The days are still warm, but there is an edge in the coolness of the night that lets us know summer is loosening her grip, and autumn is just around the corner. This September, as summer is winding down I ventured to the Pacific Northwest for a couple camping trips. The first was a backpacking trip, something I am accustomed to. The finite space of backpacking makes planning and packing easier somehow. A game of Tetris played with nylon and down, freeze dried meals and titanium cookware. After all the necessities are in you may have room for a comfort item or two, for this trip it was a fishing rod and a swim mask (okay it's always a swim mask) My partner opts for a journal and a good book.
Short sleeves and a swimsuit are still standard fare, but a down jacket, and the warmer sleeping bag made their way into my pack as well. Locking, double locking and triple locking my car I help my partner into her backpack, then slide into my own. The well worn straps hold a motley collection of camping gear that consists of tried and true favorites and new prototypes being tested for the first time. The battered old Titanium cookset cradles a new stove. The tent that has been battered by snow and winds on peaks all over the country made the cut, as did a new sleeping bag I am excited to share with you (soon I promise!) The trailhead disappears into the forest from a small unmarked pull off on a small country road. Leaving my car in places like this always gives me some anxiety… did I remember to lock it? Oh well, fortune favors the bold! Onward and downward we go. Boots crunch soft earth, crickets chirp, birdsong floats through the forest. The clear cold water cascades down the coastal mountain range, occasionally gathering in emerald pools, still and full of trout beneath their glassy surface.
Making camp while backpacking is a practiced habit that comes easily. Spot Chosen, Tent up, airmat filled, sleeping bag unfurled, hammock hung, kitchen arranged, and food tied high away from bears. The simplicity of the gear, their honed purpose makes setting up camp take moments. The backpacking gear I design I try to have it be simple enough to use for the first time, in the dark, while hungry, though I hope that will not be the case. The “work” of camping done I dive into the leisure of it. The chill water takes my breath away, how do kids swim for so long even when it's cold?
For me, venturing out into the wilderness is a chance to meditate on the basics: Food, Clothing, and shelter. A romantic, if optimistic, view that no matter how bad things get I can always return to nature. That I am as much a part of the natural world as I choose to be. Floating downstream, the canopy of leaves and needles overhead, my tidy dry and warm campsite on the river bank, miles from the sound of an engine, or cell reception I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the end of summer.