Spending the month of July in the middle of nowhere, with no modern conveniences has changed me. After I returned, I found the idea of a soft pillow unusually luxurious. The simple concept of a chair to sit on defined what civilization was for me.
I was on a team whose mission was to recreate the 1926 expedition of Don and Phyllis Munday on their quest to find a route to Mt. Waddington. In their day, the highest mountain that lay within the borders of B.C. was not discovered yet and the Mundays called it Mystery Mountain.
There is a couple of things, I realized, that you have to accept in order to survive such an adventure. The first is, you have to be ok with dirt. I sat in the dirt, ate in the dirt, slept on the hard ground, sometimes moss covered, sometimes bumpy. I used ferns or pine needles as my mattress and for my doorstep, the latter being a futile attempt to keep the tent clean.
I also knew that the day to day experience was not going to be a comfortable walk in the park. In fact it was an exercise in discomfort and misery. If the multitude of mosquito bites were not driving me crazy, the sweat pouring from my nose from hiking in the hot weather made my only hiking shirt wet, sticky and stinky.
The 1926 style packframes were made of wood with canvas shoulder straps. No padding for us tough mountaineers. Needless to say, the packs didn’t fit me well. My shoulders got used to the painful weight and I didn’t think about it as much as my feet placement on the uneven terrain. I didn’t want to trip or twist my ankle or step into a hole. That would be very bad. I walked very deliberately and slowly often with a stick for balance. There were plenty of sticks around the forest floor. It wasn’t until our first full rest day, two weeks into the trip, that I settled into sort of a routine and was able to shake the exhaustion and feel more energized. I tended to my blisters, I rested, I slept. If it weren't for Advil to dull the pain I felt in my ankles, and pretty much everywhere I would have had no comfort.
Now back in civilization, it took me weeks to heal my body and to slowly reintegrate into the hustle and bustle. I felt the pull of being outdoors acutely. We are so sheltered in our homes, our cars, our jobs. Ours is a much more convenient and sedentary life. Because many things are easy we don't need to work for them. We don't need to make things, repair things. We just go out and buy a new one. I reflect on how I felt after the month in the wilds. I felt free and unburdened by stuff. Life is simpler. There is less mental energy spent on choosing things, like what to wear, what to eat, what to do today. I know walking in the wilds is not a life for me but the freedom, the connection with something grander is something I can take with me into the wild city.
Want to know more? Read about my newest project at Photography 1926 Style.
Support me by funding the art project. Funds go toward purchase of hard-to-come-by and expensive photographic chemicals.
Sign up here for the newsletter for more stories of curious things delivered to your inbox.