Relax into the pain.
That is what they train you to do when you can’t open your eyes without feeling like a thousand tiny torturous men are trying to drill to the surface of your skin to escape. It burns on the inside and it burns on the outside. Backpacking for a determined overweight person is like that. Every part of you hurts. Each step rubs a new fiery blister as the over abundance of fluid you carry between your tissues creeps down into your feet.
Your back is in equal agony.
No matter how high or low you try to adjust the weight of the pack your spine still feels like it is being twisted and crushed. For as big and strong as you are -you have only been minimally conditioned to carry your extra fleshy burden and not anything else. Soldiering down the trail slowly and determined through the pain you carefully place each step to avoid injury. Your gaze is constantly cast into the dirt as to not get discouraged when you see the next rise in elevation that will require more of your strength and will to summit. Strength and will that are quickly running out.
‘Why are you doing this?’ you ask yourself over and over.
There is a place at the end of this trail. A special place you have been many times before and always with the same supportive friend who is behind you encouraging or long down the trail in front of you waiting -patiently. You love that guy and you wouldn’t want to be here with anyone else. If he couldn’t make the journey with you – you would trek alone with your thoughts imagining he was by your side as he has so many times before. He is as much a part of this place as you and the familiar patters of his steps behind you allow you to take a deep, whole, relaxing breath; your first in many months. This is where you belong. This is where you are relaxed and where you can be yourself. This is why you keep coming back through the pain.
It is late afternoon now and you have been hiking since early morning. The shadows of great ancient evergreen trees have sheltered you from the sun along the trail as you watched the ground turn from sand, to rock, to gravel, to sand, to packed forested earth over and over again. Rhythmically the patter and crunch of your steps have lulled you into a slow but steady meditative pace allowing you to ignore all the pain until you see it.
Your pace quickens now as you sense how close you are to the end. Sweaty palms grip tight, molding your fingers into the nylon padded straps of your pack as you imagine your legs as great hydraulic machines that don’t feel pain. You smile as the last bits of broken tree root and gravel of the trail turn into a soft and familiar dusty dirt.
There ahead; you see it now.
Standing at the top of the final small climb the shimmer of the late afternoon Sun bounces diamond sparkles into your eyes off of the surface of a small hidden lake you had been working so hard to get to. A big smile cracks your wind chapped lips but you don’t feel them freshly splitting open as you call back to your buddy.
“We’re here!” you shout back to him.
Standing next to each other without saying a word you take it all in. Some people call this time of day, “The Long Shadows” and rightly so as you are both casting God like silhouettes down onto the grassy inland along the lakes South shore.
Your camp is a small peninsula that jets straight out into the water. Standing at the tip of it you can look around a thick green forested Cathedral with no sign of another human for miles. There is a big rock that has been made into a stone fireplace not but a few yards from where you will both pitch your tents. You’ll stay up late tonight drinking and telling stories. Familiar flames from a warm campfire will lick the tips of your shoes as the whiskey warms your bellies.
The quiet, the calm, the serenity, the brotherhood – it is what you have came for and it is what you will ALWAYS suffer for.
Danny Machal April 7th, 2015