From sack to pack.
The John Muir trail is 211 miles long in the Sierra Nevada Mountains running from Yosemite to Mount Witney. The John Muir way is 134 miles across Scotland’s heartland, running between Helensburgh in the west through to Dunbar on the east coast. I mention these two trails because I want to start my story with John Muir. I’m sure you may know them, but if not, they are yours to discover. He was born in Scotland in 1838 and died in 1914. In America at the time he would have been influenced like all of us by what was going on around him. As he saw things starting to change, he was quoted as saying “Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea into a sack and jump over the back fence.”
Its that simple of course, or is it.? John Muir didn’t have ultra light on his mind. Maybe he was already expressing sentiments of the hiking scene. Suggesting that there was a basic way or a more complicated way already starting to happen. The next quote “I rolled up some bread and tea in a pair of blankets with some sugar and a tin cup and set off.” This suggests that he needed a bit more comfort, with sugar and a pair of blankets. Or was it a through hike this time.? It’s easier to carry a backpack than a sack over your shoulder. What about those telescopic walking poles John, how would they have worked.?
Has the commercialization of the outdoor and in particular the hiking genre become too much now.? Has it taken away a sense of adventure in trying to make it accessible to more and more people.” In doing that, made it more elitist as it is now connected to exotic locations all over the world, that are easily accessible now. Hiking has become side tracked by all the high tech gadgets and equipment that money can buy. While how much of this vast choice do we need, when we only have fundamental needs on the trail. Of course I am not immune from these temptations either.
My generation were influenced by parents who grew up through a time of rationing during and after the second world war. This had a profound influence on the way I view things. Also it wasn’t a throw away world, the things you did have were treasured and looked after. Hence the thought was to buy quality if affordable, juxtaposing that with a cheaper throw away culture now. I think buying cheap can and has to work for many people because of financial constraints. When your on the trail and camping out it’s the same deal. This time though, cheap hiking boots, tent, sleeping bag or backpack can lead to discomfort and pain. While ultimately effecting the experience of joy that you could have.
Try to research the basic equipment that you need and buy the best you can. You can get away with cheap gadgets and gismos until you find what suits you. Or if you need them at all. But don’t compromise on your hiking boots and socks. If everything else falls down around your ears, at least you can hike home in comfort. The clothing you wear is no different, research it, try it on and test it. Remember your hiking and possibly camping, so you don’t need a wardrobe on board. It’s ok to be grungy, you don’t need to change your clothes everyday, although fresh underwear always feels good.
John Muir only took the basics with him, a sack with a few essential items inside it to have an enjoyable experience on the trail. There are luxuries that each of us enjoy and within reason, I think we should accommodate those particular luxuries. If you like to listen to pod casts on your phone as I do, make sure you have enough downloaded to keep you going. If you enjoy a cup of tea or a brew of coffee then allow for that. Have your stove to heat the water, onboard and ready to go.
Those quiet moments on the trail when you stop for a while to take in the atmosphere or enjoy the vista around you. Will feel more poignant if you can indulge in your favorite drink or snack and perhaps with some quiet background music coming through on your ear buds. How you take the view or the atmosphere into your consciousness, seems to be more vivid, when you recall those memories later. Ultimately, the trail lasts for a given amount of time and feeling very alive and in a flow state sometimes passes very quickly. While the memories, as we know, linger on.