After our return from Nepal, we spent about one week at home being punished by our dogs and visited by our friends. Soon enough, we were packing up again for a road trip. We spent a few days in Las Vegas for a work conference, then got out of the extreme shifts between blazing heat and frigid, tobacco-laced air conditioning and drove through the gorgeous, colorful expanse of Utah and into Colorado.

Colorado has become a second home. My mother in law moved to Estes Park last year and we happily visit as often as we can. Rocky Mountain National Park is only a ten minute drive from her house and we are set on exploring as much of it as possible.

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On this visit, we wanted to backpack for a few days in the park and chose the North Inlet Trail. We started at Grand Lake and ended at Bear Lake going up and over Flattop Mountain in the process. We took a day hike in the middle of our trip and made stops at the picturesque Lake Nokoni and Lake Nanita, totaling around 25 miles over 3 days.

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I have a love/hate relationship with backpacking. There’s no other way to say it; it’s really effing hard. Hiking at escalating elevations is difficult, adding about 25 pounds of weight onto my back amps up the intensity. Once a destination is reached and I feel traumatized by the process it took to get myself there, there is little consolation in knowing that the only way to get myself back to a soft bed, a warm shower and a cold beer is to repeat the process all over again. I remember when I backpacked the Grand Canyon. On the first night at the bottom of the Canyon, I was exhausted, but could not sleep, because I was absolutely terrified that I would eventually have to reverse the process I just undertook and hike myself out of the Canyon.

However, there is something so amazingly freeing about backpacking. I love having the only material possessions I could possibly need, shoved into a nylon mass of mesh. Backpacking is like a huge inhalation all the way through my diaphram, with an enormous, audible exhale. I feel re-set and re-charged with a fresh perspective and renewed sense of gratitude.

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In my non-backpacking life, I create tons of noise within my own head laced with worry. I worry about my family’s health and safety, I worry my dog’s cancer will return, I worry about being a good enough…wife, step-mother, daughter, sister, cousin, friend, counselor, yoga teacher, etc.

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I worry about completely non-trivial things. I worry over all the options that I have. Gym or yoga? Meditation or sleeping in? Venting or gratitude? And then I worry that I am a priviledged a-hole with first world problems.

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When I backpack, I forget to worry.

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I still think. I do some of my best thinking while on the trails. Sometimes my husband and I talk or sing. Often though, we settle into long stretches of comfortable silences.

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After the worry has hiked it’s way out of my head, I settle into a rhythm of only thinking about my next steps.

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One foot in front of the other. That’s really all I have to do.

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Even though this enormous burden is on my back, I can’t let myself think too far ahead about how much further I have to go or about the increasing difficulty of the trail. If I let my mind go down that path, I will fall apart. So, I keep my thoughts on my next step.

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My options in front of me are; which rock should I land on? Which foot should I start this incline with? Which path should I take across the stream?

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Sounds, sights and smells are observed, not created, manufactured, clicked on or scrolled through.

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Moments are completely experienced, not generated and on the trails….I JUST AM.

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