Bitten By the Bug
Posted on April 5, 2019
I’ve never gone backpacking. Hiking, yes. In fact, I’ve been day hiking for as long as I can remember. My family has long-standing ties with Grand Marais, Michigan – ”The Eastern Gateway to the Pictured Rocks.” The town, and the area around, it is rich with my family history. We vacationed there when I was little and my parents moved our family there permanently when I was in middle school. Going for hikes was a frequent pastime during these vacations, and that didn’t change for me when I lived there.
My aunts and uncles would gather a group of the cousins, pack a lunch, and take us for a hike. We’d spend hours and hours on the trails of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We were mischievous little hikers, always trying to trick each other. We would shake wet trees so they rain down on each other’s heads. We would hold a branch out of the way for the person behind us, just to let it go at the last minute, so it would thwack them in the chest. We used sticks to write messages and draw symbols in the sandy trail. We skipped rocks and swam in Lake Superior, always on the lookout for agates. We would run, shrieking, down the sides of the enormous bowls the wind created in the dunes, then climbing back up just to do it again. We learned that, if we ever lost our bearings while on the dunes, we just had to climb to the top of the nearest hill and look around. There were two ways back home at that point. Your first option was to find the lake. The lake was north. If that was enough for you to get your bearings, great. If not, then just walk to the lake, and follow the beach back to town. The second option was to find the tallest tree on the horizon. That tree just happened to grow on “the farm” – a large chunk of property that used to belong to my great-grandpa, and is now part of the national lakeshore. Once at the tree, you were just moments away from the Sable Falls parking lot, and then it was a short walk back to town. When I had children of my own, I continued the tradition.
All that hiking, but I’ve never gone backpacking. Some would ask “What’s the difference?” When I google the definition of backpacking, I find simply “hiking, with a backpack” which made me laugh. It’s an oversimplified definition. In my mind, backpacking is this: carrying your clothes, food, and shelter, for multiple days, on your back; sleeping somewhere on the trail in a tent or hammock; cooking your food over a fire or, more popularly, a small camp stove; falling asleep to the sound of crickets and frogs; waking up to birds chirping. OK, ok. I might have a slightly over-romanticized image of backpacking. There are bugs to consider (mosquitoes, and black flies and ticks, oh my!), and rain, and bears.
I’ve never carried everything I need to survive on my back for days at a time. I’ve never walked into the woods with the intention of pitching a tent somewhere down the path. I mean, the thought never even crossed my mind. I think, in my mind, backpacking wasn’t something that happened here. It was something college kids did, taking a year off from college to backpack around Europe. I had mixed feelings about that idea. On one hand, I scoffed because obviously they weren’t as serious about their education as I was and clearly romping around Europe was a waste of time (ugh, I cringe at some of the silly ideas Young Me had). On the other hand, I was kinda jealous. I want to go to Europe. Backpack around Europe though? Eh, maybe. Or maybe stay in hotels. Whatever. I just wanted to take a year off from responsibility and go gallivant in Europe.
Then I graduated from college, got married, had kids……and a whole bunch of years passed before I thought about backpacking again. Yes “a whole bunch of years”. No, I’m not going to get more specific. It’s more years than I care to admit, hahaha. Anyway, 2014 rolled around and the movie “Wild” came out. It intrigued me. Watching the movie, I saw a “regular joe” kind of character backpack 1100 miles, all by herself, and thought “If she can do that, I can do that. (Psst….there’s a book too! Check out my review here) I want to do that!” and suddenly, backpacking became a secret obsession of mine. I was bitten by the backpacking bug. It became The Thing I wanted to do.
Here we are, in 2019, and I still haven’t done The Thing. “Why?” you ask. Well, equipment, really. That’s it. Well, that, and experience. But you can’t get experience without doing The Thing. I couldn’t do The Thing without having the proper equipment. When I looked at equipment online, and in stores, it just seemed too expensive. I couldn’t justify the cost of everything I would need. Of course, I was looking at how much it would all cost, all at once. Yeah, that’s expensive. So backpacking was added to my “someday” list.
But I’ve recently (as in sometime in the last 1-2 years) decided that I need to stop adding things to my “someday” list. “Someday” is not going to arrive on its own. All those things I have on my “someday” list are never going to get done. I have to make it happen. “Someday” is now. I’m going to gather backpacking gear a little at a time. That way it doesn’t hurt the wallet so much. I’ll share with you guys what I’ve found. For those of you who have more experience, please feel free to chime in with comments about the stuff I find! Let me know if I’ve gotten a great deal, or if I went too cheap and ended up buying crap. Follow me here or on any social media @rgseekingadventure to see my finds! Oh! And let me know if you find any good deals!