I went backpacking, the first time I slung my pack since our AT hike last summer. It was a gentle trip with a good friend on a route that was special to her.

And it felt complicated. We spent half a day walking south on the PCT with thru-hikers streaming north toward Canada. I spent some time pondering bodily memory as I buckled the familiar weight around my hips and my legs churned out steady progress and it felt very much like autopilot had taken over and no time at all had passed since I had been doing the same a year ago. There was the awkwardness of transitioning my mind back from thru-hiker to weekender.

Backpacking has been the container for some of the most formative and meaningful experiences of my life. And it is one of my favorite recreations, a portal to simple joys amidst sometimes cluttered and messy days. I’m grateful for all of the ways it fits into my life and it can be challenging to navigate between these different modes.

And yet so worth it. For the beauty, the quiet, and the singular feeling of swimming in a mountain lake at the end of a day.