"Would you like to go backpacking with the church's outdoor club this August long weekend?" asked my dad.
"Sure," I said. University students are good at carrying backpacks, aren't they? Even if they've never been officially "backpacking" before?
"Sounds good!" said my dad. "I'll sign you up."
When all was said and done, there were ten people signed up for this outdoor adventure. We consisted of:
- 4 (four) members from a family that goes on major hikes almost every weekend
- 2 (two) twenty-something guys that run marathons for fun
- 1 (one) guy that has the build and stamina of a Sasquatch
- 3 (three) never-been-backpacking Heinrichs family members, including two females who do not even pretend to try to work out
Packing bags with everything you need to survive is an interesting task. I was resigned to being a she-mule, but my dad kept stressing that every pound counts and not to bring anything that wasn't absolutely necessary. He himself was foregoing deodorant.
"Dad," said my sister and I, "If you don't bring deodorant, we may not want to walk beside you during the hike."
He grumbled. Then I slid Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky into my sack.
"Carla," said my dad, "If you bring that book, you will be the only person on the trip reading. Every pound, every gram counts."
"But I need it to survive," I whined.
When my sister and I put on our packed backpacks for the first time, we nearly fell over backwards down the stairs. That may have been when Mom started to get worried.
"I'll be praying for you," she said as we piled into the van.
Six hours later, we pulled into Jasper National Park. We poked around, found the public washrooms, met up with the rest of the group, and learned from the information desk that a bear had pawed at the tent of a group of backpackers on our trail just a few days ago. Then we played Scrabble and spent the night at a hostel.
Then it was morning and we had breakfast in the hostel's cookhouse. Thinking I had better get help from the experienced, I asked the trip organizer, Clary, to check what I had packed and possibly fix it so that I wouldn't fall backwards down the mountain. She referred me to her son, who was drinking something from a mug at the time.
"Justin will tell you how you packed," said Clary. "He's good at that kind of thing."
"Luke will help, too," said notmybrother!Justin. "We have mugs, see? We're the official packing panel. It's like we're judges on TV."
"But you don't have brand names on your mugs, so you aren't being sponsored by any corporations," said my sister.
"Hush," said Justin. "You don't have a mug. You're not on the panel."
Seeing as I'd soon being peeing in bushes, I figured it shouldn't be too weird to show a couple of guys my age all the personal things I'd packed.
First they nixed the tea towel.
"What do you plan to use a tea towel for?" asked Justin.
"To, you know, dry things. Like our dishes," I replied.
"Use your pants," said Justin.
Then I showed them my grocery bag of clothes.
"You won't have that bag by the end of the weekend," said Justin. "What clothes do you have in there?"
"Um, pajamas, socks, a hat..." I said.
"Does she need anything else?" Justin said to Luke.
"No," Luke said.
"And I have two sweaters," I said. "A zippered jacket for ease of use and a warm one I lifted from my brother."
They looked at each other. "Should we make her choose between them?" Justin asked Luke. They conferred with each other about the situation and eventually decided that I could keep them both because I was a girl.
Then I pulled out my bag of toiletries.
"That's too many toiletries," said Justin.
"But I'm a girl," I pleaded, hoping the same reasoning would work in this situation. It didn't.
"You won't need the pit-stick," said Justin, "I'm not bringing any, either."
My sister and I cried out in anguish as our dad triumphantly announced his foresight. I took out the deodorant stick of lead but retained the Dr. Mist for its stink-fighting properties.
"Every gram counts," said Justin. "A friend of ours used to drill holes in his toothbrush."
"That seems a little excessive," said my dad.
"Also," said Justin, "That baby powder looks heavy. Put some in this Ziploc bag and leave the rest behind."
By this point I was rather nervous for his take on my book. Still, in the interest of honesty, I pulled it out to show him. He barely missed a beat.
"That's fine," he said. "You're allowed to bring a book. I brought an economics textbook once. I stored it in the same place."
I rejoiced inside. Then they looked over the consumables I had packed, told my dad that I was not allowed to be carrying his water bottle, and reluctantly allowed the large number of granola bars. Luke repacked my sleeping bag by stuffing it into a place I didn't believe it could possibly go. Then they gave me a passing grade in packing and finished whatever was in their mugs.
Having removed the tea towel, pit-stick, and most of the baby powder, I didn't fall over the next time I put on my backpack. My shoes, however, were to cause me a bit more grief...
In our mule state.
Mom wanted to see pictures of the Notch and didn't want us running down the batteries of the camera prematurely by taking pictures of people's backs. We compromised by taking pictures of goat bums instead.
“Don't forget to pack your courage for your journey to greatness.” David Weinbaum