In early 2013, two of my friends asked me if I wanted to go to Glacier National Park with them.
"It's beautiful," they said. "We can backpack," they promised.
I was in, immediately. I committed myself, I started biking more regularly, I started walking and hiking whenever I could, and I played as much Ultimate as my body could stand.
Turns out, at 34, it couldn't stand quite as much as at 24. I sprained an ankle in April, pulled my calf badly in June.
With our trip set for Mid-August, my spirits were still high... but my fitness level was not.
Our backpacking excursion ended up being shorter than we planned, we were only going to spend two nights in the backcountry, and we'd car camp our other 4 nights in Glacier. With day-hikes easy to find and readily available, I was still excited for the trip.
The first day, we hiked to Grinnell Glacier. About 8 miles round trip, with 2000 feet of elevation gain. I'm pretty sure we finished it in about 5 hours.
Day two was Avalanche Lake. A much shorter hike, and a bit of elevation, but not nearly as strenuous as the day before.
I felt great that day. I could've sat at the lake for hours, it was so calm and relaxing and the swim I took really invigorated me.
The next morning, however, my feet betrayed me, and I skipped that days hike (13ish miles round trip to Iceberg Lake).
Then, on Thursday, we were scheduled to begin our hike into the backcountry.
We got up fairly early, packed up all our gear, went to the trailhead and started hiking.
About 2 or 3 miles in, I needed a break, took off my pack and went to fill up my water bottle, and sat down for a few minutes by a stream. When I went to stand up, my left hip flexor gave out on me. With 2000 feet of elevation gain that day, and another 2000 the following day (both up and down), I had to bail on the hike.
I ended up camping at a "rustic" campground in the park (no readily available water) for those two nights, while my friends went on their journey (which I insisted they did).
All that said, it was an amazing trip, one of the best of my life, and it planted the seed for me to become a backpacker.
I learned some very important lessons that trip:
1) Don't try to keep up with people who are in much better shape than you. Hike your own pace. Your feet and body will thank you for it.
2) Take more pictures. They last forever, and help convey the awe of your experience to others.
3) Don't ever, ever, ever buy a backpack because it's on sale. Go get fitted for one, test it out, test it out some more, and if anything doesn't fit or feel right, try another.
Kid A is an avid hiker, backpacker and outdoors enthusiast located in Milwaukee