Nature shapes who we are
We pulled into the Ice Lake trailhead parking lot at about 8 am, right on schedule. Getting out of the car, I stretched, gazing up at the rising sun and the low hanging clouds rolling into the basin. I closed my eyes, took a few deep breathes, and began gathering my things. I put them in place then rearranged it all again probably 3 times, making sure I didn’t miss anything. Fumbling around I was hardly awake. I put layers on, took them off, just tried to find that sweet spot for the trek ahead.
We sprayed ourselves with bug repellent, and passed around the giant jug of green smoothie concoction we had prepared for the trip. It was slightly warm, but we chugged it, whether we liked it or not, for the sole purpose of fueling our energy. Then we made coffee. Sitting on the back of the car, I gazed up at the peaks in the distance trying to spot a route or see where we were heading.
These are the usual routines of any backpacking trip. It’s a methodical, and sometimes slow process. Making sure you have everything you need, and nothing you don’t. This time can be soothing and meditative. But in that same moment, I’m freaking out…
For me this process represents the height of what I like to call the “fake out” mentality. This is when the butterflies are churning in your stomach, when you are constantly overanalyzing how you feel, physically and mentality, thinking all of the “what if” scenarios that your brain can conjure up.
I grabbed my pack by its handle and lifted it with one arm, trying to gauge how heavy or light it might be. This time, I felt surprisingly good about my packs weight. I throw the bag over my shoulder, wiggle up and down a bit to get it in the right place, and snapped the belt in place. This is that moment, the one where I’m full of excitement and anticipation.
What I’ve realized from backpacking and hiking is that, there will always be a moment where you doubt yourself and your abilities. But that’s a huge factor in what drives me to do it. These are things I never saw myself doing. Looking back at Ali from Ohio 4 years ago, you might have laughed at the thought of me wandering about the forests and summiting peaks in the Rocky Mountains.
As a photographer, my visual connection with the natural world goes much deeper than capturing a moment, or using photography to inspire others to do the same. But nature moves me to do things I never thought possible, things that intimidate me, and honestly at times, freak me out. The pure wonder and beauty of the places we go is certainly enough to drive a person to hike 8 miles in a rainstorm to get there. But it is so much more than that.
I’ll tell you, there is nothing more amazing to me than that feeling of knowing you shrugged off fear, tried your best, and laughed in its face after meeting your destination. Nature shapes who we are, and in its experience we find ourselves in ways we never thought possible.