The reservations I had about backpacking are probably not rare. What if we run out of food? What if we get caught in a storm? What if I injure myself? My phone has no service, what if I need to call for help? When my boyfriend first created the idea that we should try backpacking, these questions ran through my mind. But after a few trips, I can tell you that I no longer fear the unknown. I long for my next trip. I count the days until our next great adventure. I can assure myself now, that I have gained the knowledge needed to have a great time without asking myself these inane questions.
I have always been enamored with the outdoors. As a kid growing up in a Chicago suburb, I would spend every waking moment I had available outside. I would ride my bike around the block countless times, seeking out parks in my neighborhood to play in and roll around in the grass. I have to say, in the Chicago suburbs, there aren’t very many nature areas. Except one, Ryerson’s Nature Preserve. I remember going there on an elementary school field trip and being in such awe that my eyes lit up and my jaw was nearly to the ground. To have such a beautiful, serene area near a highway was beyond me. I thought to myself, so this is where the wildlife lives. This is where the deer go to sleep, and the birds call home.
“The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Do you feel as though you belong somewhere? This is how I feel. I belong in the wilderness, in the outdoors, in the wild. When I am at home, I feel confined. My yard has a cinderblock fence, almost like a prison. At any given time, you can drive through my neighborhood and it feels deserted. No one is outside anymore, no one leaves their garage doors open, and only a select few will wave to you if you do see them out walking. Is this based on fear? Perhaps. You can turn on the evening news and there will be another story of a break in, or a raid of an illegal drop house. They seem to drill the fear into your mind. If the news consisted of which girl scout troop sold the most cookies, or a compassionate story of a woman who adopted a dog and has since then become a great companion, or even a video clip of a baby who can read at 4 months old, would anyone watch it? I’m not saying the wilderness doesn’t induce some sort of fear. Early thoughts of wilderness were fearful ones.
“The opposite of paradise, was of course, wilderness.”
Roderick Frazier Nash
Western religion perceived wilderness as a “desert” and “waste” of a place. Folk traditions associated wilderness with monsters. The word “wilderness” actually derived from the word “wild-dēor-ness” meaning the place of the wild beasts. Today, however, wilderness is defined in dictionaries as uncultivated and otherwise undeveloped land. But one can see that the place of the wild beast sounds frightening, and thus understandable why early settlers of our nation were fearful of the wilderness. Sometimes when I’m out in the wilderness, I can feel the fear. There was a time I had backpacked Hellsgate Wilderness and was waking up to the sun rising over the distant mountains when I heard the howling calls of coyotes in the distance. I then knew, this was the place of the wild beasts. But I retain my respect for them, as I hope they would do the same for me.
So how can I not love the wilderness? The history of those who feared it, my childhood learning about forest preserves, and now, being a lover of backpacking, I can’t get enough of it. I hope you find the information posted here to be insightful and useful in your travels. I wish I had found a website or a blog about someone as passionate as I am before I started backpacking so I could get some information about backpacking. Please, let me know if you have any feedback, questions, concerns, anything. Thanks!