The (Not-So) Great Outdoors and Why It's Worth It

This past weekend I, along with several of my schoolmates, embarked on a trek through the mountains to go snow camping. I approached the endeavor with a mite of trepidation, since it had been a good five years since the one and only time I had been camping. I felt a little like Hamish Bowles on his expedition for Vogue. This is not to say I am a novice outdoorsman (outdoorswoman?) per se, but never, in all my seventeen years, had I been backpacking. Especially not in the snow.

Starting out I felt great. The air was crisp and with my backpack strapped tight I felt ready to take on the world. Ten minutes later I was sweating, my hair was coming out of my braids, and my hip flexors were burning. But I trudged on, remembering my mother’s admonitions not to whine.

When we finally arrived at our campsite setting up camp was easy enough. We pitched the tents (I use the term “we” generously since I found tent construction beyond me) and then puttered about after, trying to keep busy (and warm) before dinner. As the sun set the cold arrived and after tortellini and hot chocolate everyone headed to bed.

I had expected the trip to be cold. I had imagined myself coming in from the biting night air, hopping in my deliciously warm sleeping bag, and drifting off to sleep. I was not prepared for the reality.

I found myself huddled in a ball on my disappointingly thin sleeping pad, desperately pressing hand warmers to my face in an effort to combat the bone-deep cold that had settled over the tent. I would finally lull myself to sleep only to awake an hour later, colder than before. My tentmates and I tried to huddle together for warmth, but the slope of the ground kept repeatedly rolling my friend Kate to the other side of the tent. Thirteen hellish hours later we emerged, stiff and sore from our sleeping bags. After oatmeal and some “snow-ga” (yoga in the snow), we packed up and headed out. The hike back was subdued, everyone keeping to themselves—a far cry from the day before. There was only one feeble attempt to make conversation about Sinead O’Connor which was greeted by silence from the rest of the group.

It may seem that this entry is written to warn everyone against camping or backpacking. However, as I reached the crest of the last hill and saw the parking lot below me, I was overcome with a feeling of accomplishment. All the aches and pains seemed to disappear as I dropped my pack to the ground and collapsed down next to it. I felt dirty, sweaty, tired, but above all, triumphant. As awful and cold the night before had been, I had gotten through it. I have a theory that snow camping is like childbirth. It sucks while you’re doing it but it’s worth it in the end. Plus back in the land of central heating and indoor plumbing you begin to forget just how truly miserable you were that night. Looking back I would say snow camping was worth it for the bonding and the stories to tell less adventurous friends and family. Now I don’t think I’ll ever go snow camping again, but I’ve already got my eye on the senior backpacking trip this summer . . .

If you’re heading to the great outdoors and are looking for good hikes throughout the Northwest check out these books for some ideas:

Hiking the great Northwest : 55 great trails in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Northern California, British Columbia, and the Canadian Rockies / Harvey Manning, Ira Spring, Vicky Spring.

Washington hiking : the complete guide to more than 400 hikes / Scott Leonard.

–Hannah, Teen Center Adviser

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