Go West Trapper Nelson

Good weather is here at last and I have hiking/camping/climbing on the brain.

When I was a youth I started hiking and camping with my parents in Oregon. Usually we hiked to our camp sites, sometimes we rode horses. Once in a while we did car camping. Some of the best times I remember were sleeping under the stars in the high Cascades, then waking in the middle of the night and staring in awe at a sky of stars like one never sees in the city.

Oregon is a beautiful state and this time every year I start dreaming of getting immersed in the outdoors. Now that I have kids I want to get them outdoors too.

I reminisce…
As a young camper I often had hand-me-downs. My first pack was one my dad used when he was a boy scout. The pack was known as a Trapper Nelson. By today’s standards a Trapper Nelson pack is a kind of torture device. However, when it was invented 80 years ago it was better than anything else on the market. By the time I began carrying one the design was very outmoded, but the pack was free.

The Trapper Nelson pack consisted of two wooden planks with canvas stretched between them, thin canvas shoulder straps, and a canvas bag on the back. The color was classic drab. Fortunately, kids tend to be resilient. I survived and had many happy camping trips.

Why is it that we like to go camping? Often I struggle to get motivated and out the door to commune with nature. But once I am outside I love it. Each time I have gone camping (except for once or twice) I think to myself I should do this more often. There is something about getting away from the city, from civilization, and into the wilderness that feeds a deep part of the soul. It’s almost as though we are made to be close to nature, and that the walls with which we surround ourselves offer false comfort and place a damper on something that could be thriving. This week I started riding my bike to work. It’s not easy to ride in the cold morning so early, but I love it. The simple act of feeling the air on my face is enough to remind me of how good it is to be outside and alive.

* * * * * * * *
My wife and I have decided we will try to climb a mountain later this summer. We have picked the South Sister in the Cascade Range. I have climbed it twice, but that was more than twenty years ago. It’s not a technical climb, but it does take a lot of stamina. We’ll see how it goes. At least it’s motivating me to get in better shape.

The South Sister’s snow capped peak looms majestically
over the Oregon countryside.

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