There was a time when a trip to Utah would have mandated a preparatory shopping expedition to REI, two nights of sleep lost to excavating the basement closet for buried Gore-Tex treasure, and an entire suitcase dedicated to wetsuits, bike shoes, helmets, and trail mix.
It is with a bittersweet (not unlike my homemade granola) mix of relief and loss that I announce: Those days are gone. Lost. Tossed in the compost bin of my youth and other failed experiments.
If I had control of this story, I’d be telling you with feral glee that we have learned to travel light and still have fun.
But there’s no need to worry, if you still go through all that trouble to lug suitcases that weigh more than corpses full of “lightweight yet breathable” pants to the trailhead. You’re not alone, and you’re in plenty of good company.
I’m the one looking at you with misty eyes, in my jeans and sneakers.
Yesterday we hiked four miles up a canyon and back to see the sixth largest rock bridge (I’m gonna say “in the world” because I can’t remember the denominator, and because that sounds impressive).
My daughter wore pink fuzzy boots and sweatpants.
My son wore sneakers and shorts, despite our assurances that the canyon would be chilly (it wasn’t, he was the only comfortable one).
My husband wore a lightweight yet breathable upper layer of black, acquired in a panicky last minute realization that Utah is NOT North Carolina and is, in fact, cold. The canyon, however, was bright and sunny.
I wore, as previously mentioned, jeans and sneakers.
For the first time in my life, I realized what the heck hiking boots were for.
I bought my first pair when I was twenty-one. Did I appreciate them? HECK NO. I complained that they were stiff, uncomfortable, and gave me blisters. (Did I take the time to fit them properly or wear them in? Uh, no. I was twenty-one, and not a very mature twenty-one at that.)
So I bought my next pair when I was twenty-five, days before a trip to Yosemite.
I hadn’t learned much in four years.
But hell, I got away with it. I WAS IN MY TWENTIES. My feet were twenty years younger than they are now. They FORGAVE me those stupidities back then.
Fast-forward twenty years, and one poorly healed broken foot later: Next time, I’m buying hiking boots.
There’s a bigger lesson, though. It’s not about the feet, if you can keep the rest of you happy, too. My sneakers were comfortable, and worn in. Not ideal for rocky canyon floors or the twenty creek crossings, but they made it. I had time to enjoy the AMAZING scenery. (I know, I know, I’m a writer, I could do better than that. But the scenery out here is just…it’s just…oh my gosh, it’s just so…oh heck, I’m just gonna post pictures.)
Traveling with kids, I also learned it’s not about claiming the 18 mile hikes like I tried to do twenty years ago. Four miles is totally respectable, especially when you’re six. (In fact, it may be a bit too much–but she’s a trooper, and she only complained during the hills. All two miles of them.)
There are analogies to my writing life, as well. I have learned, this week, that I don’t need my “Mom” mug (although I was tempted to bring it), my 24-inch monitor (it’s a crutch, I know), and my office (more importantly, its door). I have drawn the metaphorical line at reverting to ball-point pen, however, or forgoing coffee entirely.
And part of me still admits, lightweight yet breathable pants would have been nice.