Backpacking is Mud and Mangoes

Aiden Baker poses in front of the world renowned valleys of the Swiss Alps.

By Alexis Price, Assistant Sports Editor

Summer brings freedom from school, responsibilities, and annoying classmates. For many, summer means chilling at the pool or hanging out at the beach. Most of these activities are relaxing physically and mentally, but there are those individuals who spend their summers engaging in the thrill seeking adventures of the outdoors.  

Backpacking and rock climbing are some of the exciting summer activities for these adrenaline junkies. The fresh pine air and cool breeze are just a few reasons why these high thrill seekers endure hard treks on trails, mountains, and boulders. Some SDA students plan to engage in these eye-opening experiences to let themselves become one with nature this summer.

“I was backpacking once and my boots got stuck in mud. I was with all of my friends and I literally fell into the mud because my backpack was so heavy, like sixty pounds. So then, they had to pull me up which was really funny,” junior Stephen Baker said.

When carrying a pack ranging from 50 to 70 pounds, resulting in legs feeling like stone, Baker experiences the treacherous physical strains backpacking can cause. “[The most difficult part] definitely is the work you have to put into it,” Baker said. “If something in your backpack falls out, it is a hassle to pick back up.”

During senior Julie Daughter’s first backpacking experience in Yosemite during the summer of 2017, she slept in her hammock, ate cup of noodles, and trekked over 20 miles with temperatures ranging from 40 to 90 degrees in just two days. The trip was exciting but came with a few frustrations of its own. Daughters expected sun burns, as most would, but running downhill carrying a 70 pound backpack with only a tank top on had unexpected consequences.

“I once had my backpack on and was wearing this razorback tank top. We were going down hill and the backpack would bounce a little bit,”  said Daughters.“[At the end of the day], I realized I had scabs on my back from getting my skin burned.”

Despite the pain from the burns she continued her trek, passing world renowned national landmarks like Half Dome, Vernal Falls, and Yosemite Valley. “Try it, it is really fun to backpack,” said Daughters. “It is worthwhile, and even better with family.”

Not everyone enjoys the nature however, sometimes it is just about that competition… or simply always coming in second. For sophomore James Mills, the most enjoyable activities of backpacking stem from healthy camaraderie with his friend sophomore Nathan Montanez. “My favorite part is eating Nathan’s dust,” said Mills. “That is also my least favorite part.”

Despite the challenges and frustrations of backpacking, the journey is worth the trip for many, no matter how far or how long.

What you carry can make a big difference between a successful trip or not – especially food – but not for the reasons most may think. Dehydrated foods aren’t always the tastiest, and it is hard to manage the amount of food you carry because even ounces add up weight in a pack. For senior Michaela Lafferty, she always carries dehydrated lasagna, even if it is a bit heavy. However, this meal can really hit the sweet spot after a long day of backpacking. “Last year we brought dehydrated lasagna, which sounds really disgusting, but it was so good, and all you do is add warm water into a pot. It was so good,” Lafferty said.

The stress of finding the right trail or bringing a compass is not a worry for junior Aiden Clarke, as long as he has his dried mangos. Sometimes, a favorite food can make the journey just a bit easier. “It’s kind of heavy, but it’s worth the weight,” he said.

However, getting lost can be a big problem for some people, especially if the map is left on the car seat, regardless of whether a person is an experienced hiker or not.

“Start backpacking early in case you get lost, or if it’s a multi day trip you should have a map,” said Clarke who has experienced several hours of mindless trail travel, badly marked signs, abandoned cabins, and deer trails.

Though backpacking has many potential challenges, outdoor enthusiasts like Lafferty try other activities that require less preparation. Her calloused hands, tight climbing shoes, and a bag of chalk is all that she needs for her bouldering adventures. She bounces back and forth from backpacking to bouldering during the summer. On of the ways Lafferty has been training for rock climbing this summer is by rock climbing for about an hour and a half, once or twice a week, at Vital Climbing Gym in Carlsbad.

“The plan is Joshua Tree this summer. There is this guide group called Golden State Guildings, it’s two guys that will take you out and show you a course, so you will basically not die. So I plan on doing that this summer,” Lafferty said.

This summer, these students plan on continuing their backpacking adventures in a variety of locations.

Last summer, Baker participated in a backpacking program called Upward Bound, with seven other high schoolers, none of whom he had met before. The group was led by two instructors who guided them for a little over two months in the Aldernak Mountains of upstate mountains of New York. This summer he is participating in the program again, and is thrilled to be doing so.  

Daughters is planning on heading up to Yosemite again, and hopes to trek on the John Muir Trail.

Zion National Park, Utah, is just one hiking destination that Lafferty plans on backpacking with her dad and sister before college in the fall. After spending time hiking in Inyo National Park in the Eastern Sierras of California and Nevada with her friends last summer, Lafferty can not wait for this summer’s plans.

Montanez, the “energizer bunny” according to Mills, has been backpacking for over five years, hiking a plethora of mountains down the west coast. After school gets out, Montanez plans on dragging Mills to Joshua Tree in northern California.

Like Montanez, Clarke has been backpacking summer after summer, even trekking across the Swiss Alps in Europe. After climbing Mt. Langley, Mt. Clarke, and Mt. Whitney in the past, Clarke plans on taking his adventures a bit closer to the Eastern Sierras in Northern California.

People of all fitness levels can try hiking, and backpacking is not that much different. However, nature can draw anyone to the outdoors, and can help be a quick vacation from the stresses of daily life.

“I enjoy the isolation and being out in the wilderness,” said Clarke. “It is like an escape from society and a source of inspiration.”