Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Blue Backpack

Thanks to Jeff Fullmer for the photo

This past weekend, I pulled my old blue external frame backpack out of its corner in the garage, thought about dusting it off and then figured, eh, as we're hiking along it'll get dusted off naturally as it picks up a new dusty patina.

That's me there, with the farmer tan and the International Atomic Energy Agency ball cap. I still don't do ball caps, just thought I'd better have one for the hike we took with the scouts this weekend. I have a much better hat, but I was too excited about getting my backpack out to think about it.

Last time I had that backpack out it was for a hike up to Upper Palisades Lake with Michelle the summer we got married. I hauled a rather large dome tent up to the lake where we got drenched by a torrential downpour all night and then hiked out without even lighting a fire because the whole world was wet.

Prior to that, the backpack went on many scouting adventures when I was an actual scout. Island Park Scout Camp and Treasure Mountain Scout Camp. Lake Leigh and various other spots from Lava Hot Springs to random spots in the Targhee and Caribou national forests.

I half hoped I'd find some long-forgotten scout memory going through its various pouches and pockets, but the only thing I found was a camo wallet holding an ID for my oldest son -- he used the backpack for Cedar Badge last year.

But as we hiked along the trail along Big Elk Creek, memories came back. First, the fact that the backpack does not have a belt and I could not find the old leather belt I used as an improvisation, so it hung heavily on my shoulders unless I walked with my hands balled up in the small of may back to transfer the weight from my shoulders to my hips.

Then there were the sticky zippers, particularly on that one pocket that just won't zip any more.

I thought as I walked that I really need a new backpack, one along the lines of the internal-frame jobbies the others had. I still think that.

But other memories came back. Seeing that backpack leaned up against the wall of a wall tent at Island Park, with my scout shirt draped over it to keep it from wrinkling. They called me the tidy scout. And then the pockets where I put the little bits of leather I worked on in handicraft, the arrow points and bear claws I earned for doing what I don't even remember now -- knots were involved at one point -- and the medal I earned hiking Table Rock, pinned to the backpack for the trip home.

I'm older now. I'm probably more stubborn -- I couldn't complain about my backpack hurting my back because I didn't want to start my scouts down the path of complaint. And as we walked along, I remembered that feeling you get when you're at your destination and you feel like you're about a thousand pounds lighter when you got your backpack off. Maybe, I thought, that's just part of being a young kid, but, no, I did feel about a thousand pounds lighter.

So I may get a new backpack. But that old one won't go away. And maybe I can pass it on to one of my sons so they can build memories around it and then, when they're scoutmaster, feel that same feeling when they arrive at their destination and feel a thousand pounds lighter when they take it off.

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