I heard a commercial on Pandora recently while biking on the rail trail near my house.
Can I first describe how a rail trail is the perfect complement to an aging hip-and-knee’d athlete, for whom running, once an activity that held all the sweet answers to body and soul, has become like medieval torture?
Even I – even now – can fat-tire bike on a flatly graded, always shady, rarely rocky rail trail and can even, at times, illicit a comment from a small boy leaning upon handlebars who calls out as I fly past, “Wow, you like to go FAST!” while his sister, nearby, thoughtfully picks a bug out of her nose. It’s AARP thrilling.
Without cars to contend with, I generally feel safe riding with my earbuds in, which is why I was listening to Crowder when this commercial came on.
A woman’s voice spoke of California Closets, describing how she asked her “closet consultant” if she could have a drawer devoted entirely to her sunglasses.
An entire drawer? Closet consultant?
I cannot tell you how much this disturbed me, having recently returned from a backpacking trip where I was trying ultralight for the first time.
For many trips, including Appalachian and Long Trail thru-hikes in 2010 and 2013, I used a standard weight backpack, full tent with fly, and carried not only changes of clothes and camp Crocs but also a stove, fuel, full-length sleeping pad and down bag.
While there is nothing wrong with any of these items, I felt they were hindering my ability to walk longer days with speedier recovery times.
Lighter pack, happier feet.
This summer, I decided to ruthlessly evaluate the worth of each item I had been carrying and eliminate anything I deemed unnecessary, anything that I felt I could live without.
Camp Crocs? Nope. Longer days meant shorter times in camp, much of which would be spent in my sleeping bag, barefoot.
Camp stove? Yes, yes, 1,000 times yes! Coffee. Enough said.
Tent? How about a small tarp-and-Tyvek combo instead?
iPhone? Haha. Stop it. I may not be a digital native, but camera, iTunes, Audible, and emergency exit strategies are not optional.
Backpack? This was the tough one. Obviously, I needed a vessel to transport what gear made my cut, but my old Osprey was not only heavy, but also not waterproof. Don’t gear manufacturers think we will use their products outdoors? Where it rains?
After visiting some local stores, reading various hiking blogs, and searching the internet, I settled on a Hyperlite pack with a few external pockets and smaller cubic capacity, which would force me to leave everything but the essentials behind. It weighed less than a loaf of bread.
Armed with all this lightness, the Princess and son-in-law dropped me off in the Catskills for a week-long shake-down.
One of the first benefits I discovered with my Hyperlite were two small hip belt pockets. These were the perfect size for snack and phone in the right and map and chapstick in the left, thus negating frequent stops with the takings-off of pack.
Two easily accessible water bottle pockets also allowed me to drink and walk without the awkward twisting required of my old pack, which kept the feet moving.
While pleased with my new kit, there is always an exchange.
Because I didn’t carry a tent with bug netting, I had to douse in DEET and camp at altitude – where wind could drive the pests away – making for long climbs on all-day tired legs.
Some nights were colder, and without the puffy coat I left behind, I had to crawl into my sleeping bag earlier than I might have previously, but, with judicious placement, I could still catch all the glowy rises and sets.
There were other adjustments I had to make, but it felt good to go light.
I know I will continue to trade out and weigh, what is worthy and what is not, but in this season of my life, I feel it is time to let go of some sizable things that I was never meant to carry alone.
Fear of the future.
Actually, I think that last one might be with me a while longer, perhaps even forever. The excessiveness of it has shifted, though, and I know that I have a burden-bearer who lightens it day by day. He once said to the multitudes:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
I really don’t ever want to get to a point in my life where I need a bigger closet to store the distracting weights that drag me away from the walk my Creator has mapped out for me, no matter the obstacles in the way.
I want to yoke myself to Christ’s ample shoulders and let Him pull.
The other day, The Princess called me a hoarder, and it stung.
I know she was talking about my propensity for stuff, which I am working on, truly; but sometimes we get so distracted by the challenges we face in this life that we forget the only thing of value that we can take into the next life IS life.
So, be ruthless.
Why not start trying to live ultralight now?