Notes from my Knapsack 5-8-14
Every walk is an adventure, or can be
Our weather in all its springtime glorious confusion at least allows for the possibility of walks.
Threats of ice and snow will keep all but snowshoers at home, yet the mere threat of cold and even rain shouldn't stop a devoted stroller from hitting the trail.
As you might hear from Scout Troop 65, and many avid adventurers or at least Everest Gear customers will tell you, there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.
Some wear ponchos, or have hi-tech rain coats and pullover pants, but I tend to just stick with a cap to keep the droplets off my glasses and a sturdy jacket that's rain resistant. It's enough to keep a drizzle from bothering me, and just absorbent enough to convince me to find shelter if it really comes on to a downpour.
Out at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico last summer, we had our pack covers and mandatory waterproof rain jacket and pants, made necessary by the 10,000 foot elevation possibility not just of rain but a hard shower combined with major temperature drops, where a soaking can lead even in July to hypothermia.
We only used it all on the trail once, in a brief series of spattering rains that petered out before we got to the campsite, maybe twenty minutes all told; but out backpacking, raingear is like a parachute. You may never need it, but when you do, it had better be there.
Closer to home you can take some measured chances, and only worry about having to cut short your walk. The hardest rain I've walked in the last few weeks came down out of a sunny sky, the kind of shower that some mark by saying out loud "the devil's beating his wife again." It's a saying Germanic in origin, and who knows what it originally means, but I recall older leaders saying it at camp while the rest of us kids looked for a rainbow, the other common outcome of a sunshine shower.
Every good long walk includes something of every other walk you've taken in it. I've noticed that each exertion up a hill, curve of trail, or opening of an unexpected vista triggers a cascade of memory, some visual and others more visceral, scent or sound, of other hikes I've gone on.
The multifloral rose and garlic mustard have nothing in common with juniper and sagebrush; and there's a big difference between the air at 750 feet above sea level and 12,441 of 'em, but when you're walking up a steep slope, there's a slip and a steadying sidestep, and suddenly you have a vivid memory of a stretch of trail.
I may be in Ohio and in 2014, but cresting a hill and seeing a particular curve of the next valley, and the angle of the trail ahead, and I recall hiking with my dad in the 1960s at Turkey Run State Park in Indiana.
And settling into a steady stride with blue skies above and a certain pattern of the crossing clouds across the sun, and there's a flash of heading up to Fort Adams on Mackinac Island.
Someday, I trust, this walk just finished will be brought to mind by the angle of the sun in early May, a quality of the wind and clouds, and the sensations of movement forwards. Every walk contains every other walk, I believe.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about your favorite walk at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.