INTO THE WINDS (Part 2)

Continued from Into The Winds (Part 1)

We arrived just as our friends were tying up their horses.

They came with gifts. Gifts of glorious food.

One of the things that inevitably occurs when backpacking is that you begin to fantasize about certain foods that you couldn’t possibly take with you into the backcountry. It may sound nuts, but Ellen was dreaming about fresh salad. I know, I know, let me explain. Nothing you take in a backpack with you is fresh. Most of it is high sodium, high protein, processed energy foods. And as we all know, when you know can’t have something, it tends to gnaw at you.

Ellen couldn’t imagine anything better than a fresh salad. Not even pizza.

Spoiler alert. They brought Ellen a huge, fresh salad in tupperware. Me? Oh yeah, they brought me some goodies too. Fried chicken and skittles. No, it’s not autocorrect. You read that right; fried chicken and skittles. And it was glorious. Not together, of course.

Oh, also beer and cookies…

We gorged and laughed with our friends all afternoon, smelly as we were. It was a real treat. In the evening light, our friends saddled up and headed back to town. The next morning, happy and with full stomachs, Ellen and I repacked our packs and hit the trail again. We were energized from all of the calories and conversation, but our packs were the heaviest they’d been that entire week.

And we still had 50 miles to go.

I had resolved that we were going to finish this hike together, come hell or high water. My shin would get to feeling a little better every morning, but by the end of a 10 mile day, it felt as though it were still day 2. We rationed the ibuprofen so I could sleep, and made the decision to keep pressing on.

My shin seared with the pain of a newly 50+ lb. pack. Thankfully, I had peppered in a few “day hike/ rest days” in to the 12 day trek. It was unfortunate, but I really did need to stay put and rest on those days.

It’s funny how difficult it was for us to chose to actually rest on those days. I felt a bit like a failure. I think our culture dictates a “never slow down” work ethic, and it’s done great things for our society’s productivity. But there’s something to say about the fact that even the Lord took a day to rest… just sayin’.

As we continued, we reached the high country. Towering spines of granite surrounded us, majestic and mighty. I spent my mornings and evenings wandering and photographing… not far from camp, just enough to change my perspective of the gray monoliths and reflective lakes. The clouds passed overhead without notice of us or our affairs.

With each day dawning, it was getting a little bit cooler. The mornings brought dew, and then ice to our tent and packs. The willows were fading from bright green to golden yellow.

One of the main things that I took away from this trip is that I’m not getting any younger. It is of utmost importance that I take great care of myself. Gone are the days of eating junk and somehow still feeling great. Gone are the days of taking a fall, and simply brushing myself off, unscathed.

I’m certainly not old by most standards, but as I approach 40, I’m realizing that the lifestyle I love will take more and more work to maintain.

As someone who is always up for a challenge, I welcome this new realization.

I remember sitting at my grandparent’s kitchen table as a young teen. My Papa sitting across from me and Nana making a sandwich for me, on a summer afternoon of mowing the lawn for them. “I can’t wait to be older. How fun will it be to say ‘I remember 20 years ago when X happened. Ah, those were the days!’” I mused. They looked at me smiling, glancing back at each other with a seemingly secret wisdom. At least secret to me.

Well, I may only be pushing 40. And I may be in arguably the best shape of my life. But now, I really can say that I remember 30 years ago, sitting at my grandparents kitchen table, admiring the passage of time. It feels good. Even with the aches and pains, weak shins and sore back.

We arrived at the Green River Lakes trailhead, where our truck had been delivered just days before. We were relieved to be done, but in a strange way, a little sad that it was over. A decade and a half of planning paid off, but all that time was suddenly cashed in. The reward was knowing that we could do something this grand and exciting, and that made us both happy and proud.

Into the Winds also reiterated the point that we would be doing this again. And other treks like it. No matter how many years we have under our belts.

Aches and pains will come and go, but there are few experiences like waking up to a fresh dawn in deep in the wilderness. And that’s worth all the struggle and work.

— Andrew


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
EVERGLADES // WINTER // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
BIG BEND// LANDSCAPE + THE ART OF SEEING
 
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Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
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Andrew Slaton // prints from the road
 
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Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
  
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