Ranger Kathryn's Arches

April 24, 2011

Up side / Down side

Find our yellow tent hiding in this photo.

Just for fun I’ve tried to summarize my backpacking trip into two lists. Here they are:

UP SIDE: Being in the fresh air 24/7. Stunning scenery. The smell of sage. Finding artifacts everywhere. Sleeping on the ground. Pushing my body nearer to its limits. Climbing down a ladder into an ancient kiva. Sound slumber. Relying on maps because there are no trail signs anywhere. The fine taste of camping food, no matter how humble it is. Learning about ancestral people from a millennium ago, solely via what they left behind. Silence. Getting along fine without a toilet or outhouse. A Mountain Bluebird that made us do a double-take, it was so blue.  Lavender-scented sunscreen. No cell service. Drinking our tea out of the pot because we had no mugs. Seeing few humans. Watching what the sun does to the rocks at day’s beginning and end. Being okay with physical discomfort. Claret Cup Cactus with many scarlet buds. Finding out how strong women really are. Stumbling upon a Peregrine Falcon pair. Training my eye to see likely places where we’d locate ruins. The fine taste of filtered spring water. Lizards. Studying a strand of black hair mortared into an ancient granary. Never having to go inside. Holding pottery shards. Attending to the sun and the sky. A cozy sleeping bag. Rock scrambling. Feeling a strong sense of connection with everything around me. Hiking twenty miles.

Does tree-climbing increase happiness? Or do happy people climb trees?

DOWN SIDE: None. Except possibly the pricklypear glochids that lodged in my left thumb when I reached out to stabilize myself. But I got ‘em out. Mostly.

Put those two lists on your scales and weigh them. And then borrow a backpack and go into the wild! Take a child, a parent or grandparent, a sibling or a friend with you. If you have limitations that prevent you from going, rent a wonderful documentary about backpacking a major trail, pop some popcorn, and enjoy it vicariously.


  1. The documentary idea sounds like a distant – but viable – second.
    Thanks for the suggestion.

    Comment by leroque — April 24, 2011 @ 10:55 am | Reply

    • I had my dear dad in mind… you and I both love documentaries… especially the ones that make you almost feel like you’re there.

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — April 25, 2011 @ 7:57 pm | Reply

  2. on future trips would you do without the tent to shed some weight, or is it considered a necessity? Backpacking is much more rewarding than camping, no doubt.

    Comment by john — April 24, 2011 @ 11:36 am | Reply

    • Definitely, John. I love love love having nothing between me and the Milky Way.

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — April 25, 2011 @ 7:56 pm | Reply

  3. I see it! However, I don’t see you in it.

    Comment by Allen Gislason — April 24, 2011 @ 8:57 pm | Reply

    • I think I gotta get famous before “they” ask me to play even a cameo role. Hmmm… what could I do to get famous???

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — April 25, 2011 @ 7:54 pm | Reply

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