Monday, November 21, 2022

A-D-V-E-N-T-U-R-E, the prelude

Adventure was the thing I’d been missing.

I wasn’t aware of the void until I filled it, the relief flooding through me like an itch finally scratched. 

I was kind of tricked into the trip, if I’m honest. A newer friend who I admire immensely sent me a personal text of invitation: “Want to do this with me? No pressure, but I’ve already signed up and I would love it if you were there too.” 

I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea for more than a half of a second, had it not been for her. I’d always been a tiny bit curious about backpacking, but my insecurities, and the fact that I owned zero outdoor gear, kept me from thinking about ever making a trek a reality. 

I don’t have a backpack.

I don’t even own hiking boots.

I have IBS. 

I don’t really do the whole no bathroom thing.

“I have all the gear,” she told me, “and you can share my tent.”

I don’t know what was in my water that day, but after a two second conversation with my husband and $30 later, I was signed up for a 36 hour backpacking trip for moms. I guess it was the hidden away part of me that longs to live a little on the edge, finally surfacing to see the light of day. My sense of adventure was making a comeback, poking its way out of the piles motherhood stacked over it. I wanted to live a little more wild. Provided I could plan for it. A reserved thrill seeker of sorts. 

As a kid, I always loved roller coasters. I went for the drop waterslides, the rides at the fair where they harness you in a contraption and pull you up to the top of a tower only to release you into a free fall until you soar through the air like Superman. I sought out heights and jumped off cliffs into lakes. I went to Brazil twice in high school, staying at a remote and bare-bones summer camp where we encountered a tarantula in our makeshift outdoor shower. At the end of my junior year in college, I traveled alone to Peru to meet a group of perfect strangers from Iowa and spent a month with them studying abroad. I wasn’t one to shy away from the wild. Though I was cautious, the wild lit something in me. 

This backpacking trip was to be led by our pastor’s wife and her daughter. A fun girls weekend of sorts, I thought. I pictured gathering around a campfire, clinking mugs filled with wine that we’d squeezed into our packs, toasting s’mores and giggling late into the night. In reality, the trip was an entirely different adventure, not at all what I expected, and yet there is nothing about it I would change. We met “together” three or four times on Zoom before the weekend of our trek. At each meeting, I learned a new piece of information that might have caused me to not sign up, had I known it from the get-go. Perhaps this was a well thought out strategy? Lock the buyer in before they see the fine print! Or maybe it was just perfectly orchestrated happenstance. Whatever the case, it worked! The first change in my mental plan was learning that there would be no tent-sharing, which had been the initial carrot that enticed me. The purpose of the trip was to spend time in solitude and prayer, and giggling side by side in sleeping bags would (theoretically) get in the way of that. Even though I missed the memo about the solitude when I registered, I’m an introvert always looking for alone time, so this was a fairly easy adjustment.

The new tidbit of information I gleaned from the second meeting was a bit tougher for me to swallow. Not only would we be in solitude, but we would also be fasting. I had fasted from specific food items or food groups for short seasons before, but the only time I had ever completely fasted from food was for a few hours leading up to a blood draw. And these periods of fasting usually took place overnight. I only had to make it until 9 AM when the lab was sent off before I could drink my coffee and have a bite. The fasting on this hike was much more intimidating. We would be allowed to snack on the way up the mountain and we would enjoy a picnic together too. But once we arrived at camp, there would be no more eating. We were warned that any snacks left in our packs would be a magnet for animals, so sneaking anything would not be a viable option (ok fine, I’m a rule-follower and could never cheat like this anyway…) Daydreaming of cheating aside, I was suddenly acutely aware of an unrealized fear of going to bed with an empty stomach. In my life of immense privilege, this was not something I often experienced. And it felt next-level intimidating to go without food on top of a mountain. I tried not to let my superficial fears show as I smiled and pretended on-screen that this new knowledge wasn’t causing me to seriously reconsider whether I wanted to do this anymore.

We were encouraged to practice fasting before the trip, both from screens and electronics, and from food. It became painfully obvious how little I wanted to go without these vices, as evidenced by my minimal willingness to practice any more than I had to. Embarrassingly, I fasted for one headache-filled day before the trip and called it good.

The last (and perhaps greatest though they all seem rather significant) surprise was learning that we would not actually be spending the night enclosed in the illusion of safety also known as a tent. Rather, we would be in an open-air fancy REI tarp shelter THAT WE WOULD HAVE TO BUILD OURSELVES. My mind proved incapable of picturing such a setup so I avoided spending even an ounce of time on the subject, trusting that we would be instructed on how to go about this once we arrived in the wild.  

At our final meeting, when the discussion moved to digging a latrine toilet and having to TAKE HOME any used toilet paper or feminine products in a ziplock bag, I began laughing as a protective mechanism. This girl has been on many-a-hike but apparently she lives under a rock. I had never encountered a situation in my short 38 years where it would be required that I place feces-covered paper products BACK IN A BACKPACK ALONG WITH MY CLOTHES AND MY TOOTHBRUSH. Honestly the thought had plain never occurred to me. The scales were coming off my eyes in a real hurry.

One of my fellow adventurers next brought up the topic of bears and I pinched myself when I realized I was zero percent fazed. I almost welcomed an encounter with a bear or something large and from the feline family over going without food and bagging my waste like a mother in the pediatrician’s office forced to return a poopy diaper to her purse because the sign says it can’t be disposed of there. 

But I digress. ;) All this to say, the mental picture I’d built of this “mom’s weekend away” was shifting rapidly into something else entirely. That said, though I had (a large handful of) fears and reservations, something in me felt drawn toward the ruggedness I was now picturing. I kind of wanted to do something hard and get out of my comfort zone. Check and check! Is that not more or less the bare-bones definition of the word adventure? 

I just Googled it and I’m not far off. Oxford says that to adventure is to “engage in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.” I love that the word hazardous is in there!

Had the trip been led by anyone else, I might have reconsidered, but I adored the two ladies who were guiding us and trusted that they knew what they were doing and that the experience they facilitated was going to be worth it. 

And it was. 

(To be continued...)

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posted by kelsie