Backpacking Solo: Nature's Purest Therapy
The amazing power of the human mind and human spirit will enable a growing experience for the soul unlike any other while on a solo backpacking trip.
Backpacking solo is arguably my most rewarding experience.Based on my truth, here is why. There are times in life when we have to make achoice to go and do things that require courage in the face of adversity andvulnerability. My life experience at my young age has made me face some things Inever thought possible (insert any life experience here…) and situations moreappropriately handled by more mature adults than I was. My conclusion,backpacking solo made me face those experiences alone, process my thoughts, andfind forgiveness and courage to shed the hurt and pain.
So here is my story in short form:
Facing drastic personal life changes and a move across thecountry, I was living in perhaps the most beautiful place in the continentalUS, Monterey, CA. For 3 months I did little with this opportunity and blessing.It wasn’t until I watched a movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” that myadventure spirit was awakened and with vigor. I watched the entire movie againjust to ensure I was sure. I said to myself, “that is what you have to do!”
This was roughly the October timeframe and unfortunately I wasnot going home for Thanksgiving. But I decided to go backpacking. Yosemite wasfar away and that was my destination. I knew nothing of permits, weatherconditions in the Sierra in November or appropriate gear. I made it throughCombat Survival School while in school and had done some backpacking in mychildhood. I had an old hunting pack and some gear. I went to REI and loaded upwith the rest of what I ‘thought’ I needed and the day before Thanksgiving I droveto Yosemite arriving at 6:00 p.m. sharp.
I got my tourist map of the park, put on my pack (nearly 70pounds) and headed out in the dark. It was 17 degrees. I had the appropriategear with me but underestimated the weather, the cold, the elevation…but what Iunderestimated the most was the power of the human mind and the human spirit.
About 2 hours in and roughly 4 miles I tripped and fell. Jarringmy hip and breaking my waist belt right off my pack. As I lay there is extremepain, I began to cry. No one could hear me and no one there to even care. Isaid to myself, “What are you doing?” But it was too late to turn back, norcould I face that humiliation of allowing my own fear get the better of me. Thespiritual forces that oppose this inner growth and introspection wanted me toturn around, but I couldn’t.
As I continued in the dark and cold I hit the junction ofthe Mist Trail and JMT trails. Having no familiarity and a tourist map and itbeing pitch black, I just picked a route and starting walking. Feeling like I wasgetting lost again and fearing I was not going to make it to the backpacker’scamp, I began to cry some more. I was scared and I was alone. I had to keepinggoing because I needed to make it to a place where I could make camp.
I eventually made it above the falls and to the trail. My shoulderswere aching, my hip felt as if I had an icepick stuck in it, yet I made it tothe backpacker’s camp in the dark and in 17 degree weather.
I made camp (something I did remember how to do) and I mademyself a hot meal and settled in for a nice rest. However, all that I wasseeking to face wasn’t ready for me to rest. Tossing and turning all night withthe racing thoughts and ‘what ifs’ I mulled over, I was gracious for sunrise soI could get out of what seemed like a mental prison. I grabbed a light pack andheaded for Half Dome. Along the way (a place I have since passed by numeroustimes) I stopped and prayed and asked God to help me find my way in all I wasdealing with. As I approached the base of the sub-dome, I saw a peculiarlooking cloud. It was the only cloud in the sky yet it was unmistakenly in theform of an angel. Right then I knew God was with me (I knew He always was) butHe made His presence known. I climbed to the top of sub-dome and enjoyed thepristine beauty I hadn’t been able to see until that morning. A sense of reliefand calm had come over me. My fear began to fade and the aloneness I felt up tothat point seemed to reside.
With every step down, it seemed a piece of my past and painfell away and I walked out of an old life and into a new one. One where myadventure spirit reigned. Where my fear submitted to my courage and the humanmind overpowered the spiritual demons that surround us every day.
My story simply provides context for the power that can begained from taking such a courageous step in the wilderness. I have sincecompleted over 400 miles of solo backpacking all over the Western US. The confidenceof being on the trail alone is overwhelming. It builds you up and gives you astrength that is hard to find anywhere else.
It was only in walking into the unknown of nowhere that I foundmy way and was no longer lost.
Cover image: Michael Graw
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