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How You Know It’s The Last Day Of The Trip

Author: Jaeger Shaw

September 03, 2019

Today is the last day of my five-day backpacking trip, so all bets are off. I woke up and something changed. I’ve simply stopped giving a shit. The only thing that matters now is sinking my teeth into a burrito. Or perhaps, if we get back to the trailhead with enough time to make it out for brunch, an omelet with a quad stack of pancakes would be in order. And yes, I just hiked 50 miles, so I will use that entire ball of fluffed butter, thank you kindly.

 

But 24 hours earlier, everything was different. I would relish in the act of carefully hopping across stones and logs to cross a creek with exactly the right footfalls. Today, however, I will plow right through like a Chevy truck commercial; no big deal if my feet get wet. Who cares? I won’t be wearing those shoes for much longer anyway. Speaking of shoes, I simply cannot wait to switch these crusty clodhoppers out for the sandals I’ve stashed in my car. My toes get tingly just thinking about it. Are feet capable of experiencing anticipation? Seems like it.

 

Yesterday I cherished the sensation of filling up a hungry belly with fancy camp food. But the thought of bothering to cook up what is ultimately still a very primitive breakfast of oatmeal now seems futile. I mean, we’ll be back at the car in a few hours anyway. “I can hold out!” I say, knowing I’ll begrudgingly choke down a protein bar at some point on the trail. And speaking of protein bars, there’s another thing I didn’t seem to mind yesterday. But today, my God… Who would ever eat another one of these bricks? I feel like I can finally relate to the stale fruitcake humor of the Garfield comic strips.

Breaking down camp is usually quite the spectacle. I would carefully pack up my sleeping bag and give the rain fly some time to air out while eating breakfast. Then I neatly disassemble the tent, fold it up, and store all of my camp gear in its typical compartments. You know, a place for everything and everything in its place. But today is different! I don’t care how damp it is, where it is, or how it’s situated. I’m stuffing things in there willy nilly, because the cows are finally coming home.

 

I took 45 pictures yesterday morning, but this morning, I’d be surprised to even capture four as I hike out. Terrain that was once worthy of a John Muir quote is currently nothing more than an obstacle course between me and my restaurant food. What’s another shot of the mountains anyway? I’ve got plenty of Insta-fuel.

 

Suddenly, a quiver of ecstasy runs down my spine. Crap! I just thought about taking a shower. Ohhh, a shower. I’ve got to get out of here! My speed increases and my focus narrows. Every single thought of every single minute is focused on food and showers. Food and showers. Food and showers. Maybe I’ll take four of them in between my next meals. I’m obsessed! My musings continue like this until finally...

 

Aha! I’ve made it back to the car! At long last, my filthy, starving body can reunite with the comforts of modern society. And frankly, that’s one of the least spoken about, but most rewarding parts of backpacking. It puts technical and societal conveniences into perspective. Sinks, burritos, pancakes, showers, furniture, restaurants, cars, fresh underwear, burritos, pancakes, sandals, all of it. To lack these conveniences teaches us what we’d been taking for granted. Some people visit the woods to escape the 21st century. But in doing so, do we not also come to appreciate it more than ever?

Jaeger Shaw

Lost in the mountains and sandwiched for warmth between three friends in a two-person tent, Jaeger thought to himself, “I need better gear.” His tent leaked. His rain jacket was rubber. And his pack weighed 60 pounds. But no longer! Since that fateful trip, Jaeger has overhauled his entire kit, and now considers himself to be a gear snob, an ultralight backpacker, and an ultra heavy-duty snacker. He is on a decade-long quest to hike every trail in a guidebook to backpacking Washington State, and proudly invented his own system for rating scenic views.