By: Eliza Upton
1. Don’t Think About Food
Don’t get me wrong, we ate well out in the woods. With the exception of that first “Soapy Quesadilla” night our cooking skills proved to be pretty good throughout the trip and we were soon pros at making gourmet Mac n’ Cheese, biscuits, and Gingerbread Pancakes. But when you’re eating your fifth block of cheese in four days and that craving for chocolate kicks in, those six and a half M&Ms you have left to share between four people wont quite do the trick. It’s a rough time when those cravings happen, but the harsh reality is that the closest grocery store is miles and mountains away and you didn’t stash any money in your pack. So best not to think about that Turkey Club you’ve been dreaming about for a week. That sandwich will not appear at the campsite so don’t spend your time torturing yourself over the idea of bacon and mayonnaise. Instead boil up some more water, eat another piece of cheese and thank the NOLS gods that you have cake mix coming in your next ration.
2. Always Expect to Get Lost
The truth of the matter is simple: when you send fifteen eighteen year olds out to the woods and hand them a few topographic maps from 1991 they’re bound to get lost a few times. Even when traveling on trail with no elevation gain. That second trailhead supposedly to the East could be covered by rocks or a log, and before you know it you realize that the lake you’re looking down at is supposed to be tomorrow’s trail view. At this point you’re pretty mad because just twenty minutes ago at your last packs off break you were pretty confident at the idea that you’d be strolling into camp in no time, and now you have to backtrack down the mountain out of snacks and water. So in preparation for these inevitable heart breaking moments always go into the hike with the expectation of being lost. Pack extra snacks, fill up on water at each river crossing, and know that your estimated time of arrival will be pushed back an hour. That way if you do get lost you’re right on schedule, and if you don’t then you’re a straight up boss of the backcountry.
3. Hottie Botties
The beauty of a Hottie Bottie [def. Nalgene filled with boiling water] cannot be overrated. On those freezing nights nothing is better than crawling into your sleeping bag and tucking that scorching Nalgene in between your feet. It will keep you nice and warm all night, and when you wake up in the morning you are blessed with a full, already purified bottle of water.
4. Appreciate a Good Wiping Leaf
When you’re out in the woods and last night’s Falafel Scramble hits you hard it’s time to take action. And if you have less than two minutes to dig your hole before go time, you can’t find the shovel, your water bottle is empty and therefore unavailable for the “Backcountry Bidet”, your best hope to save the mood for the rest of the day is a couple of soft leaves. To be perfectly frank, pooping in the woods is quite the process and cleaning one’s behind can either go smoothly or be the worst experience you have. So in forests of only Pine, Spruce, and Fur trees when you do come across those scarce soft leaves, please take advantage. Gather as many as you can and just be grateful you’re not using your hand.
5. Give Your Feet Some Love
Lastly, always keep in mind your two best travel companions: your feet. As many of us learned firsthand, hiking boots can be rough. They leave their mark in the form of blisters and broken toenails, and no matter what you do you’re going to have to put them on again tomorrow. So help yourself and your feet out and give your feet a little TLC. That TLC comes in the form of changing your socks, letting your feet breath as much as possible, TINCTURE OF BENZOIN, and even talking to them after a long day. Sing them a song, wiggle your toes, and just appreciate your beautiful and bruised feet
By: Eliza Upton