In the age of social media it seems we are more aware of the daily holidays that exist in our country. When I saw there was a National Backpacker's Day I knew I had to get on board with this one! I mean, how do you NOT celebrate National Backpacker's Day when you're basically a professional backpacker?! I won't be able to spend the day backpacking, but I'll be out on the trail in just a few days. In the meantime, I can actually reflect on what being a backpacker means to me.
As someone who was never deemed athletic as a kid or an adolescent, becoming a backpacker in my mid 20s had such a positive change on my life. In fact, I can honestly say I wouldn't be the person I am today without putting that pack on my back over Labor Day 2008. I remember that trip incredibly vividly. Not owning any gear of my own and the person I was with only having enough gear for one person we did the best we could. Armed with a sleeping pad, a bag, and a liner, we decided one person could sleep in the sleeping bag and one person could use the pad and the liner. I carried a day pack with some food, the liner, and the pad. He carried the alcohol stove, sleeping bag, and some food. We hiked in a whole 2 miles to the Kephart Prong shelter in the Smokies. I remember thinking just before we got there just how hard this hike was and hoping it was going to be over soon. Just before I asked the ubiquitous "are we there yet?!" we had arrived. I hardly slept at all - I was freezing cold for one thing, and a mouse kept getting in the sleeping bag of the person above me in the shelter, so she was yelling periodically. The next morning I was chased by bees at the fire pit. Still, I was hooked.
Since that trip nine years ago I've learned so much about hiking and backpacking. In fact, I'm still learning things every single time I'm out on the trail with someone new. I've gone from carrying a 29-pound pack to a 19-pound pack. I've upgraded my gear and hiked closer to 10,000 miles than I ever thought I would. I've learned I'm capable of making critical decisions and doing hard things. I've discovered that my body is stronger than I ever gave it credit for. I also discovered that the old adage "Garbage in, garbage out" is truer than you'll ever know.
For me, backpacking isn't just a way of life. Backpacking is my life. I am so incredibly lucky to get the chance to teach people how to do it the proper way. I get to share my love of distance hiking with wanna-be thru hikers. I even get the chance to take people out into the forest for what could be their very first trail experience. National Backpacker's Day, for me, is a way to honor the role it plays in my life.
Does your favorite hobby or job have a national day? What does it mean to you and how do you celebrate?