O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

6 Unanswered Backpacking Questions

Yesterday I returned from a 4-day adventure in the Pecos Wilderness at the top of New Mexico. It was my annual backpacking trip with three old friends (and two new ones), and as usual, I returned with a sunburn, a lot of mosquito bites, sore legs, sleep deprivation, and an inexplicable desire to do this again, soon.

I also returned with a few unanswered questions related to the trip:

1. Why must it rain every day between 4 and 6 pm in the mountains of New Mexico?

2. We camped at the trailhead for one night after coming back down the trail. A few hours behind us, a guy showed up along the trail carrying a homemade spear. It was a large, hand-carved wooden staff with what looked like a dagger blade attached to it. What was up with that dude? Was he expecting to meet up with a clan of ancient Spartans or something?


3. Who would have known that a chance trailside encounter with Andy the ornithologist would have led to an enjoyable late-night fireside conversation about Peruvian hummingbirds?

4. Is there anything cooler than choosing a campsite, and then discovering (via my own powers of observation, FTW!) that it’s on the same side of the lake as a strand of ancient and grotesque Rocky Mountain Bristlecone pines?

5. Who changed all the trout in those alpine lakes to salamanders? And why didn’t they tell us about it?

6. If I can survive (quite enjoyably, in fact) for days at a time with no cell service, no Internet, no television, and only 28 pounds of food and possessions which fit into a little backpack, then why do I require so much stuff and activity in my non-backpacking, real-life existence?


If you have the answers to any of these questions, I’m all ears. (Not really. Were I actually all ears you would freak out upon seeing me. Also, it would be difficult to type.)

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posted July 21, 2010 at 10:07 am

Heading to the Pecos in a couple of weeks myself. Which lake were you camping near that you found the Rocky Mountain Bristlecone pines?
I know what you mean about the simplicity of backpacking that makes you long for a little more of that in your day-to-day when you return home.

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Jason Boyett

posted July 21, 2010 at 10:09 am

We were at Horseshoe Lake, which is between North Fork Lake and Serpent Lake. The Bristlecones were on the concave side of the “horseshoe.”

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posted July 21, 2010 at 10:31 am

Apparently these questions weren’t rhetorical and as a New Mexican now living in West Texas I thought I would be able to shed some light on your queries:
2: Yes, or he thought he was on an episode of Man vs. Wild.
3: Only anyone interested in civilized 18th century dinner conversation topics.
4: No, unless at the campsite you discovered gold and immediately forsake civilization to live the rest of your life as a mountain man prospector.
5: The New Mexico Wildlife Department and Texans are never to be informed on such matters.
6: The backpack creates a necessity of simplicity that a large home will never encourage. Even car camping is a relatively complex experience in comparison to a backpacking trip.

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Charlie H.

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:14 pm

As someone who backpacked over 300 miles in one continuous trip, and who also worked for a therapeutic program that took troubled kids backpacking for 15 days at a time once a month, I feel confident and qualified to answer.
For me, I found that I loved the simplicity of backpacking and simply walking from place to place, but in the end I was ready for it to be done each time, and often a motivating factor was the prospect of comfort, amenities and people (I backpacked the 300 miles alone, it took 24 days). It does help you balance – after doing such a thing you learn that your soul needs to be outside, you need adventure in your life, and so it teaches you to find ways to incorporate this into your daily life. To take it religious, I find that if I don’t get outside for an extended time every few days or so I don’t pray as well. If at all. So the short is you don’t need all those possessions, but they are great, but just make sure you take that great 4 day experience and find ways to do smaller scale versions (even 1-2 hours) far more frequently. I live in the middle Oregon so I’m literally three miles from a wilderness that stretches from California to Washington, so its easier for me than someone from, say, Texas.

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