The Three Stages of Backpacking Emotion (when the sh*t hits the fan)

Thoughts and Such, Travel

Today my man hunk turns another year older and I’m feeling all mushy…I won’t put you

Happy birthday you man hunk!

Happy birthday you man hunk!

through that, promise.  Anyway, as I enter another year with this stud  I am reminded of a conversation I had on the CCT trail during “Day Motherfucking Two” (the link will take you to the clusterfuck that was day two on the Creekside to Coast Trail).  I had just lost my mind and had slightly embarrassed myself with an adult-sized tantrum when it dawned on me.  I had gone through very distinct phases of emotion that seem to happen in order every time things get a little hairy on the trail.  So, when I was calm I shared my new found knowledge with Zack and Danger and it has been dubbed, The Three Stages of Backpacking Emotion (when shit hits the fan).


When I realized my watch was off by more than 5 miles and we still had a grueling 4+ miles to go, I descended into the first stage: denial.  If you recall from my last post, I without meaning to, started yelling at Zack; “NO!  THAT CAN’T BE!  THIS WATCH DOES NOT HAVE A 5-MILE MARGIN OF ERROR!  I JUST CAN’T BELIEVE IT!”  He was consistent with his message to me; we’ve only gone 5 miles and it took 6 hours.  “How can this be?” I thought.  “There is no way we’ve only gone five miles…I mean….huh??”  In my mind, this man was lying to me and it was a joke that would be over around the next curve.  I waited for him to say, “Ha ha!  Just kidding, we were only one mile off!”  We got to the next curve and no such dream came true, which leads me into the second emotion of backpacking: sadness.

After losing my denial I went into this stage of feeling completely defeated and really fucking sad.  I started to cry and threw my backpack down and decided to succumb to the heat and dirt that was creeping up my nose from the road.  I’ve noticed this during other trips when things have become super frustrating.  Once in Yosemite I had the hardest time making it up a mountain due to the altitude and my generalized exhaustion (we had hiked the Grand Canyon a couple days before).  I sat down on the rocks, delaying an entire line of people and just cried.  “WAAAHHHH WHY IS THIS SO HARD?”  The point is, once the denial of why you’re in a shit-show ends, you just have to cry it out like a wet, gross baby who’s just lost his ice cream on the hot pavement.  And like any child who’s just experienced frustration, the sadness turns to blind and irrational anger, step three.

On Day Motherfucking Two, after I’d cried and apologized to Zack and Danger, the adrenaline set in and a hell-fire rage bubbled up.  There would be no beer.  No.  Motherfucking.  Beer.  Click.  Boom.  I threw on my pack and went into an anger fueled march.  “LET’S JUST GET THERE, DAMNIT!”  We’ve all been there and I think this is the best stage of the three simply because you’re so angry you forget your pain and exhaustion.  I was able to make the last four miles in record time because I was practically running with my 38-pound pack through the woods of Big Basin State Park.

Zack and Claire on CCTSo, fellow nature lover, when you’re lost and/or WAY FARTHER away from the destination than you thought, just allow yourself to experience the three stages of backpacking emotion and then enjoy the surprises at the end like that awesome waterfall, vista point or for me, unexpected open store with cold beer.  Happy birthday, Zack!  Thanks for just letting me act like an asylum patient on the CCT.


Mo-fo Day Two on the CCT with Claire, Zack and DANGER


Day motherfucking two.  Ugh, the SECOND day!  To describe the second day of our Creekside to Coast Trail or CCT we used one of the two expressions you’ve just read.  My first inclination was towards the first but hey, to each their own.  Zack, my awesome neighbor nicknamed, DANGER (you should read that in a shout) and I decided to embark on the CCT after careful planning and in Danger’s case, WAY TOO MUCH packing.  The first day was like a 90’s kid on a slip and slide…we got from point A to point B quickly with zero injuries or setbacks (there was also a lot of inappropriate banter and conversations about burritos).

Portola Redwoods

Portola Redwoods State Park

We arrived at Portola Redwoods State Park in a cloud of mosquitoes and when I say the word, cloud I mean it.  We ended the day with whiskey, peanut butter and Trader Joe’s sausage.  I loved Danger on this trip.  You see, with Zack and I, backpacking is a serious sport and weight is everything so avoiding the foods Danger brought is a necessary evil.  She graced our trip with whole avocados, TJ’s sausage, whole packs of rice crackers, coconut oil for cooking and a whole rind of cheese (good eatin’!).  Zack and I had ramen noodles and Cliff bars.

