Sunday, September 12, 2010

Backpacking- Part 2

I made it thru week 1.  No small feat.  By this point we seem to have walked endless miles and have gone up (and back down) what feels like a million feet of elevation.  I haven't showered or used toilet paper in a week.  Oddly enough, none of this bothers me.  Partly because I know everyone else is in the same boat and partially because I'm too exhausted to care.

So far, I've learned a lot about myself.  One thing of which is that when I do something, I do it all the way.  Until this trip (I'm embarassed to say) I hadn't been backpack camping. To make matters worse, I believe I told an ex-boyfriend once that "if hell froze over" I wasn't going to backpacking.  Incidentally, I said the same thing when he mentioned wanting to go to India, as Murphy and his law have it, I've been there 5 times.  I'm pretty sure I must be insane to have never backpacked before and do a 2 week long trip as my first outing.  go big or go home.  That's me.

Because this trip is a course, specifically a leadership course, there are classes every day.  In addition, we gather around and talk about our goals and challenges.  Hands down my biggest goal (and challenge) is to just make it through the backpacking.  If I do this, it will be the biggest accomplishment I'll have achieved so far.  Thinking about the other challenges I've managed to conquer in the past few years, I think that no mountain or heavy pack will stand in my way.

Though the hikes are physically challenging, they don't kill me. I may be the slowest going uphill, but I manage to find comfort in my slow but very steady pace.  I manage to accept that this isn't a race and stop apologizing for being at the back of the pack. 

I start to find my groove, I might be the slowest hiker, but everyone in my tent group looks forward to my cooking shifts.  I become the backcountry baker extraordinaire! Pizza, pies, cinammon buns, you name it!

Eventually, it becomes my day to be leader of the day.  I'm going to have to lead a group of 4 other students that are a hell of a lot better than me at hiking!  Not intimidating at all.... right?

One of the many things my mentor/instructor instills in me is to keep being me, as a leader.  ie I don't need a lobotomy or act like Stalin to be an effective leader.  She claims that anyone can be taught to read a map but natural leadership, self awareness and the ability to build culture within a group (so she claims I bring...) are not things easily taught.  To say I'm insecure about this new role, is an understatement.  I hid my insecurities well and get our group there in one piece.  In the end, I delegated where I needed too and overall kept the group in good spirits.  wow! 

My newfound confidence slips by day 12.  Clearly, someone must want me dead.  Why else would you explain that I have to hike up 1700ft of elevation before the effect of my coffee sinks in? By the end of the day, there are 2 puffy cushions where my kneecaps used to be and I'm convinced I'll freeze to death since it starts to snow.  It's early August, I should be sitting on my deck sipping raspberry mojitos, not worrying about hypothermia.  What point was I trying to prove again???

The last day of the hiking portion, I find my groove again.  There's light at the end of the tunnel!!!! I'm not at the back of the pack anymore.  I'm now at the front.   Still with my slow and steady pace.  by the time I get to camp, I'm ecstatic.  I'm so proud I managed to finish this.  In the end, it was 109km of backpacking gaining 17,000ft of elevation with a 47lb pack.  Besides the obvious sense of accomplishment, I feel tough as nails!  Along the way, I've even picked up some self confidence and leadership skills.  All this and we're only halfway thru this adventure!

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