So this past weekend I went on an overnight trip for my Backpacking class. I was pretty much dreading it beforehand: I had to get up early on a Saturday; Liz (my roommate, who is also in the class) wasn't going because she had a horse show that day, and I didn't really know anyone else; it was supposed to rain all day; and I just don't particularly like camping--you get dirty and smelly and there are no bathrooms.
But I had to go to get the credit, so I did. I was late to the gym, where we were supposed to meet at 8:30, but that didn't end up mattering because by the time everyone was packed up and ready to go it was past 10. Then we had a long van ride down to Susquehannock State Forest in PA (near Wellsboro), which I didn't mind because I got to read The Hunger Games and sleep. After a picnic lunch and then driving to another spot, we finally started the hike, around 1:45. It actually wasn't raining, and it was a perfect hiking temperature. So that was nice, and I wasn't feeling too terrible about it, except that the trail immediately started going uphill.
One of the issues I somehow hadn't anticipated was that I was not used to walking while carrying a giant, full backpack on my back. It was heavy. And my poor body was not ready for that. Especially going uphill. So I fell behind the group right away, but my professor very nicely stayed with me and chatted with me as we walked. But after a while, when I kept being slow, I felt bad and told her she could go ahead of me, so she did and I was all alone at the back. I was so relieved whenever I caught up to the group when they had stopped to rest, because that meant that I could rest too. Once when I stopped my heart was just pounding, so hard it was kind of scary. It was around 50 degrees, but I was sweating.
Eventually, though, the ground leveled out, and I got a good steady pace going, actually walking in the middle of the group instead of straggling behind them. The scenery around us was beautiful--lots of green, a pretty stream, cool plants that the prof. pointed out--and I actually didn't mind the hike too much then. We had to cross the stream several times, which was sometimes tricky, but never a problem.
But then . . . it started to rain. And because I had concluded before that since it wasn't raining it wasn't ever going to, that was kind of depressing. It didn't stop, either, it just kept up, not pouring but still steady, slowly getting everyone wetter and wetter until most of our rain coats had soaked right through. I was also getting tired and slowing down again, which wasn't fun. And by that time my body was hurting in so many places--shoulder, back, and hips from the backpack, legs and feet from walking, ankles from the hiking boots I'd never worn before.
The trail had merged with a gravel road for a little while, and around 6 we came upon a campsite with a nice flat area for tents and a fire ring. But better than that was the cabin right across the road, which had a covered porch. Our prof. said we hadn't gone quite as far as she'd hoped, but she was okay with stopping there for the night, and everyone agreed. We all sheltered on the porch, hanging up wet coats to dry on the nails so conveniently located around the edge. Someone got out the stove and got water boiling right there so we could get warmed up with hot drinks.
We were hoping the rain would stop so we could set up our tents, but we ate dinner and it was still raining, so finally we just went over to the campsite and set up our tents as quickly as we could. And then, because it was getting dark and there wasn't really anything else to do, we basically went to bed. It was only 8:00. I laid in my (actually Liz's; I ended up borrowing a lot of stuff from her because she's way more outdoorsy than me) sleeping bag and chatted with the other girls a little and read more Hunger Games, then, around 9:45, turned off my (again, actually Liz's) flashlight and went to sleep.
I fell asleep okay, but in the night I kept waking up, uncomfortable on the hard ground, or feeling squished between the two girls I was next to. The prof. woke us up at 6:30 (when I was finally actually sleeping) and we ate breakfast bars and packed up. It had, fortunately, stopped raining in the night. Putting my backpack back on was painful (and every time I moved something hurt), but I did it, and then we started.
That day I was pretty much behind the whole day. It got hilly again towards the end, and there were times when I thought I might just collapse on the trail, or at least I wanted to. I walked super slowly sometimes, too tired to take any steps but tiny ones. It was really steep, and some of the other people had definitely slowed down, too. But then, finally, I reached the top--and we were done. The hike was over.
It was such a relief. And I felt really accomplished too--I had just hiked 10 miles carrying a huge weight (or what felt like one to me) on my back, and not collapsed, not given up, not even complained. We drove to a pavilion for brunch and a church service, and then there was the long ride home and we were back at Houghton. It was so awesome to get in my car and drive back to my house and be in civilization again. Toilets, sinks, and showers are great.
So overall, it wasn't exactly fun. But it wasn't awful either. It was hard, it was exhausting, it was painful, it was cold and wet, but it was also an achievement, and definitely a memorable experience.