I have returned from my backpacking trip sunburned and bug-bitten but otherwise quite all right. As a member of the blogging community it seems I’m obligated to post about sixty pictures of the places I visited. Unfortunately I don’t have a single picture because my camera ceased functioning shortly before I departed. Some of my fellow backpackers took pictures and presumably I’ll be able to see them on Facebook eventually. Meanwhile I’ll just substitute photos from Google Images:
With that done, I’d rather offer thoughts about backpacking than pictures. Backpacking offers lots of discomforts. There are bug bites, aching feet and legs and back and shoulders, sun burns, chapped lips, heat in the valleys, cold on the mountaintops, lousy food, and the need to ford freezing cold streams, just to name a few. From a strictly rational perspective, it’s inexplicable that anyone would ever do it. But those of us who have done it know the risks beforehand and yet we do it anyway, again and again and again. Why?
Well, for starters there’s the beautiful scenery, as demonstrated above. Then there’s the chance to” get away from it all”, to not have to hear about plunging stock markets and gas prices and the latest thing that Michelle Bachmann has said. Third, there’s the chance to prove how tough and hardcore one is and collect stories related to these points for future bragging. Fourth, there’s the chance to spend time with one’s fellow backpackers.
I think this final point is the most important one. It’s a fact that in civilization we all play roles while in public. As Rousseau observed, civilization requires a veneer of good manners to function at all. (That may be the only thing Rousseau was right about.) But when a group of a dozen or so heads into the wilderness, trudging up and down mountain and through freezing rivers while carrying thirty pounds per person on their backs, things start to change. Their is no longer the energy or the necessity to play artificial roles. The veneer falls away and the real personalities underneath it emerge. And that, I would argue, is something that one can experience on trips through the wilderness but rarely anywhere else.