Day motherfucking two.  The day began without incident and we were feeling pretty confident until some bullshit circumstances slapped us on the ass and we ended up lost for two hours.  Now, I can’t go into too much detail about this leg of the trip because it involved us doing things our grandpas wouldn’t be too happy about such as maybe or maybe not trespassing and getting separated from the group (as if being lost wasn’t terrifying enough).

This was NOT where we got lost by the way!!

This was NOT where we got lost by the way!!

Throughout this entire day I’m relying on the steps being counted by my Garmin watch as a gauge for when we will make it to Big Basin State Park and as we made it back to our original route I look down to my immense satisfaction and see 9.5 miles on my watch.  I knew we had a 10 mile day and figured the watch might be off by a mile or so; anyways, I figured the end was near.  Nope.  As our group is walking down a very hot dirt road, Zack stops and says, “Man, I can’t believe it took us 6 hours to go five miles.”  I’m stopped in my tracks by this comment and surprised myself with my explosive reaction.  “WHAT DO YOU MEAN FIVE MILES?  The WATCH says 9.5 MILES.”  He then whips out a map and shows me that we have, in fact, gone only 5.something miles and there were at least 4.5 to go.  Now I’m yelling at him although I sincerely did not mean to; “HOW CAN THAT BE?  THERE CAN’T BE A FIVE MILE MARGIN OF ERROR ON THIS DAMN WATCH!  NOOO NOOOOO!”  Now, you might be thinking, “Calm down, cray cray!”  but there was a little part I left out.  Big Basin State Park has a general store where they sell snacks, extra equipment and the goddess of all camping treats….BEER and this store, as Zack claimed was closing at 4pm.  At this point it was past three.  I sat down on the side of the road as the blood flow in my head went from silent to roaring-fire-audible and I had a nuclear melt down.  I threw my backpack down on the ground, glad to be rid of it for a second because the damn thing was poking me in the back (I packed it wrong), bent over and fought back Alice in Wonderland size tears.  I realized, of course my behavior was childish and I kept apologizing to Zack and Danger; “I’m sorry, guys it’s just the watch….it said 9….ahhhhhh!” I’m also imagining myself beating the tar out of the random stranger who is drinking MY BEER.  Nothing to do but keep going.  The last 4.5-5 miles was done in near silence.  I was on a mission and anger was the only thing driving me.  We decided to take a short break around 1.5-2 miles away from headquarters at a so-called vista point (not super scenic in my opinion).  We all plop down on the ground, pissed off, in pain and nearly defeated when this cyclist arrives and flicks the shit into the melted chocolate so-to-speak (meaning this break was our last chance at some morale boosts and he ruined it).  We hear his bike bell approach our resting ground and start clearing some of our stuff out of the way for him.  He comes jumping up like Richard Simmons just after his taping of Who’s Line is it Anyway and says, “Hey guys!!  Great day isn’t it?”  The response in my head was neither friendly or ladylike.  Zack, being the southern gentleman he is, says hello back and offers a snack to the happy cyclist.  This conversation was like many where the two travelers discuss where they had been, how long it took, sights they saw, etc.  What this happy fucker said next turned my tired frustration into Frankenstein style rage.  “Oh yeah, the whole park is so beautiful.  Can you believe it only took me 30 minutes to get up here?  But hey, it’s much faster on a bike, hahaha!”  I had a vivid thought of throwing his bike off of this peak churning his bones to make my bread.  Not really but you get the gist.  “Oh it only took you 30 minutes you @#$%#2553@$$%^?!!!”

We left our vista point with my pack correctly adjusted, heads down, pace consistent.  We finally arrived to headquarters via a small bridge at the edge of the parking lot.  I had to wait a few minutes while Zack and Danger caught up; I felt victorious and sad at the same moment as I stared at the store that had closed hours ago.  No beer, boo.  I was also feeling a little annoyed because the store’s lights were on, probably for inventory or end of the day cleaning.  As Zack and Danger caught up I said, “Those assholes are teasing us with the lights on.”  We take a moment for a well deserved high-five and walk slowly towards headquarters.  All the while I’m staring at the store and notice a rack of shirts on the deck.  Wait a minute.  I see the door open and someone go in!  Zack and I stop, look at each other and take off running.  OMG THE BEER IS OPEN!  My back no longer ached and the pack was no longer heavy as I take off on a penguin style sprint to the store while Danger is behind me yelling, “DON’T FALL!”  Best.  Beer.  Ever.


Waddell Beach, where the hike ended