It was just me and my bladder in the tent, holding fast for daylight. My mind did a soft-shoe to the tune of “Me and My Shadow”: “Me…and My Blad…der…” Just when I knew I couldn’t wait all night, I remembered I was still wearing my headlamp and watch. It was 5:00 a.m. I headed for the house and indoor plumbing. Afterward I returned to my tent, and the next time I opened my eyes it was 7:00 and bright outside.
What a glorious morning to be outdoors! It was easy to say now that the sun was shining. Flowers were blooming and the air was clean. After coffee and a light breakfast, I was ready for a hike.
This would be the first time I’d worn my backpack, with the exception of the evening before at the REI store when I was deciding whether to buy it. I’d packed it at home instead of a suitcase, discovering its multiple compartments, straps, loops, and options. Packing the right stuff the right way was a challenge. I took items I didn’t find over the weekend; items I forgot were there; and a confusing array of small articles I didn’t need.
The second challenge I faced with the pack was finding out if I could comfortably wear it on a hike. My friends and I walked up and down the hills behind their house. I felt at home in the woods as we tramped across fallen leaves, stepped over logs, and jumped narrow creek beds. I was happy not to be winded from the elevation or sore from the load I was carrying. After we’d bonded in the middle of the night, my pack and I were simpatico! In Wild, Cheryl Strayed named her pack Monster because she couldn’t lift it. Unless I think of a better name, I’m going to call mine Blue because it is blue.
We crossed a mountaintop in high, yellow grass. The hills were quiet and peaceful. I did not know then that wild turkey season had opened in Ohio, but I did have time to ponder the idea that hunters could be afoot in some adjacent wood. Hiker wisdom warns that at certain times of the year we need to wear an item of clothing in blaze orange, the universal signal of human presence. My tent was orange; that was good, but I had nothing appropriate with me. I had thought about ordering a Buff, a multi-function cloth whose uses include neck scarf and hat, but could not decide on the color. Now I knew: orange.
“Oh! Look at this,” I said later when we’d begun taking down our tents. The instructions for assembling mine were on a tag sewn inside the main stuff bag. How had I missed them before?
This would-be hiker will need a lot more practice in order to be comfortable on the trail. Ultimately we all hike our own hike. I know I must learn to be in the woods alone, and I hope that happens, but nothing beats friends willing to share the experience.