There is that singular moment when the pre-trip ends and the actual trip begins. It doesn’t matter if it is your first trip or you are a seasoned adventurer. In that moment you are setting off like a ship loosening its last mooring line. That which holds you to the rigid world is let go. Motion is barely begun, but at last it has begun!
If you’ve been there you know what I’m talking about. You’ve laced your boots, set your poles, donned your pack, patted your pockets one last time and then you take that first real step onto the trail. All of the preparation is behind you and finally all of the waiting is done. What lies ahead is unknown other than the opportunities to enjoy Nature, your companions and life itself.
Often I’ve found these moments to be unappreciated in the hurry to get moving and head down the trail. The focus is on getting going, getting there, go, go go! In thinking about the trips I hope to soon be on I’ve been focusing a lot on these moments of leaving off. Mostly because I yearn so strongly for it to be time to go as I sit here waiting for the mud to dry a bit more, but also because this year I want to redouble my efforts to really exist in those moments when they are actually happening.
That first day on the trail seems very different from subsequent days, but really it is me that becomes different. Usually by day two, especially on solo trips, I will have settled into a peaceful and quiet happiness that allows me to soak in the world around me. It is those first hours that seem less real when I look back because the nervous excitement, the exuberance and joy of being there seems to overwhelm the ability to perceive it in ways that can be preserved well.
Part of the reason I’ve been thinking along these lines is the Long Trail trip in September that now looms over the rest of my Summer. That trip is quite different from anything else I’ve done in terms of backpacking or anything else in my life for that matter. Just as all my other trips this year will be physical training for that one I want them to be mental training as well. In that moment of taking that first step I want to be able to casually loosen that last line and peacefully float off down the trail. Well as much as one can float with three weeks of provisions on their back at least.
Everything needs a little break in period. Lately I’ve been loading up the big Kelty external pack with my wife’s kettlebells to create a 50lb load. There are some new SmartWool socks I’ve been introducing to my boots to make sure they will all get along. The mind is just another part of our equipment when we hit the trail so it makes sense to put a little effort into make sure it is ready too. If we can come prepared in mind, body, spirit, equipment and most importantly cookies then our first steps will be good ones on the path less traveled by