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How One Backpacking Trip Changed My Relationship With The Outdoors (& Myself)

David, my boyfriend at the time, didn’t know that I had never been backpacking before, and I didn’t know that he didn’t know. So, when he selected a high-altitude trek up one of Sequoia’s most iconic mountains, I shrieked out an emphatic “Yes!” assuming he had done his research and picked something suitable.

I donned a threadbare pack that had been left behind by Airbnb guests at my Hollywood apartment and laced up a pair of navy trail runners I had only purchased a week before at REI. My pack didn’t have a chest strap, so when I lifted the colossus onto my back at the trailhead, its 40-pound heft tilted backward, and we scrambled around to find an old piece of cord to tie across my chest, securing it in place.

David’s gear was questionable too. Being out of practice since his high school Eagle Scout days meant that he only had a 30-liter climbing pack for the excursion, which meant that my 60-liter behemoth was crammed full with our bear canister, food for two, all my clothes, my toiletries, and my sleeping bag. My pack hung heavy like a limp gorilla draped across my torso, but I was excited for what lay ahead.

The beginning of the trail was mellow. Manageable. I squealed as we saw an adolescent black bear scurry out from behind a bush just three miles in, and we strolled past towering trees that rose high overhead like the impossibly long fingers of some underground giant. My eyes were wide with the cheeky glint they get when I know I’ve been gifted more than my fair share of the world’s magic.

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