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Belles of the Backcountry

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Building Community in Nature ~ An Alpenguides Journal

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 23:46

Belles of the Backcountry ~ Written By Alpenguide Anna (aka Mama Longlegs)

Albro Lake, Tobacco Root Mountains, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest

Backpacking camp for girlsFirst day of backpacking up in the Tobacco Root Mountains, and indeed for most of our girls it was the first such trip of their lives. Feels great to be up in the woods listening to the churn of the creek rather than the roar of engine and tires. Up here where the air is perfumed with early summer sage and pine scent, the earth carpeted with blooming larkspur and geranium and arrowleaf. Despite our slow pace and the persistent whining, I couldn’t help but have a good attitude. This is what I love! And probably at their age I, too, would have griped and moaned. The important thing is that we’re doing it and getting them to try it, put their bodies to the test.

Backcountry Hiking Girls Camp2.5 miles never took so long or engendered so much complaining. But we made it here, stream crossing and all, to this little nook beside North Willow Creek, high above the hamlet of Pony, Montana. We are in the woods! And so far have succeeded in keeping girls safe, fed, and relatively happy. We’ve taught them how to pack their bags, strap on boots, and go. We’ve hung probably 100 pounds of food on trees that I hope will hold the night. Phoebe and I laughed as we assembled strawberry sandwich cookies—in the backcountry! And we had a great evening circle with some heart to it. I’m sunned out and tired but happy with where we are at. Up here. Out here. Rocking their worlds.

Ah, yes. This is why I am here. This is what I live for. Afternoons in the alpine splashing into lakes, laying in the sun listening to the brook trickle past the nodding dodecatheons, their fuschia petals flung back, the meadow like a green palm reaching toward the lake. The girls are getting a taste of what’s to love about backpacking, why we make the sweaty effort to turtle our survival stuffs up mountains: in order to arrive at simple, magical, elemental places like this.

Hiking camp for girlsTo prance into the cold water and let it swallow us as trout dart away from our large awkward forms. I rise howling in delight, Phoebe seconding the motion. Jumping into cold water, I later remark, is my favorite form of meditation: nothing brings us smack-dab into the moment more effectively or more deliciously. It is one of the things that makes summer so sweet.

This first week of the season has been chock-full of adventures and debacles. I am feeling strong as I balance my responsibilities and tasks with a fair share of gratitude and self-care. I feel young and old at the same time, a tall girl mothering these younger girls.  They have pushed my buttons and presented challenges I would never have expected, but I am coping and handling it all without getting too overwhelmed.

Costume Party in the Backcountry at Girls CampA good backcountry costume contest makes it all worth it! When I hear the girls at evening circle say that they will take away from this time a deeper appreciation of nature and the impermanence of the moment, that they will continue to practice yoga because they like it, and what they will most remember is being part of a community in nature, I feel gratified.