A couple of days ago, a girlfriend brought up the idea of having a backpacking club for women. It sounds like an amazing idea to me, but I’m not the one to start it. I am, to say the least, incredibly inexperienced in that way, though I would like to be less so.
Where I now live, it seems like people began their outdoor adventures before birth, or just after, and it helps to make them at home in nature in a way I have yet to find. I have this lovely memory, for instance, of a friend helping me through some pseudo altitude sickness when we went backcountry snowshoeing together a couple of years ago. She, of course, was the pregnant one, a few months away from giving birth. I was just the newbie. Now, her toddler son is already well-versed in the outdoors; it’s in his blood.
Being outside has always been one of my favorite things, but growing up in Texas and Maryland didn’t prepare me for it in the same way people in this part of California are. I have a few memories of car camping but my family didn’t strap on backpacks and go out for weeks at a time. That is in no way a knock against my parents that we didn’t do that; no one I knew did. But here, families adventure together often; by adulthood, it’s second nature, or perhaps even first, to wander through the mountains, to know the names of trees, to understand the cycles of weather.
Regardless, yesterday I found myself outside in this glorious playground of a world, on a hike that took us past a locked gate and high above the ocean. Up and down we walked, eventually stopping for a picnic and watching the water. It was so calm it reminded me of a lake. We listened to the sea lions bark and growl, loud though not close, and watched dozens of pelicans fly by. And I remembered that, in my life, I have never felt such peace as I do when I’m simply steeped in this earth.
There’s a significant part of me that still looks forward to becoming more comfortable outside, perhaps some day becoming capable in a way that allows me to contribute to the design of my own wildwandering. Yet if all I ever do is hike during the day, stretching my legs against the breath of this planet, it’s still such an enormous gift to know the power of just that.
And yet, who knows? Perhaps soon there will be a backpacking club for women. Perhaps they’ll be ok with my inexperience. Perhaps they’ll teach me things I need to know.
Perhaps I could fall in love with this life – with the ocean and the sea lions and the trees and the forest and the way the wind moves it all around and the magnificence that comes with a change in weather – in a whole new way.
My fingers are crossed.