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Changes in the Backcountry

In the months leading up to this trip, I spent a lot of time aimlessly wondering what it would be like. I tried to imagine myself in the mountains while I sat in my bedroom, never having spent so much time outside before. Overthinking isn’t anything new for me, but this particular instance was. I couldn’t conjure up a mental image of me in the backcountry because I genuinely had no idea what it would look like. Now that I’m here, I know there is no way I could have foreseen all the changes I’ve already experienced.

There are obvious changes – like the way I comfortably refer to a 7 mile hike as “light” or the transition to no toilets. Or how we carry 45 pounds of weight on our back and only drink water directly from natural water sources. Or how we use pinecones as sponges to clean our one eating bowl and utensil. We haven’t showered in twelve days. Our hands are covered in small scratches and cuts, and these scars are caked in dirt and coveted as trophies because in some way they prove how far we have come.

I name these changes not to be negative or complain, but to remark on how rapidly the transition came about. And all of these big changes have led to smaller, but equally as important, changes, too. I’ve stopped cracking my knuckles. I’m comfortable alone without a screen for stimulation. I can listen to people better. My anxiety has dissipated and my head feels clear in a way that is brand new to me. I’m a morning person now. I miss the past less and I’m excited for the future more. I don’t feel the need to plan because I’m genuinely excited to just be.

I came into this trip expecting to learn from those around me, but I didn’t anticipate that the mountains would have lessons for me, too. Like how silence isn’t scary but beautiful, and how we are all much more alike than we are different. All of these big and small changes have culminated into one looming question: why do we feel so separate? I’m not much different from the rock I’m sitting on as I write this or the spider I killed without a second thought in my bedroom a month ago.

I’m changing like my feet have more blisters and I can eat peanut butter despite my hatred of it, but I’m also changing like I am not so sure that my effect on the world heretofore has really been positive. It would be easy to shrink away from this change, but I’m not so scared of it anymore. I’ve realized that change isn’t meant to just happen to me or around me, I am meant to change, too.