Monday, October 12, 2015
My wife, Christine Hartmann, often says that I am “easily pleased.” She knows my delight in comfort foods such as PB&Js, clam cakes, and scallion-radish-lettuce sandwiches. She also knows that I’m so accustomed to sleeping on the ground that I don’t need fancy accommodations.
I believe backpackers generally share my enthusiasm for the simple pleasures. Here is a recent Facebook post from Felicia Dora Moran. She writes, “70 days ago I left the East Coast in search of an adventure….This morning at 10:20 AM I arrived at the southern terminus of the Colorado Trail with 900 miles at my back. Feelings from the past two months poured over me as I joyously cried at the sign labeled `Durango.’ My heart is full! I have been humbled, blinded by beauty, and feel like the luckiest girl alive.”
In my experience, non-hikers can’t really appreciate what she meant. The joys of the carefree life out under the open sky seep into one’s being. My long-time hiking buddy Ted Hitzroth agrees. He called me a few days ago from 10,015 ft. Cumbres Pass in southwest Colorado. He was southbound on the Continental Divide Trail and about to board the steam-era Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad to visit his next resupply town. His voice, as always, conveyed infectious eagerness to see what was over the next pass or ridge.
That kind of joy is as common on trails as beauty-filled days and raging appetites. Here’s another example. On June 20, 1977, two recent Portland State graduates, Janet Garner and Rex Bakel, mailed a trip report from Polebridge, their first Montana food drop on the then-sketchy Pacific Northwest Trail. “So far everything is going smoothly,” they wrote. “Our food got here OK. Sorry about the condition of the map. It’s been through a lot in five days. In Glacier National Park, we saw unbelievable wildlife: bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, marmots, and all sorts of birds. We shot lots of pictures and are hoping they turn out. The weather changes fast here in the Rockies with plenty of thunderstorms. Polebridge is quite a place. Just a few people live here. We’ve been offered a place to stay for the night. We are in good spirits and having a great time, but our feet are sore! Janet.” [That winter they promoted the trail as PNT ambassadors on the cover of the 34th issue of Backpacker Magazine.]
This October I feel sad about the fiery destruction of 150 miles of the PNT’s total 1200-mile distance. But the wildfires make me all the happier to have heard from one of this year’s 45 PNT thrus. Ray Clark wrote: “Hey Ron! The trail was great! Thanks for pioneering it! As a two time PCTer and now a PNT thru-hiker, I can say that the people we met on the trail and the town people were extraordinary fantastic. Even in some of the larger towns. We loved the remoteness of the trail, the amazing scenery, and knowing that we were hiking a young, still developing National Scenic Trail. We can’t wait to hike it when it becomes mostly trail.”
I am thankful that I found backpacking early in life and that I still find joy in its simple pleasures.