The Annual Spring Backpack Purge

It’s been sitting crammed in a corner of my closet for at least six months.  Untouched neglected–sad, really, after all the joy it’s brought me over the years.  But the weather has warmed and a woodland excursion begins on the morn, so it is time to wipe off the cobwebs and pull my beloved orange backpack back in the game.

To be fair, the process of the first spring camping trip is always a bit more complex than fishing out a backpack, as any outdoor trekker can attest.  There’s fishing through the tub crammed with half-filled travel toothpaste tubes to find the stove and shake the gas cans to see how much is left.  There’s stirring through the camping food and tossing out the box of Laura Lynn Cheese Grits that made its way from a mountain Ingles one to many Springs ago.  There’s resigning myself to the knowledge that fraying straps and peeling souls on my comfy Chacos won’t make another year, that the cracked head lamp has been duck-taped once to many times, that once more I wish I had a better system for all this crap that somehow makes its way in and out of the woods every year.

But the backpack is constant, and I still remember the glee I felt the summer afternoon when the UPS many brought it to my door, less than a week before I took Juno on her first hike on the Foothills.  Since then, it’s traveled thousands of miles, slept under the stars of mountains and valleys, propped me as a pillow in airports and buoyed me as a 70L medicine cabinet, kitchen, and bureau.

And tonight, as it often is, the backpack is an exercise in separating the luxury from the necessity.  Check the weather: how much raingear?  Consider the trail: how much food do I want to carry?  (Usually too much, according to my mates.)  The book or the Kindle?  (It’s the book this time–too good to stop reading.  For all the things you can accumulate, the backpack forces you to wonder what you really need when it comes to sleeping in the open.

Of course, even the backpack is a luxury.  Sometimes I catch myself watching those survival reality shows where people volunteer to be dropped naked in the middle of a South American savannah with nothing but a Machete and a camera crew to ensure their survival.  I don’t know that I’ll ever need that type of out door experience.  The burnt-orange backpack allows me to sleep in peace without fending off the wolves or hunting in the wild with sharpened sticks.  It allows Juno a place to curl up by the feet of my sleeping bag.  It allows me space for Apple Crisp in a bag, venison jerky and an Eno Hammock.

The jerky’s done.  Time to pack up the bag, leaving enough space for a weekend by a river in the cool night air, amidst the song of the animals, under a canopy of stars.

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