During the month of August I had fallen back into some bad habits. In particular, I’d fallen into the very habit I often criticize my own generation for: scrolling. I know the costs outweigh the benefits. By gazing at the predictable content of our news feeds and customized social media echo chambers on our phones, we miss out on countless opportunities out there in the real world, all to avoid the discomfort of boredom, or a potentially awkward interaction with another human being.
It’s not just about scrolling. Scrolling is what we all see. It’s the same routine day in and day out. It’s going to the same bars and restaurants over and over. It’s watching movies and TV shows we have already seen multiple times instead of calling people up and organizing a social gathering. It is all the things that we do because the alternative requires a greater amount of effort. It’s low risk, low effort, and low reward. Unfortunately, for me, it lacks stimulation, it lacks enthusiasm, and over time can even lead to depression.
I haven’t thought of a better word for it than “defaulting”. I often feel as if there is some sort of invisible force always dragging us toward this kind of life, this “defaulting”. There seems to be a constant struggle, to mix things up, to avoid the mundane, to avoid losing contact with people. And, while I think my personal record is pretty good (i.e. all the things I write about in this blog), there are times when I get tired of the struggle, and times when I do feel as if this invisible force is indeed advancing on me. At these times, it is good to have some sort of activity, or some sort of trip that helps us hit the “reset” button.
For this purpose, there truly is nothing like going into the woods, away from it all, out of cell service, completely out of my comfort zone, and in a place where “defaulting” is not only no longer easier, but not an option at all!
Our three day backpacking trip began at ThirtyMile Campground, just a mile or so east of the Rio Grande Reservoir.
After passing by a weather station, that is near and dear to me, as it is one of the stations that helped me calibrate the mean impact cold air funneling, in valleys throughout Colorado, has on nighttime lows, we encountered the Rio Grande Reservoir within the first mile of our trip.
Going into this trip, which had been planned for several weeks ahead of time, we knew there would be muddy trails, and a heightened chance of rain. Not only is Southwestern Colorado the most active part of the state during the late summer monsoon season, but this past weekend featured an active pattern in the region.
Friday was supposed to be the most active day, with regards to chances for precipitation. Yet, we lucked out. Leaving at 10 AM, after enjoying a nice relaxing morning at the campground, we hiked 7.5 miles, up the Weminuche Trail, dealing with very little rain, only with muddy trails. Mindful of the storm threat, we stopped shortly after 3:00 P.M., having found a good spot to set up camp, near a stream and some trees. Despite the periodically ominous looking skies, the storms held off until after sundown, giving us plenty of time to set up camp, cook a nice meal, and take in the wilderness, now being officially away from civilization.
I felt exhausted at the end of the day, as I had not gotten a good night sleep the prior evening at the campground. So, I ended up going to sleep shortly after sundown. With two backpacking trips behind me, I am starting to think that sleeping even more than the normal 7.5 hours per night is pretty normal on trips like this.
I spent the last waking hour of the evening inside the tent, listening to the sound of gentile rain tapping on the fly. Under normal circumstances, many of us drown out these sounds, with TV, music, or some other sound. Hearing this sound, for nearly an hour before falling asleep made me imagine a completely different life.
I imagined myself, as I often do, as a completely different person, with a completely different personality, upbringing, circumstance, and desires. I imagined myself living in the woods, in a cabin of sorts, not too unlike the kind many people in Michigan, Minnesota, or Wisconsin have today. It would be a modest sized cabin, with one main room, a bunch of bedrooms, a kitchen, and a closet, to keep things like cross-country skis, wet suits, and all of the other necessary equipment. But, I would not have too many high tech or expensive toys. It would be a life in a small community of sorts, where people know one another, spend a lot of time over at each other’s houses for dinner and games. It would be a life way closer to, and way more connected with nature. It would be a life that would never satisfy the real me, as restless as I get for one adventure after the next, one major social interaction after another, and testing limits. But, for this alternate person I imagine myself being, as I drift off to sleep on a rainy August evening high in the San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado, it is perfect, cozy, and quaint.
Pingback: Backpacking in the Weminuche Wilderness: Day 2 | Stephen Jaye's Travel Writing