Day 12: Middle of Bear Creek Drainage to Sandpiper Lake – 8 miles, uphill
Last night Cade’s riverside sponge down turned into a full swim. No bigger smile has crossed his face than the moment he came out of the water with all his senses fully alive. As we continue to ponder the “how do we get our kids to backpack?” question, the question has expanded into “Why?” We’d be lying if we didn’t admit that this is hard work. The detailed planning takes months. And once we’re here, the daily effort of walking up actual mountains with all we need to survive on our backs is no small task. Once at camp, we use up most of lunch’s calories just to set up our temporary home. And the evening gets cold, just when one might want relief from the elements and a nice hot shower, creating a temporary reprieve from the effort of the day. This type of vacationing requires that most of the day is spent within feet of the family – a blessing and a curse. At times I do miss my alone time and my own personal space and air quality that does not include an 11 year old’s gaseous emissions or foul smelling feet.
The truth is, most vacations really do take a lot of work to pull off. The goal is always the same: refreshment, clearing of the mind, and a break from the day-to-day tasks we all bear. We, along with the hundreds of others we pass out here, find the effort in to pull off a backpacking trip yields the greatest gain out on the refreshment scale. Immersing ourselves in nature for days on end slowly strips the mind of the millions of inputs it usually has to process and replaces it with singular thinking, usually about what the senses are perceiving.
So as I think on the “Why?”, Cade’s euphoric smile and cheers as he plunged into Bear Creek last night comes into focus in my mind’s eye. Out here, the mind is freed up to experience fully. A simple bath awakens our awareness to all of our senses: the cold shock to the skin, the smell of the nearby Pine trees, the sounds of the water rushing over rocks, the taste of the pure mountain stream as it splashes in the mouth, and the feel of the sun as it warms and dries the body. What is just another thing to do on most other types of vacations or at home, becomes the full experience itself. It’s fun. It’s just plain fun.
As a Minnesota hiker we passed today answered to my question to him of why he flies all the way out here to do this, “It’s REAL living out here. You’re fully alive, it’s the real deal.”
Or as one entry from a JMT through hiker wrote in the VVR log book one July 2nd day in 2010: “This is living! Wouldn’t want to do it any other way, this is the time and place to be awake, alert, and growing stronger every day. Live on the edge and every day your horizon expands.”