I have come to believe that there may be nothing that requires more self-reliance than backpacking. And solo backpacking? Even more so.
Last year, I completed my first solo (and first ever) backpacking trip. I planned a three-day excursion, and before I left, some asked if it seemed scary, or if I was worried, or “what would I do if…” Others said it was brave, or required a level of independence they couldn’t imagine.
But those things were not weighing on me. They were not on my mind once my feet hit the dirt.
I was in desperate need of some inner peace and natural therapy. I set out to complete the 32+ mile Virgin River Rim Trail, located in the heart of Southern Utah’s Dixie National Forest because this trail, mostly traveled by mountain bike, made the perfect choice for complete solitude. As I wound my way along the edge of Utah’s high southern plateau, the landscape offered up priceless view after priceless view.
Every now and again, I would try to pinpoint what exactly it was that brought me out there. Who knows if I will ever find the precise answer — but what I do know is this: nature is non-judgmental, always forgiving, and accepting of everyone. There is not one other thing so readily available to us that will treat us this same way, and for that my love for the wilderness is infinite. Perhaps it is a relationship I cannot quite explain — but instead, and on that trip especially, I just accepted it, knowing that nature works and will never fail me.
My trip lasted three days and two nights, and yes by the end of it (or shortly before) I was in pain. Because I had never actually backpacked before, I’m sure my pack was heavier than necessary, and I probably pushed myself harder than I needed to, and, although I did not consider myself illiterate to the world of walking miles with a pack on my back, to be fair I was no expert either. But: I completed the trail. An experience to grow and learn from, just like a new day.
By the end, too, I couldn’t help but be amazed by what we are capable of as humans. Each of us makes the decision to keep going day after day, mile after mile, one foot after the other, regardless of circumstances. We all may be fighting our own battles at any given moment, but this gift to wake and breathe and walk and then do it all over again the next day is truly a treasure…and one not to be taken for granted. We keep pushing through, because there is only forward to go, trail or otherwise.
A Southern California native and Southern Utah transplant, April McPherson‘s day job consists of teaching and sharing her passion for photography at her local university. Otherwise you can find her adventuring, playing music, and collecting quotes!