It was early May and already the heat in the Dark Canyon Gorge was approaching a hundred. We had spent the weekend camping on a rocky outcropping that overlooked the Colorado River. As I trudged one foot in front of the other up the winding trail that would elevate us 2000 feet above the canyon floor, I pondered the bad decisions that had put an extra 20 pounds in my pack. Now that I was halfway through the most dreaded part of the journey a thought occurred to me, “There has got to be a better way to regulate what people bring.” A thought I should have had several days prior.
Over the course of several years, I have had the priviledge of adventuring with hundreds of people. Occasionally someone would contact me and say, “I had so much fun! My sister’s friend’s cousin’s dog-walker saw the pictures on facebook. She and her friends think it would be fun and want to know if you will take them.” Now when you are passionate about something, you want to share it with people, and sometimes that passion overrides better judgment. In my case it almost always overrides better judgment. Usually when this happens, it provides for an interesting trip. I am not saying a bad trip, only one that takes some time before ‘interesting’ becomes a positive phrase. As I repeated the mantra, “One foot in front of the other, don’t fall down,” to myself, I wondered just how much time would have to pass.
This particular adventure started off normal enough. There were a group of first timers who had experience camping, but had never been backpacking before. The group included an old friend of mine, her husband and a couple of her friends. I knew them from the night-club years, when we would dress up like adult versions of rainbow bright and stay up until wee hours of the morning. I never pegged them for the adventurous type, they were more likely to be found shopping in Wet Seal than REI. However, after 10 years of not seeing or talking to her, I ran into her and her husband hiking in Zion. I figured they turned over a new leaf and assumed they had friends who were outdoorsy also. When she suggested I take her and some of her friends on an adventure, I thought, “Sure why not?”. Enthusiasm tramples judgment.
In preparation for the trip I sent them out a general backpacking list and referred them to Out-n-Back where they could rent anything they didn’t have. A list that looked successful when we met up at the trailhead and everyone looked prepared. Some people even looked over-prepared, which usually isn’t a bad thing.
The trip in was what you would expect with some first timers. Some people complained about blisters and a few more complained about the weight of their pack. All the complaints went away when we reached the bottom. Everyone set up tents, grabbed some grub, and played in the waterfalls, stream and river. Even the next day was normal. We talked, got to know each other, and explored the surrounding area. It was Sunday, the hike out, when things got strange, and my pack got heavy.
On the way up, one girl lagged behind and complained about pack weight. My friend who was bringing up the rear, called me and informed me the pack was indeed, really heavy, unusually heavy. I was skeptical and stopped everyone to give them a rest. Dropping my pack, I headed to the back to test the weight of the pack. With a heave I lifted the pack and it was unbelievably heavy for a 5’2, 100 pound glam girl. The pack was twice what mine was at 20 pounds. My inquiries into what she had in her pack was met with a flushed face that matched her bright red shade of lipstick.
It was at this point I realized she looked unusually voguish the past few days. Perfectly applied lipstick, eyeliner, and mascara were not something you would expect for someone backpacking in the remote wilderness. After setting the pack on the ground I mentioned that we would have to do something to redistribute the weight among the other backpackers. Once again, I was met with only a flushed face. Nothing could prepare me for what I would find when I opened the backpack.
Peeling back the cover I was greeted by two tiny silver prongs the kind you would plug into a power outlet in your house. Following the cord I came to a hair dryer that was neatly cuddled with its pal the curling iron. Underneath the exotic hair maintenance accessories was a full service make up kit. Below that, was a small stereo with an equally useless two silver prong attachment attached to it.
I remember sending out a list of things to bring, but never sending out a list of what NOT to bring. I am pretty sure that if I did send out the list of what not to bring these things wouldn’t have been on it anyway. And now, here I was, my pack was significantly heavier and I was reciting the only mantra I could and I wondered how long it would be before I would look back at this and laugh.
I did figure out how to remedy this problem. When I am going out with people for the first time, I have them bring their already packed and prepared backpacks to my house the night before. We do a gear check to make sure everyone has what they need, or really to make sure they don’t bring stuff they don’t need. It has worked out well since then. My enthusiasm and judgment are getting along just fine.