These past few days my internet-savvy friends may have noticed that I disappeared from the world for a while. My sister and I went up into the clouds, into the haze of the beautiful Smoky Mountains, to hike in the backcountry for four days. Here are ten things I learned while backpacking:
10) Water fresh from a mountain spring is the clearest, cleanest, most delicious water in the world.
9) Bears are scary, not cuddly, despite popular mass-market advertisements that indicate to the contrary (I’m looking at you, Charmin’ Bear).
8) It is always possible to smell worse than you already do.
7) Bathing in a mountain stream is without a doubt the best way to bathe.
6) That said, it does not necessarily mean you will smell better, or that the fruit flies will finally leave your face alone.
5) No matter how much your feet hurt, they can always hurt worse. The good news is, aching feet can’t do anything to hurt you, so you might as well keep moving.
4) Bring good (detailed!) maps. Otherwise you may end up going many miles out of your way. And walking four more miles than you had originally intended is disheartening and tiring.
3) Mountain trails can defy the laws of gravity: in theory, if you go uphill, you should eventually have to go back downhill. Not so with our trip. We spent at least 80% of our time going uphill.
2) Food tastes best after a long, hard day of walking with a 30-pound pack on your back.
1) And finally, as Chris McCandless put it best, “Happiness is meaningless unless shared.” Bring good people with you to share in the majesty of the park, in the tremors of the dark, in the fireworks show of lightning bugs against a pitch-black canopy, in the pleasures of bathing in mountain streams, or making friends with baby snakes. My sister and I went together and I truly learned what it is to have good companionship.
Here are some photos my sister and I took with our iPhones while we were in the woods. They have all been doctored, slightly, using Adobe PS Express, which is a free app you can download for your phone.