Until this trip, I hadn’t been backpacking since 2004 BC (Before Children). The last time was with Family Man and our sweet dog Tex, when I was four months pregnant with our first child. Since having kids, we’ve become proficient car campers. Though in our heart-of-hearts, we know we’d rather be backpacking.

Last week, I got an invitation to join my friends on a three day backpacking trip in the Trinity Alps and the offer was too good to pass up. They were leaving on the day of my 33rd birthday. So, I celebrated with my family the day before and stayed up late organizing my pack.

We left early in the morning Sunday and drove to the trailhead. Knowing we had a seven mile, mostly uphill, hike to our campsite destination, we stretched in the parking lot before shouldering our packs and setting off.  An adventure like this is not for the faint of heart. I had the good fortune of being on this trip with two incredible women with whom I now share a very strong bond. Because we did this together.

view from granite outcropping of valley and surrounding mountains

A backpacking trip is both an outer journey (the trek though the wilderness carrying everything you’ll need on your back) as well as an inner journey (processing the experience within your mind and your heart). You’ll push yourself to your very limits and maybe just a little bit further. And when you overcome those challenges which you have chosen to face, it can be uplifting and illuminating to discover just how strong and amazing you already are.

Here are some lessons I learned (or reinforced) on this adventure:

Lesson 1. Mind over matter works.

The further we hiked, the heavier my pack felt. I began to have thoughts like, ‘Ugh, I’m tired’ or ‘My shoulders hurt.’ Its hard to keep going with thoughts like that. I would consciously choose a new thought, ‘I am strong,’ ‘I can do this,’ ‘I still have more energy.’ I’d repeat the new thoughts in my head like a mantra. And quickly I would feel stronger, more energetic, more able to keep going.

Your body may  protest the hard labor and strain, but if your inner voice stays positive and you continually encourage yourself, your body will perform better and longer.

young woman hikes with a heavy pack

Lesson 2. Carry on.

The going does get tough, so carry on. We can overcome so much just by having the fortitude to keep on going. When you push yourself to your outer limits you learn your strengths and capabilities. And you’ll be able draw on that the next time you are challenged.

water of canyon creek flows through a gap in the granite boulders

Lesson 3. Be open to change.

Even a solid granite boulder changes, it heats up in the sun and cools in the night, it erodes by water and wind. Slowly, but surely, it yields to the elements. Change does not indicate weakness. It is a necessity for life to continue. When you allow change, your transformation prepares you for the next step in your life.

large black ant carries dead bee across the granite rock

Lesson 4. You are as strong as you need to be.

Life won’t hand you a difficulty you can’t meet and overcome.  Everything up until now has prepared you for this moment.  You have all the resources you need to face the next challenge.

young cedar tree grows from a crack in the granite

Lesson 5. Put down roots and grow.

At the high altitudes, there is barely any soil to speak of on these granite peaks.  Yet trees are growing, right out of fractures in the stone. It is a waste of time, to wait for the winds of fortune to change. Wherever you are, that’s where you were meant to be. If you willingly embrace your circumstance, however rocky and tenuous, the universe will provide everything you need to flourish and thrive.

dark purple black cap berries ripening on the bush

Lesson 6. The sweetest fruits are not the longest lasting.

There is a finite season when the fruits of life are ripe and their rich flavors are soon sought after and devoured.   They will not last for long.  If you take the time to taste, (to touch, to look, to listen, to smell) to devour the sweet fruits as they ripen, you will be satiated.

What lessons has the wilderness taught you? I’d love to hear, so leave a reply in the comments section below.