My son and I went backpacking again this year. I’m not talking anything more than finding an out-of-the-way spot in beautiful surroundings that is not hours from the car. And it must be quiet and serene. We know of a couple of places, even if we have to put in some driving to get there.
My son was distracted for a bit because he left behind a new girlfriend, but he did get into the relaxation pretty quickly after all. His dog, as was the case last year, was very happy from the onset. And so was I. Camping for me is the art of finding the right place and then doing nothing. I’m busy a lot of the year and it is not on my radar to hike all over creation changing camps. I need rest and quiet. And no lightning is also a good thing.
We certainly have the art of doing nothing down pretty well. The camp was about three minutes from a river and about fifteen minutes from a lake. And this year, we camped when it was a full-moon. It was easy, no matter the time of day or night, to take off and hike to the river or even the lake.
If one is properly equipped, camping may be camping, but it is still a kind of luxury. We hike in wine for instance—not in bottles of course, in “platypus” bags (and no, we don’t buy bagged wine, we transfer it from bottles before we start hiking). We pump our water though a filter and add grapefruit seed extract for good measure—all into two, 2.5 gallon bags that hang in camp. And we have a 4-gallon pot that we keep over the fire to clean ourselves and our dishes. I even have a camping espresso-maker for that coffee that tastes so good in the morning. And we have these amazingly lightweight camping hammocks for hanging out in. In other words, for backpacking and sleeping in tents, we live large. I’m still trying to figure out how to have less than a seventy-pound pack, but I do carry in my oatmeal and almonds and that weighs a ton, not counting the wine of course. Someone needs to work on a great dehydrated red wine—that would help the weight factor considerably.
Everything we do doesn’t take long to do. Procuring water and firewood, along with cooking and cleaning, is about it. In short, we spend most of our time doing nothing. My son was pretty tired and though we’d go to bed between eleven and midnight, he wouldn’t get up until noon. And then he went to his hammock. And then we’d meander down to the lake (I’d already been about four times already), do some exploring (I’d already done that as well), talk, read, watch his dog being a dog in the wilderness, and we’d lay around some more. And then we’d hike back to camp and read some more and take a nap in our hammocks. Then we’d practice starting a fire with flint. And then we’d get the fire going with a match. And we’d sit and watch the fire. And then we’d eat. And talk. And have desert. And talk. And listen to the quiet. And have some wine. And talk. And listen. And then go to the river and then to sleep. Then repeat the next day.
It’s a long prescription, but it is big medicine. We’d all be a lot better off if we did took this kind of medicine at least once a year for a week. It will bother most of us—that kind of time off, that kind of beauty, and that nothingness is not our normal lives. But in a world where we spend so much of our energy trying to explain an encumbered awareness and trying to survive an encumbered existence, living in such a way that fosters an unencumbered life is a reminder about what’s really important. And doing so with those we love is a value added that no job, no possession, and no accolade can ever match.
The next time you find yourself wondering what’s important or what you can do to be healthier, think beauty and quiet and a period of time with nothing to do with those you love who can do and appreciate the same thing. It’s actually cheap and it actually works and it doesn’t require a medical degree, license, or insurance. Universal health care here we come!