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Backpacking Light Magazine (Print) PDF Reprint - My Backpack, My Shrink

Backpacking Light Magazine (Print) PDF Reprint - My Backpack, My Shrink

PDF reprint of an article on the healing effects of nature during personal crisis.


Originally Published In: Issue 8, Fall 2007

PDF reprint of an article on the healing effects of nature and backpacking during personal crisis from Backpacking Light Magazine (Print Version).

  • Title: My Backpack, My Shrink
  • Author: Dave Swinehart
  • Word Count: 1,989
  • Images: 1 Illustration


Hiking down the trail into Big Dominguez Canyon, I reached the stream at the point where it flows over slickrock, creating a smooth, bobsled-like trough through the buff-colored sandstone. The temperature was already heating up, erasing memories of the early morning frost, which coated my sleeping bag when I woke up at my tent-less campsite several hours earlier. At the stream, I filled my water bottle and admired the tarnished red rock cliffs that make up the unique geology of the Colorado Plateau. Several small sideblotched lizards scurried about, leaving their tail-dragging and foot-dash imprints in the sand, while a red-tailed hawk circled above looking for a mid-morning snack. It should have been a perfect day but I felt empty inside; my heart ached, and my stomach was twisted in knots.

I was in pain because, less than three weeks before, I had been fired from my job. It was a job where I had not only achieved a reasonably high level of accomplishment, but I respected the company’s innovative owner and enjoyed the culture and team he had nurtured. Getting fired was like nothing I had ever experienced before and, at the time, I was devastated. I felt impotent . . . neutered . . . my confidence and self worth evaporated as quickly as my position and title disappeared. In addition, I worried about all the typical unemployment concerns — making the mortgage payment, getting kids  through future college, and bouncing back into the workforce. So, there I was, in my mid-forties and going through the proverbial midlife crisis.

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