First backpacking trip, autumn of 1975:
For one weekend in the Pemigewasset Wilderness of New Hampshire--old Boy Scout frame pack, canvas Boy Scout tent, hardcover copy of “The Fellowship of the Ring” canned beans, pound of butter, four boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinners—need I go on? The pack weighed about 45 pounds (as measured on my best friend’s mom’s bathroom scale), my weight (as measured on the same scale): 93 pounds. In a nod toward something like common sense I decided I was going to need some ankle support so I wore my black high top Chuck Taylor All-Stars, not my white low-tops. My best friend, Tim, won—he carried about 50 pounds. It was almost a year before I went backpacking again.
Second backpacking trip summer of 1976:
Back to the Pemigewasset with Tim again. This time we brought girlfriends. Tim carried nearly fifty pounds, but I was desperately in love, so with Tim’s help, I managed to strap a load of over sixty pounds to my 93-pound body. We staggered about three miles up the trail until we came to the first designated tenting platforms and then collapsed. Unfortunately, I think must have burned away most of my testosterone in ratcheting myself over the last mile because the weekend and my right knee were pretty much busted. On the other hand, it was my first introduction to the potential of lightweight backcountry travel. My girlfriend, Janet, had carried fewer than twenty pounds and had a great time. While I limped around the tenting area or sat morosely aching in the shade, she flitted about making new friends and raving about the “beauty of the great outdoors.” At the end of the weekend, things got a bit tense between us, however. It was clear that something bad had happened to my right knee and I wasn’t going to be able to carry out a very heavy load. I thought that, at the very least, she should try to carry out the extra twenty plus pounds of her stuff that I had carried in and she thought that I should leave some of my “stupid things” behind. In the end, Tim and his girlfriend took some disputed gear, and Janet and I compromised: each of us left some of our things behind; but all I remember specifically is that I left my camp axe with the ranger, and she gave him her two pounds of Fig Newtons.
What’s really disturbing, though, is that it was about twenty years before I realized that Janet had had such a good time, not because I was miserable but, because she had only carried in twenty pounds. She actually had enough energy left over to flit and rave. On the other hand, I had misguidedly injured myself carrying the heavy burden of my own ego. Years later, on my first lightweight trip, I actually found myself raving about the beauty of the great outdoors. It was great.
So, yeah, Ian, I was probably even more ignoramuser than you. Still not the swiftest boat afloat, I guess.