait until I can do that.”
“Yeah,” I said with a hint of sadness. “I just don’t know if I’ll be able to do this.
“Sure you will,” Dad replied. “Even if you are doubting yourself, you can find a way to push on. If you are ever feeling like you can’t do it, just tell yourself I can do this.”
Okay, let me stop you right here. This part was a little cheesy and definitely a bit cliche but I swear the rest of this story won’t be like this, alright? Okay.
Like I said earlier, I was really eager to go on my first trip. That is, I didn’t know what challenges were in store. We got into the cars and drove for an hour, as my dad mentioned, until we reached the enormous hill that was Bear Mountain.
I noticed that this mountain was covered in trees and looked really steep just from a glimpse. How was I going to climb that? I was sure I’d find a way.
We set off on the trail with our backpacks on, about 30-45 pounds each, heading up on the inclined plane, which became increasingly steep as time passed. I had heard someone say that this was the Lion’s Head, one of the more rigorous and demanding parts of the trail.
An hour later, I was having a lot of trouble keeping up. Pushing. Sweating. Continuing. The heat was not helping at all.
It was hot.
And it was tiring.
And it was sweltering.
And it was absolutely dreadful.
This wasn’t good. And I had just adjusted my just right Osprey backpack. I had thought that everything would be fine from then.
It seriously felt like the temperature was in degrees Kelvin.
Like I was in an oven.
I shouldn’t be doing this.
But something inside me urged me to power through it.
I accepted its guidance and found a way to walk on. Even at that, I was still struggling and I knew it. I found enough strength to get to the front, so that I could walk at a more relaxed pace.
I could feel my body cooling down a considerable amount, which was almost a disturbing sign as it meant I had been working myself to hard. I was. At least I didn’t get dehydrated, or have heat exhaustion. Or heat stroke. For that one you’d have to basically throw someone in a lake since it is better to treat for shock than it is for heat stroke. I was thankful not to have any of these, especially the latter, as I would be feeling terrible (and the fact that there were NO LARGE WATER SOURCES ANYWHERE!!!).
I didn’t have any idea why I was having so much trouble with this. The only thing that I definitely knew of was the terrain. Maybe it was my backpack. I thought it was perfect for my ability and size at that point. I had adjusted the straps perfectly, but sometimes, but sometimes I tended to play with them…
I didn’t even see the point of the belt straps. I mean, they just dig into your hip and after a while it really starts to hurt. So I decided to loosen them just a little. Hey, whatever Obscure purpose they served would still work. Just a little bit less.
“It’s unimportant, why not?” I had told myself.
I had also tried to pack light and not include things that weren’t necessary. We did have to put in the freeze dried dinners and two packs of oatmeal. I didn’t know what to think of the freeze dried meal. I had heard from my dad that when he was in the army they had the MREs and those were terrible. So I was a bit afraid that it would be just like that. But I wasn’t going to let food get in the way of having a good time.
As we kept walking, I couldn’t help but realize that I truly hadn’t looked around yet. And what a wonderful thing it was when I did. The grass and moss was soft to the touch and gently blowing in the wind. And everything gleamed in the dew left over from the morning. Great rays of sunlight beamed down on everything from its place above the horizon.
I could tell that many other people were admiring this place as well, as one person even tripped while watching a slim, sleek blue jay flying by. It didn’t take long until I had Edvard Grieg’s Morning Mood stuck into my head, and why should I ignore it? This was beautiful, perhaps the most I’d ever seen in one place. I felt as if I’d never see anything quite like this again.
It didn’t take long for me to become tired again. My legs were exhausted and I was beginning to get a little weary.
I seriously considered for a while just giving up.
Simply falling over and refusing to arise.
I wouldn’t let human nature have the best of me. I used all my strength to break through this obstacle. Amazingly, I found a way to get to the campsite, where we would be resting for the night. I felt like I was carrying stone on my back, and it was so relieving when I took that pack off. I learned later on that the hip belt actually takes weight OFF of your shoulders. Something to remember for next time, I guess.
I began to feel calm and started to relax. We set up our tents, and soon we were cooking dinner. I talked to my dad and he said this was a challenging hike even without the heat.
The next couple hours went by almost quickly. As soon as I fell asleep that night, morning came and knocked on my door. We had our breakfast of oatmeal and hot chocolate, after which I felt completely recharged. Like I was that little, pink Energizer bunny hitting the drum. But with new batteries. I may have even wanted to get going, as there was really no way I could get all of this exuberance out of me.
Getting out packs on, I remembered that the rest of this hike would be completely downhill and mild terrain. It would only take us about one to two hours to reach the cars that were parked at the exit.
These next hour hiking went by even faster that sleeping did, a fact that I was most content with. And before I knew it, we were at the parking lot.
I was very pleased to be done with this. I was relieved and relaxed and grateful and thankful. I had definitely learned something here, even though I definitely had fun, which is to practice more for these trips (and to double check for all five pound weights).
“Come on guys, let’s keep moving!” I said with a smile. I couldn’t think of any other way I’d be spending my time right now than helping others. While I waited for the newer scouts, I thought of how I got to where I was now.
I had been a patrol leader for three years straight, all the time learning about skills I needed to complete trips and etcetera. I had then become the leader’s right hand man at age 12. And now I’m leading a group of eager, energetic, elated eleven year olds and giving them the skills they need to do simple tasks.
I still never forgot that first trip up Bear Mountain, and this was what I reflected on. To see I I had improved from then.
“Okay,” I spoke when everyone had caught up. “Is everyone doing well?”
“Yes!” Their voices almost deafened me, but I still found a way to continue speaking.
“Good,” I said after I regained hearing. “Let’s keep going.”