Backpack Trekking leads to meeting all kinds of outdoor backpack enthusiasts who emerge in the wilderness from a common bond; their love of the great outdoors. Hikers from all geographical areas, all ages, all body types and all personalities bloom like branches of a tree from one trunk, being the love of nature. I have met thousands of hikers in my travels but some of them just plain stand out in my memories.
Day Pack Nature Lovers
Small hiking backpack trail goers seem to make up the majority of backpack hiking folks I've encountered. They were predominantly looking to get outdoors for the day for some fresh air, exercise and exposure to all things nature. The one person that stands out the most in this category of hikers was a man named Ethan. He had his wife and two children with him to enjoy their hiking trip. We were on the Geyser Creek Trail in Saratoga State Park, Saratoga, NY on a beautiful Fall Sunday afternoon. I love this place because of the active spouting geyser and the Orenda Spring Tufa, which is a large dome of mineral deposits from the Orenda Spring. Ethan seemed totally focused on pointing out everything from unusual looking ferns to the way the shadows formed what he described as shapes on the trail. Witnessing his interaction with his children was so heartwarming. I conversed Ethan and his wife them for awhile as I watched the kids constantly beg both parents to "look" at what they were discovering. They had the patience of saints. It was like being in a toy store of nature watching them get excited over and over by simple little observances. Resuming my hike, I decided that my future children would not be sitting in front of a TV on a beautiful afternoon. I vowed to be a parent like Ethan.
Camping Backpack Hikers
With outdoor backpacks packed with all of our hiking essentials, my husband and I had the chance to hike for the day, make camp for the night and continue our hike the next day. It was our favorite was to spend a weekend. Hiking was in our blood making it great to have such a common thread between us. We met so many hikers and campers along the way. I vividly recall a couple named Caleb and Trinity. We were in the Watkins Glen State Park checking out the rim trails overlooking the gorge and waterfalls there. We set up camp in an area that we thought to be somewhat private, only to find out someone else had the same idea. We noticed a light through the trees about 200 feet from our site and decided to explore its source. I think we scared Caleb a bit when we came to their site. They had a campfire going and were just sitting alone. Many hikers simply want to be alone, so we weren't sure whether to approach, but we did. They turned out to be the friendliest and most chatty individuals I ever met. They were so welcoming when they found out we were "neighbors" for awhile. We sat there enjoying the fire, where they shared some of his homemade elderberry wine with us and told us stories of their hiking adventures, gave us tips on choosing our backpacking gear and even shared his recipe for the wine. Most hikers are pleasant and helpful, but Caleb and Trinity really stood out in my mind. They were so content with simply being in nature, no frills, no pretense, no BS. These friendly hikers were instrumental in guiding me to seek and be happy with the basics in life.
Backpacking Backpacks Thru-Hikers
My backpacking pack was all set to go as hubby and I set out for a three day trekking backpack adventure at Moxie Bald Mountain in the Kennebec and Moose River Valleys of Maine. We made a stop at Bald Mountain Brook and stumbled upon Zeke. From a distance he looked like a weathered old man who could barely navigate the terrain. It was early Fall and he was bundled up for cold temps. He had this huge external frame backpack loaded with hiking gear. You could tell this was not his first trek. We stopped at the lean-to and exchanged greetings. I think it was the beard that made him look old because as we visited, it was clear he was probably in his 50's. I have always felt that people in life with experience in their trade, their parenting or their journeys of any kind were the greatest resource for information. Zeke was no exception. He freely talked about how he had been hiking for forty years, shortcuts through the trail, best place to camp overnight and sure-fire ways to avoid snakebites. Part of me just wanted to keep trekking since I was anxious to explore, but I was drawn to Zeke. He wasn't being an overly obnoxious know-it-all. He was being more "fatherly" in his efforts to protect us with his knowledge and eliminate us from being in harm's way. I found it endearing. We were just about to part ways after forty five minutes of chatting when Zeke pulled out a hand-carved wooden tree trunk replica with initials in a heart shape of Z and L. He explained that it came from the actual tree that his late wife and he carved their initials on right there in Moxie Bald Mountain the day they became engaged thirty five years prior. They hiked to this area every year to visit that tree, until his wife passed away from cancer. Zeke continued to hike there every year in early October near their wedding anniversary date. I was glad I didn't just brush him off. He apparently needed to share some conversation with us. He said we reminded him of them decades ago.
Backpack hiking is so much more than just walking through the outdoors. It can be very spiritual in some ways and provide so many more benefits beyond fresh air and exercise. The benefits of interacting with other hikers, the information and suggestions exchanged and even some life lessons can be absorbed that leave imprints on your heart forever. Who would say no to that? Happy hiking!