I love Camping……..and I love hiking…….. I don’t know why it took a pandemic to make us try backpacking for the first time. I also have no idea why we decided November was the best time to try it for the first time, but I think that has more to do without impatience than the timing. See, James and I have always been this way; once we decide something, we commit and just go for it. That could be why we were only dating a month when James asked me to marry him, and I said YES, (I’ll tell you about that in another post)
Back to backpacking, it’s November. James and I have planned backpacking the Friday after Thanksgiving at Mark Twain National Forest. While our trip didn’t start out as we had hoped, we unfortunately and unluckily to get rear-ended, pretty hard on the way to Both of us were fine, minus some whiplash and a nasty cut on James finger, from zip tying my bumper up.
James and I both looked at each other and decided why not go? Why let one little car accident ruin something we had been excited for. So after a quick stop for super glue, to glue James’ finger back together, we were back on our way to the Big Piney Trail Head in Roby, Mo. After getting to the parking lot, you go through a pretty field to get to the trailhead’s start.
We were excited to get going, but this was our first time, so we were bumbling around trying to situate our packs and get them comfortable. I started that hike in a negative headspace. I was distracted because of the car accident. Not to mention James had also just quit his job the month prior, so I had a lot going through my head. But once all the pack shifting, and strap tightening was done, I finally was able to just hike and look at Nature around me. I could finally feely my self start to just relax and breathe. There is something about the silence, hiking with everything I need to survive on my back, and my best friend on the trail behind me, that a sense of peace was able to settle on me.
The first 4 miles or so were peaceful and gorgeous. Walking along the trail you are surrounded by tall trees, and can hear the wind whisper through the pines. You walk along the top of a ridgeline, which has a spot you can camp among the pines, at the top of this rock face bluff. James and I really contemplated camping there because it was just so pretty. Still, feeling like we got a later start, we hiked on.
Shortly after this, we got the spot where it splits into the North Loop and the south loop. Originally we had it in our minds that we would take off through the north loop, which was the longest loop, but…….. I got us off-trail. I decided I wanted to go look at something, which in turn had us off on an unmarked horse trail. I know…I Know I am sure there are several people out there shaking their heads; as they read that two brand new backpackers just got off the trail. Yes, I agree, probably not our best idea, but hey, we had fun, and it’s an experience that we learned a lot from. I will say we were at least smart enough to have a compass, several different downloaded maps off the area, and the trails so we could navigate our way around, so we weren’t completely going blind.
Anyways, we follow this old horse trail for several miles. We see on the map (we also used an app called ON X, and it’s great!!) that this trail leads off in the opposite direction of where we wanted to head to, to get back on the trail. After a little bit of spousal discussion, we decided to climb down this huge ravine that was probable 300 feet of elevation change and pretty dang vertical. We climbed down to get to the creek at the bottom.
Before heading down this climb, we looked out from this tall rockface and watched a bald eagle take off right in front of us and soar off. It’s n those moments; you stop thinking and analyzing, and you just enjoy the moment that God has given you.
Somehow we made it down this steep hillside, safely and without hurting ourselves, and we make our way to the creek. We were hoping for a nice creek bank to walk along, so we could cover the ground quickly to get back on the trail. That was not what we found…. We found a creek that meandered throughout the bottom of the valley. Our section that we came off the hillside on was covered with bushes and thorns, so there would be no, quick-moving upstream.
At this point, we realized we were going to have to cross the creek to find a place to camp for the night. We were not going to make it back on the trail that night.
Neither one of us was anxious. We had everything we needed and another 2 days and a night to get back to our car. We were more excited than we were finally backpacking and staying our first night. James and I have been married for 9 years, so we often find ourselves in a routine without discussing it. When we finally came to a spot we thought would be a good campsite, we set to work without words. I started setting up the tent and getting our home base set up for the night, and James set to getting sticks and clearing a space for a fire and using our filling the water filter.
That night we had a small fire, a pretty dang good Mountain Home meal, and the peace of being in nature with my best friend and just disconnecting for a while. That night we didn’t sit in front of the tv and zone out. That night we sat around the fire and talked. Truly talked, and not just about how the job hunt was going and how we were going to make it back in our everyday life. We talked about everything from planning our future backpacking trips to God and who we are as Christians and people. I really think that those small breaks where we can escape into nature is where we can find ourselves again. Where we can find who we are, deep down. Because we are more than our daily stresses, and errands, and tasks. It is easy to get swept away in all the rush of life that all we do is think about it instead of living it. That is what that backpacking trip did for me. It made me slow down; I disconnected and rediscovered just how healing and therapeutic time in nature can be.
I climbed to the bottom of that valley, still thinking about my stresses, and I came up thinking about my blessings. I really believe that nature is healing and that we disconnect ourselves from that so much that we forget to find joy and count our blessings. The backpacking trip helped me realize I need to get myself back into nature, not only for my own mental health, but I want to raise my children to find peace in nature.