“I could see you getting into it”, Zach told me one day. It is backpacking.
It’s got all the things: gear, epic scenery, solitude and a dash of suffering. It’s just kind of slow for me. More or less free of danger. It is...low fidelity. Mountain biking, skiing, and racing bikes - these high-fidelity, chaotic activities. The chaos forces the brain to slow down. Flow state becomes more than an intense space to be in but almost a prerequisite to mitigating the risks. Walking hours at a time encourages your brain to wander. To explore those random thoughts. It gives your brain space to breath.
When I was younger, one of my bucket list careers was to be a photographer for National Geographic. For an art that is measured in hundreds of thousands of a second, photography is a slow activity. Landscape and nature photography in particular. A scene’s worthiness to be photographed is based on a myriad of circumstances that must come together at the exact right moment in time. The more of these inputs that arrive at the moment of the click of the shutter, the better the photograph.
A photograph of a mountain started hundreds of thousands of years ago as the earth twisted and tore upon itself to form the mountain in the first place. In the morning you must be at the right spot at the right time. The timing of the event is driven by the location of the sun. The sun paints the scene and it paints it differently throughout the day. What picture are you hoping to paint? If you don’t get that right, you must wait another 24 hours.
Although I moved to Colorado to explore and play with the desire to photograph nature, I’ve not really given myself the space to actually do it yet. I’ve been training for what I have been assured is a very approachable first backpacking trip. Training because that act alone is apparently food for my soul - and I've been hungry, but also because I want the backpacking to be secondary to the photography.
When Zach dropped everything in his life to go hike the Appalachian Trail, we - his friends - were expecting some sort of shocking transformation upon his return. We were both delighted and perhaps a little disappointed that we didn't see one. I think some of us pictured him coming back jaded about society. Perhaps inspired by stories like Into The Wild. The truth is, having spent only a small amount of time alone walking in the woods, I now see the transformation clearer than before. Walking vast distances in vast spaces gives yourself the vast space needed to really be creative. It is therefore unsurprising that from the moment he stepped off the trail his life has taken a different trajectory, authoring multiple books and creating one of the most prominent blogs in the space.
The photos below are from the various walks and hikes I've taken in the last few weeks to prepare myself as much as I can for the Four Pass Loop hike we will be undertaking in the coming days. I hope to do the walk justice.