Author: Marissa Kildow
Tags: Exploring, North America, Semi Finalist
Bzzz! We were constantly swatting away persistent mosquitoes which craved our blood, dehydrated from the sweat pouring off our bodies, and sore from the backpacks that felt like a pack of elephants. We were lost in the middle of bear country, the Nicolet National Forest. If you are thinking who is crazy enough to voluntarily put themselves through such an experience, then you have never been backpacking. The almost torturous day of strenuous hiking is worth the beautiful scenery and the momentary escape from society.
As my family and I trudged through the thick northern woods, the packs became increasingly difficult to carry. Every crease in our shirts rubbed ruthlessly into our skin, making us lose focus on our impeccable surroundings. The scorching sun burned our supple skin, drenching our clothes with sweat. Soon we were on the verge of dehydration and our muscles were aching from continually stumbling up never ending hills. However, we endured the pain and kept moving toward our campsite. We followed our map, which showed the site to be roughly a quarter mile away, but boy was it wrong. After over a mile of extra hiking, we were moments away from conceding and setting up camp in the middle of the trail, but as we turned the corner, we set our eyes on the most stunning view. There was a large open area, overlooking a small, yet undeveloped lake. Immediately I stopped, awe stuck by nature’s beauty. My heart felt at home. It seemed as though nothing could wake me from this adventurous trance: no bills, no work, and no problems. This campsite, like many others, provided a safe haven from a demanding society and allowed time for reflection on a broader perspective of the world. My attention turned from my trivial problems, to the simple fundamentals of life, making me feel thankful for how much I have. Backpacking also parallels the struggles throughout life. Surviving our trip despite the tough times, ensures that I can make it through any obstacle in life.
The small group of people who backpack understand the addiction to the freedom that is only felt when you are suffering through the day to reach the final destination. It allows people to get off America’s “fast track” and return to the activities they are passionate about. To me, there is nothing more beautiful and peaceful than absolute happiness.