A few years ago, I went backpacking with my two sisters. Both of them were in high school, and I had just graduated college in December. We all had the same spring break, and we decided to hike part of the Appalachian Trail.
My sisters are great to take on backpacking trips. Both were already experienced backpackers at the time, and both are extremely hard workers. As soon as we arrived at a campsite, one of us would begin unpacking dinner, another would start setting up the tent, and whoever was left would sort the leftovers for the bear bag and find a nice spot to string up the pack using all the brute force that six twig-like arms could collectively muster.
At the time, Instagram did not exist. At the very least, it was not on my radar. Looking back over the pictures, as I did a few days ago, if I could have posted a picture or two as a highlight of the trip, I probably would have chosen something like this one:
Badass rocks. Picturesque lighting. Gritty authenticity. Look, we went a place! #SB2k13.
The following photographs would not have made the cut:
Lauren and Erin struggle over and under fallen trees. These are borrowed backpacks. We don’t want to pay for them. #SB2k13
We reach our first campsite at Indeterminate P.M. It is dark. A man sets up camp next to us in the middle of the night. The flashlight and noises terrify all of us, but none of us admit it until the next morning. #SB2k13
We cross so many freaking rivers. All are freezing. Each time we cross, we put on our Chaco sandals, then change back into our hiking boots. One time, I wear my Chacos for two whole miles, then decide, finally, to change into my boots… approximately 100 yards before we come across another river. I weep openly. #SB2k13
We reach very high altitudes. It is April. It sometimes gets so cold. To self-motivate, we constantly discuss the Nutella that we will eat when we reach the Sugarland Mountain crossing. When we arrive, Nutella is frozen. We despair. #SB2k13
We stay in this shelter. It is filled with hardcore AT hikers who will not really talk to us. We go out behind the shelter to make our soup so that we will not be judged by anyone else. I do not mention to my sisters that I am also trying to avoid getting secondhand high from all the weed, because they think it is a skunk. #SB2k13
Erin carries this tarp everyday. It doesn’t fit in her backpack. We call it “The Monstrosity.” On the day it rains in thirty-five-degree weather, Erin, the most cheerful person I’ve ever met, will not speak to either of us until she has eaten a beef stick.
On the day we hike this trail, Susannah trips and almost dies approximately 73 billion times. Lauren hikes in the back and has approximately 73 billion heart attacks.
The thing I don’t like about Instagram is that it only shows you one thing. Or two things. Or a few things. This trip will be one of my favorite memories of my entire life, I think. It was a wreck (not because it was three girls; don’t you even TRY ME I WILL END YOU), and it was a wonder, and it was real.
We saw beautiful mountains. We invented a game that consisted of Susannah and I throwing cards at the tent ceiling while Erin suspended her hands for an hour to make the swelling go down. One night, my backpack fell on our tent and I thought it was a bear. We played cards with a man whose trail name was “New Haits,” and he will forevermore be our favorite person in the world.
It wasn’t always beautiful, and it wasn’t always well-lit, and we often smelled very bad. Conversely, it wasn’t always profound, and it wasn’t always badass, and it wasn’t always what we would have wanted people to see. But that’s not why we went.
We went because we like outside, and we like each other, and we really really like Nutella. We went because life is built more for doing things than for telling people.
For posterity, I will add a picture in which I personally feel I look pretty gross, because life is too short to pretend you look good all the time:
Gollums in caves. Rolled down Smartwools. Disposable camera flash. #SB2k13.
Lauren (Boersma) Harris (’13) is a spontaneous, idealistic, independent, fierce, over-thinking, damaged, adventurous, ordinary megalomaniac with a healthy sense of self-worth and a high word count. She has been a teacher both indoors and outdoors; she loves improvised comedy, backpacking, and writing, even when it’s required.