Here’s the final chapter from The Backpacker (1972), an early classic of the genre from one of my old friends, the great poet Albert Fairchild Saijo (1926-2011):
You made it. You went in and you came out. You did your trip. It was both harder and easier than you thought it would be. It was harder physical exertion than you anticipated, but it was easier than you imagined keeping the trip together. The beauty of wilderness was overwhelming, both overall and in detail. It took you far away from your usual frame of mind and gave you a long perspective on your life.
Now there are some things you won’t do anymore, and there are those new things you feel but can’t see the shape of yet. You understand who you are a little better. You got some work done on your secret puzzles. You pounded out a few conundrums on the trail, you got to know your friends better. Outdoor fellowship is special.
You went in fat and you came out lean. You came out with a greater respect for your body. You are going to treat it better now and stay in shape for the next time.
You saw your head through some changes. You started out nervous and excited—like a virgin. Then the hard work of backpacking got to you, and you went into a more serious mood. That broke as you acclimatized, and the trip became pure delight. Each trip has a high point. A point when you feel absolutely with it. You can’t plan it. But when you get there, you know it’s what you came out for.
Then as you neared the end of your trip, you found your head less in wilderness, even as you were in it, and more and more into thoughts of home. What’s happening back there? What have you missed? You began thinking of extraordinary things you’ll do once back. The foods you’re going to eat—you’re starving! You began to feel awfully deprived so that when you finally got back to the roadhead you felt positively liberated.
How strange, because when you finally saw the cars and people, heard the radios and mean dogs barking, you wanted to go right back into wilderness. You felt the strangeness of our civilization. How foreign it is to the part of your nature that blossomed in wilderness.
But you’re out. You went away and you came back. Now as you head back to civilization, you have a wilderness in your heart that wasn’t there before. You know you’re going outback again.