By Heritage Inspirations Guide Sally Pryor
Sally is Heritage Inspirations newest guide and she enthusiastically leads an introductory overnight backpacking experience in the glorious Enchanted Circle North of Taos. She believes backpacking allows you to know the power of your body and challenges you to experience the elements, thereby giving you wings to grow. For more info on our latest tour, go here.
You are not a beginner. No one is. It is written in our bones how to walk, climb and survive. We are highly adaptable, growing into the will and skill to prevail in almost any environment. Frequently, we are adapted to urban environments where crosswalks and grocery stores are our guidelines while the forest, the desert, the sunrise and sunset are no longer our natural parameters. But, that doesn’t mean they don’t have to be.
For some folks, taking the first step towards any new skill can be intimidating. For others, it can be an exhilarating adventure. In the wonderful world of the outdoor experience exists a happy middle ground between the two, where one can discover the tools integral to a successful experience. Having well maintained gear is an important element of safety and comfort, however this is not all you will need. Two other factors that contribute to the foundation of a happy first outdoors experience are adequate preparedness and a balanced attitude.
When it comes to gear, preparedness and attitude, I like to introduce the matriarch pioneer of outdoor adventure, Emma “Grandma” Gatewood. She was the first woman to complete a thru-hike of the 2,200-mile Appalachian trail, and did so in 1955 at the age of 67. She walked the trail carrying her belongings in a shower curtain thrown over her shoulder, wearing only Keds. Amazingly, she successfully completed this feat twice more in her lifetime. Her success came from her infallible attitude and how well she knew how to use her tools, however simple they were.
These days, modern outdoors people have access to technology patented by NASA, which has hugely expanded wilderness access to all. We have ultralight gear and collapsible bowls, GPS devices and Vibram soles. We can get farther faster and higher for longer than we ever have… and yet those are still not the pivotal points of hiking success.
Like Grandma Gatewood, for me, the introspection during a hiking experience helps me come back with an appreciation for everything outside of everyday life. Not the nicest backpack in the world can give that experience.
So, once you have meditated on your infallible wilderness attitude understand that creature comforts like a warm dry sleeping bag nestled inside your waterproof backpack are absolutely pivotal elements of a good attitude and your ultimate level of preparedness. There are certainly the Grandma Gatewoods and Siddhartha Gautamas of the modern world renouncing the material comforts of a Nemo Tent and Osprey backpack, but realistically none of us are tougher than snow.
The equipment provided by Taos Mountain Outfitters for the overnight backpacking experience was chosen with the introductory user in mind. All of the equipment are 2019 models chosen for comfort, usability, and lightness. The Osprey Renn (women’s) and Rook (men’s) backpacks are just right for a quick trip and are light, fully adjustable and customizable to the individual. We have synthetic Lumina sleeping bags and pillows by Mountain Hardware to keep warm below freezing, as well as state of the art North Face Talus tents for dependable shelter. A variety of cooking stoves will be demonstrated and compared to one another for weight and use.
Lastly, how do you prepare for something you don’t even know how to do? Bringing an experienced friend or hiring a professional guide is a great way to set yourself up for success. That keen eye can guide you to a world of comfort and happiness, within the limits of nature and the elements, until you have the tools to successfully do that yourself. At the end of the day, getting out and giving it a shot is the only way to find out what really works for you. It took me trial and error to discover what makes my hike smooth.
Come give the mountains a shot with me, and see what they can give you to take home so you can continue this form of outdoor adventure on your own. Or as Grandma Gatewood would say about hiking, “The sum of the whole is this: Walk and be happy; Walk and be healthy.” It’s really as simple as that!