I was gone for a few days on a hiking and backpacking trip…
A lot of what I have read online makes it sound like these kinds of trips are glorious in every way and even easy.
Hmmm… That wasn’t exactly my experience…
Task: Help a friend fulfill a bucket list wish item –> climb North Fork Mountain in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.
The following is my own very biased account of what transpired during that trip. In summary, Day 1 = Angry, Day 2 = Making Peace, and Day 3 = Mixed.
Less than fifteen minutes on the North Fork Mountain Trail, I renamed it the “WTF Trail.” 😦
My backpack was too heavy and ill-fitted for my petite self, the switchbacks were too numerous and steep, and I had vastly underestimated my fitness level for this “moderate to strenuous” trail.
I also quickly came to believe that Mother Nature was out to kill me.
Here’s the evidence:
Exhibit A: Downed log directly on the footpath. I had to maneuver around said log AND avoid one of Mother Nature’s minions.
Exhibit B: You can’t see the deadly spider in this little Vortex of Doom, but I saw it and it was not cool. This was not directly on the footpath, mind you, but I was like, “Oh great! I hadn’t even thought about scary spiders possibly being an issue on this trip.”
Exhibit C: This is a baby plant. This baby plant ALREADY has sharp spikes on it. Now imagine lots and lots of mature plants with spikey spikes = scratches along the way and the fear of getting jacked up if I fell down the side of the trail.
Exhibit D: Rocks. Okay, okay, of course there would be rocks on the footpath, but what you don’t see and certainly don’t know in advance is that Mother Nature has strategically placed hardship obstacles at key points on the trail like when you feel like you just.can’t.go.on.anymore and them Bam! Hello serious rock situation!
It did not help that I sabotaged myself by bringing “Joey.” Yeah, I named my pack. I had to find a way to come to terms with this behemoth on my back, so I gave it a name.
The entire first day, I would say things like “Joey, get it together” or “Joey, I really need you to lose some weight” and “Joey, I’m sorry but I think I’m leaving you on this mountain.” On the plus side, every time I took a sip of water or ate something, I felt a small victory for reducing my load.
It was probably a very good thing that my friend was further ahead of me on the trail most of the time and it was mostly a solo hike. This prevented him from hearing me swear like a sailor (I was a Navy brat), observe me getting angry at the most silliest of things, and seeing my scrunched-up cranky face.
If you are ever angry at the world, I recommend going into the woods. All your anger will get redirected at Mother Nature. Now I have no idea if that’s healthy, but it’s at least a break from your regular headspace stuff because most of the time all you’ll be thinking and doing is one.foot.in.front.of.the.other… And it can be quite humbling. Your life and identity back home are actually not that bad in the grand scheme of things when you get schooled by Mother Nature every minute on a trail. In fact, you start appreciating things waaaay more when it’s back to basics. Of course, most of that is in hindsight after you get home. 😉
Day 1 did include a couple of beautiful views, which thankfully broke up my lengthy angry period:
Long story short, my friend and I realized that our original trip plans were a no-go. We were too tired and achy and weak in Mother Nature’s eyes to continue, and so we adjusted as needed. 🙂
Explore a bit and then head back.
Instead of taking the exact path we had taken in, we decided to take a “shortcut” down the mountain, i.e., Landis Trail.
It was steep as s – – t, but worth it because it was beautiful and faster to the road at the foot of the mountain.
Once on pavement, this was me joking around… well, kind of…
And then I was so happy to finally see the rental car!!!
Appropriate license plate, yeah?
We later drove on a long, windy road, much to the glee of my friend who tapped into his inner race car driver to make our way to a campsite. Once there, I greatly enjoyed tubing the river, which as a side note reaffirmed yet again that I’m a total water baby:
It was on the river that I began to make peace with Mother Nature. It’s hard to be angry around water, especially after seeing a playful baby river otter splash about.
Camping with facilities nearby such as showers and toilets makes a big difference to my camping experience. I thought I might be someone who could really rough it in the woods for a week or more, but I have learned I am not that person (unless a team of kind souls were willing to carry my gear for me, but even then, I’d probably feel too guilty)… and I am glad I know this about myself. 🙂
Seneca Rocks day hike. We took the easiest route to the overlook, but it was not that e-a-s-y people…
This was more my speed and I had a good time without “Joey.” He hung out in the car. The Discovery Center was informative, and I appreciated the staff answering my questions about the area.
Overall Lessons Learned:
(1) Do more research prior to a big hiking trip so as to properly train and prepare for the terrain.
(2) Taking a bucket list trip that is not your own has its pros and cons.
(3) Fried potato wedges dipped in cheese sauce and baco-bits is surprisingly tasty (Front Porch Restaurant).
(4) West Virginia mosquitoes are not as bad as Texas ones.
(5) Joy is amplified after a lot of pain.
Am I proud I did this trip? Yes. Would I do it again? Probably not or at least I would make some changes to the itinerary. Would I recommend it to others? Yes, but not to the faint of heart.