Senses of the Backcountry
The emotions that I feel in the backcountry are so great in magnitude, they define the person I am and strive to be. No man-made experience or worldly materialistic pleasure can substitute the bliss of nature in my mind. The majority of these feelings are internalized inside me because they are for the most part in-expressible and would only make sense in my own brain. The best that I can do is attempt to explain what happens to me when I embark on a trip, but nothing written down can do this experience justice.
For me to soak in everything the backcountry has to offer means to fully embrace all of my senses at work. I close my eyes and listen. I listen to the whispering winds move through the trees, up the valley, on my tent, test my campfire, make me shiver. I listen to the birds sing and the conversation they have with each other from dawn until dusk. I listen to the crack of twigs which causes me to peak in fear of an unwanted, four legged visitor. I listen to the lack of conversation. I listen to my breathing, to my heartbeat, to the song stuck in my head. I listen to nothing at all. Complete silence is something I have yet to find in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I listen to the sounds of nature because I can.
Keeping my eyes closed, I enjoy the variety of smells. I smell the crisp, non-polluted mountain air. The collection of pine; each one distinct and no where near the “candle equivalence”. I smell moisture after a rain or snow. I can distinguish the life that inhabits the busy forest. I smell the wood burn in my campfire, and the meal I’ve chosen to eat. I am pleasantly surprised at the smell of the absence of what fills my lungs in the “real world”.
Eyes still closed I begin to embrace what I touch but more importantly what I feel. I feel the cold earth beneath my feet and bum. I notice the season: warm sun, cool breeze, chill of snow, and rain. I feel it all, to its full extent whether I realize it or not. I feel the ache and soreness of my body’s muscles. My legs from hiking, shoulders back and hips from the weight of my pack, and weary lungs from the thin mountain air. I feel the warmth of the fire and the warmth of the tea in my chest. I feel anxious, eager, satisfied, scared, safe, alone, invigorated, warm, cold, exhausted, energized, joyful, thankful, humbled, lost, found, and most of all observant. All feelings with their own story and meaning. I feel a hundred emotions at once and separately, something that isn’t possible anywhere else.
Now I can open my eyes. What I can visually observe is the most significant out of the senses in comprehending the backcountry. I see what’s close to me and what is far. My aching hands, tired feet, wilting trees and all of my equipment. In the distance I see the deep canyons and streams, the sheer cliffs and intimidating peaks. I see the eternally green meadows and rolling hills. These serene landscapes effortlessly prove their beauty and worth in living up to their titles.
What’s important to me is seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling all that isn’t there and how it is such a blessing to escape those things and experience the new ones. These aspects are what make the backcountry a spectacular place for me. As said previously it is impossible to write down everything as this is just scratching the surface. When I’m not there I can easily close my eyes and imagine the sights, smells, sounds, and feelings that embody this entire experience. This is what backpacking means to me, and these are my observations.