The Group in the Hills
I was recently invited to join a special group. A group of media members invited to test out gear on a backpacking trip. We had different skill levels, different personalities but came together for a day to try out some new products. A national news organization was represented, a newspaper, national magazines, big time websites, and of course, one Fatman. We had the Colorado uniform (flipflops, shorts, sweatshirt) represented. The one who changed outfits several times was there, too. Even the belly laugh guy that made everyone smile made it up the hill. The pace spread us out along the rocky path but there was no separating the group in the hills on this day.
The unseasonably cool morning carried with it the clouds from last night storm. One by one we pulled up to the parking lot, drawn in by the smells of coffee and bagels. As we laced up our new Scarpa Moraine’s and slid on our Royal Robbin Amp Lite Tee’s we slowly gathered and met one another. We shared small talk about past trips and camping experiences. We checked over the MSR Hubba Hubba Tents and Therma Rest Parsec sleeping bags that we would be testing. The small talk switched to our favorite camp cocktails as we finished loading up our Gregory Stout 45 packs and piled into the cars for the trip to the trailhead.
With full belly’s and stuffed packs we made our way up the wooded trail headed for the campsite. The trail was steep and the conversations started to slow as we traded words for gasps of air. The Scarpa’s gripped the rocks and crossed the rivers with ease. Finally, we took our first break. Our collective breath slowed and the rise and fall of our backpacks lessened as our chests found the air. Snacks all around, a bit more energy and off we set again.
The group that started as a tight pod had slipped into a single file line that stretched wider and wider. The speed at the front of the pack was matched with the comradery at the rear. Eventually, the trees cleared and the views of the mountains we were scaling came into view. The dirt path turned rockier and the group paired off again. The sun bathing us all in a warmth only matched by the new friendships.
Time and Passes
The hill flattened out and we had another moment to regroup. A creek provided a chance to fill up our Quickdraw water filters and a rocky crop gave us a moment to talk and snack. Usually the snacks are my favorite part, but today the laughter made the snacks seem less important. The mosquitoes did a better job of snacking on us than we did on finishing our beef jerky.
We made our way up the final push of rocky terrain. The steps slowed down as the elevation and steep terrain combined to take its toll. A marmot squealed in protest at the sight of the group slowly trudging up the cliffside. As if being brewed from a witches cauldron, a cloud of mist spun up from the valley below and chased us up the hill. The rain covers came out for the Gregory Stouts. The Royal Robbins Buffs covered our exposed necks and faces. The mist turned frigid but the Gore-tex in the Scarpa’s kept our feet dry and moving forward against the crumbling rock.
As we approached the pass, the mist joined the wind in a chilly combination of near frozen droplets. The droplets grew into hail and the wind blew the hats from our head. I wasn’t staying the night so this is where I decided to take my leave. With the hail smacking my head I found myself hugging friends who just hours ago were strangers. We made it to the mountain pass through sun and storm. We embraced like we had known each other for years rather than minutes. The group settled in to their campsites. Hubba Hubba tents standing tall to protect from the relentless elements.
The Long Walk Down
I wasn’t planning on spending the night camping. Monday morning meetings couldn’t be replaced. Although, as I made my way down from the pass in that hailstorm I wanted to head back. I wanted to set up my tent and my Parsec sleeping bag and challenge the elements with my new friends. I wanted to see the camp chef turn our Wind Burner into a Viking Stove. Instead, I headed down the empty trail to the cloud covered valley below.
What started as a group of strangers, coming together to test out some gear had turned into so much more. A chance to bond with a group of like minded people. Writers, photographers, bloggers who all loved the outdoors and the chance for adventure. All, literally, walking in the same shoes on the same hills. The group in the hills learned a lot through the wind and fog. About the gear, sure, but also about the journey we all take. The storms that follow us up a valley and how we turn strangers to friends, bonded over the winds and rain.
More From the Fatman
As a disclaimer I would like to say that the products mentioned in this post were given to me as part of the testing trip. If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy more of the posts on my Fatman’s Rambling page. Blogs such as “Screw it, I’m Trying”, “Hiking Alone not Lonely Hiking“, “Winslow, Arizona” and “Another Year” as well as many others may interest you there. If you have any comments or topics you would like me to cover, feel free to email me at email@example.com. Or you can keep the conversation going by following me on any of the below social media platforms.