After reflecting on our first trek through Big Bend State Park, and as our second trek on the Continental Divide Trail approaches, I think it is important to reflect on what I personally learned the first time around. They say that making mistakes is a learning opportunity, and I think I finally believe them. Here are 10 things that I learned on our first trek.
It is very easy to be ambitious before you’ve walked 8 miles. In the morning I would look forward to curling up in my tent at night with Harvest of Empire, but unfortunately the urge never struck when the time came. It is time to take a hard look in the mirror. I will not be bringing a large book this time.
I have long accepted that this course is not a fashion show, but that has never been clearer than when I was sitting in a cold sweat at 6 AM, putting on the same clothes that I had been wearing for four straight days. It is time to surrender.
Trail mix had no place in my life before this trip. For the first two days I completely ignored it, but then I found that they call it trail mix for a reason. It rejuvenated me like no granola bar or whisper lite dinner ever could and I will not be turning my back on it in New Mexico.
Sometimes just saying “This is fun! I am having fun!” is all you need to push through a tough moment. Any time I felt frustrated or deflated, those words would lift my spirits and help me remember why I was doing what I was doing.
I know that I knocked whisper lite dinners in the trail mix section, but truly I am a whisper lite dinner apologist. Whether it be couscous, quinoa, or half burnt rice, after huddling around that small stove for half an hour that food will taste like heaven.
Having to get out of our tents before sunrise in complete darkness was extremely difficult. But the good news is, things only get better from there!
When I was really in the zone while trekking, I would stare at the ground ahead of me and completely disregard the amazing scenery. When I would lift my head up I would be completely awestruck! I need to remember to keep my chin up–both literally and figuratively.
Sometimes the thought of unbuckling my pack, taking it off, and rifling through my stuff just to grab my camera and take a picture was too daunting for words. But you know what, I didn’t come all the way to the American southwest to NOT take the picture. So when in doubt, just suck it up and fish your camera out. If I am not motivated to do it for myself, I’ll do it for my grandparents.
Most of us, including myself, had never done serious hiking. Emotional or frustrating moments are inevitable and having them is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it means you’re outside of your comfort zone in a very productive way!
It is important to remember that we are doing this for fun, and we have all kinds of gear and knowledge that enable us to do so. However, there are thousands of people who die in the Chihuahuan desert every year trying to make it to the US-Mexico border. Acknowledging our extreme privilege is inextricable from experiencing this terrain, and keeping that in mind as we take on the CDT will make the experience much more impactful.