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.


I Hate You yet Love You, You Nasty Lovely Feet of Mine


Claire and Zack in RMNPI hate feet. They look like bulbous swamp monsters ready to disarm you with their sweat soaked stench. My boyfriend uses this not-so-fun hatred of mine against me by sticking his hairy, hobbit-like feet in my face, and/or grabbing and tickling mine. I hate pedicures; I’m incredibly ticklish and wince at the sight of the yellowed and calloused toes next to me. Toes are sweaty, strange little demons that look like underdeveloped fingers. My hatred is silly, I know this. Yet, while I am hiking; miserable, tired and hungry, my feet keep me going. I reflect on an experience I had on day three of a weekend trip through the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado with my boyfriend, Zachary and his brother, Sean. For me, day three was a roller coaster of mixed emotions ranging from emotional exhaustion to emotional euphoria stemming from the realization we were on the home stretch; but the trek from third base to home was 9 miles long. I distinctly remember reaching mile three; we were surrounded by a section of the forest devastated by recent fires and my breath was short, shortening by the minute. I popped my i-Pod headphones into my ears and turned my head downward. The feet I hated so much became the object of my visual fixation. I watched as they trekked along, undeterred, unwavering, unaware of my general discomfort. These feet take so much abuse from me and my hobbies that include 40 mile hikes through the Colorado Rockies. I looked down at them as they carried me to the ultimate goal; pizza and beer. It became a sort of mediation. I watched my shoes as they participated in this boring yet choreographed dance through the Colorado wilderness and my hatred became a little less harsh. I was in awe of their strength and their tenacity to help me see my goal.

The wilderness does strange things to your mind. One minute I’m a staunch foot hater and the next, lose three miles in awe of my own. That my complicated life could be made so simple was astounding.” – Cheryl Strayed.

Love, Not Always Obvious