There’s an unwritten understanding in backpacking. The first day of a backpacking trip is always the hardest.
Whether it’s your first trip, or your 50th, it’s always the same. Same nerves, wondering whether the weather will hold, the route will go as planned and whether you forgot that one critical thing (even though you reviewed the detailed checklist over and over).
After countless hours of driving, you’re at the trailhead. It’s dusty and hot, or cold and bleak. The parking lot is jammed. There are wasps, attracted by sweat, the heat and the smell of food scraps. There are porta potties, with their repelling stench and matching cleanliness. There are cigarette butts and trash. Tempers are short, people anxious to get going. Someone is always arriving late and running behind (again).
When packs are shouldered, the journey begins. The trail is full of jaunty day-hikers, and evidence of modern civilization strewn about. Packs need adjusting so they don’t rub, same with your boots. Sometimes you have to unpack to re-distribute the weight evenly. Everything seems to take forever. You spent months planning for this trip, and it seems like nothing is going right.
It takes an entire day to move beyond. Beyond where most day hikers will travel. Beyond the reach of cell phone coverage, a pit toilet and the cloying need to get “back to civilization.” It is here where the magic starts. Where you can see and hear more from yourself and nature. Where you can come into yourself. Where you can own your journey, not as a reflection of what others are doing, but as your own.
It is the same in any new venture, exercise, practice or business. The initial idea is exciting, as is some of the early planning. The first few tentative steps painful, unsatisfying and seeming wrong. It is here the doubts, fears and hesitations pull like wet blankets on your commitment. But your journey begins a day in. By then you will be beyond the interlopers, the “try it on to see if I like it” crew, the started “because it’s a good idea” set and the “it’s what I’m supposed to do” crowd. You know there’s something more there for you, and it’s just a day in. It’ll be a moment of clarity, an “atta boy!” from a trusted advisor, traction from an unforeseen direction, or opportunity that couldn’t have been predicted.
Your world is so close, just beyond the ridge line, a day’s hike in. There are open fields, deer, sweet river water, mountain ranges and it’s all just a day’s hike away.