Hiking Lost Nations Hunting Grounds
The Riddle of Strider
BY J.R.R. TOLKIEN
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadow shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
Ramblings of an artist and nature enthusiast
When I was young, and not full of very many fears, I had always romanticized the thought of backpacking in the mountains. It was more than a silly school girl's dream though. I really wanted to do this. Unfortunately, I fell victim to all of the neigh-sayers out there who's common purpose was to strip me of my own confidence and personal power. How many of you have heard this:
- The woods are a dangerous place for women to be.
- Aren't you afraid of bears and cougars?
- Make sure you take a map and a compass. GPS and cell phones don't always work out there. What would you do if you got lost?
- Anyone who goes out hiking in the winter is nuts! Its too cold out there and the gear is expensive. You will probably get frost bite.
- How can you afford all that stuff?
- You have diabetes and scleroderma. You won't survive out there. Its too much strain on your body. I'll just stand by and wait for you to call so I can come rescue you.
- Backpacking is for people who are in shape. You are not. You had better rethink this.
Taking back my personal power
So this year has been an incredible journey of growth already, and I have decided to take back my physical health, take back my mental health, and reclaim my personal power. I have decided to teach my children everything I know so they do not have to be fearful of the wild and unknowing.
When it comes to the outdoors, that's just what it is. You do not know what you may need till you need it. You might not have what you think you need, so you need to adapt, improvise, and overcome. I am learning to be less passive out in the woods, and more active.
In the past, I have relied on men who know more than I do about navigation, because the struggle is real and I suck at navigation. There are boogie monsters out in the woods, and lions and tigers and bears! Oh My! And what if I starve? I will need a cooler, cast iron, a bundle of wood and kindling, a mattress because I'm totally princess and the pea, and a 6 person tent with a screened in eating area...because mosquitoes. All of this comes from my KOA camping experiences as a kid. It comes from generations of male oppression. It comes from being taught from a very young age that women don't belong in the woods because its not feminine and its a scary place to be.
I'm not scared any more.
So what changed?
Fact of the matter is that I am not getting any younger. I am however more in control of my health than I have been in the last 20 years. It feels like I've been granted a window of opportunity, and if I don't take it, I may be looking back on my life, in my old age, with regrets. No one wants regrets. I do not want to look back on my life and think that I never took a leap of bravery (and possibly stupidity) and did something badass.
More changed than just that realization though. I met people that know more than I do. I feel empowered to research. I learned what I don't know, I didn't know. I started putting together gear and learning how to use it one step at a time.
I contacted my doctor and asked her how she would recommend I start preparing my body for a day trip, and then a weekend trip, all leading up to a 7-10 day trip. Then I contracted a wellness coach to prepare not only my body, but my mind for the challenges ahead of me on the trails.
What I didn't realize is that I have been doing day trips for pretty much my whole life, but taking a very passive roll in my woodland adventures. I was afraid to travel solo because I did not know what to do if I got lost, mostly because I didn't not know how to navigate. I did not know how to start a fire unless it was in a BBQ grill using lighter fluid. Lastly, I did not know how to protect my body from the elements if I lost my way and night time came around.
Now that I know what I didn't know I didn't know...
I started small and purchased a farro rod. I was a little bit surprised to find out it doesn't start the fire per say. You create a coal with the sparks, and then you add kindling to start a small fire and then build on that.
Fatwood. It is the coolest freaking thing ever! Fatwood happens when pine sap collects at the crook of dead branches. To harvest it, grab your hatchet and thunk it a few times with the back side. You can use it as a fire starter, or use a larger piece as a candle for a longer burn. In the spring, pine sap runs like crazy out of our trees, and I have been collecting the little amber pieces that have mixed with dried pine needles at the base of the trees. It makes a fantastic fire starter if you are using a bic lighter.
Now I know 2 ways to start a fire, and probably a half dozen more ways to set it up to keep warm depending on what kind and how much fuel (wood) can be found. I know how to set a fire for warmth and for cooking.
I can use a hatchet to cut down a small tree, and a knife and hatchet to whittle it down to a spoon. I can panass a fish (once I learn how to fish). Its a process.
My pack is 15 lbs (minus food and clothing) and I have been walking and hiking with it. There is sooooo much more that I have learned and accumulated, but so little space in this post to put it! I guess you will just have to wait for an update.