Whatever the weather: Kindness in the backcountry
I have been lucky enough to avoid facing serious situations in the backcountry. I’ve rolled an ankle at Gilpin Lake and limped back to the trailhead and dealt with some lacerations but nothing too terrible. I hope to never deal with anything severe in my adventures.
But I am reassured knowing that there is an unspoken bond among adventurers to help each other out, whether that means tossing over a cold beer after a close call or towing a vehicle up 1,000 feet out of a muddy canyon.
I was hiking up to Jackal Hut in the 10th Mountain Division hut system with my friend a couple of summers ago. We did the near vertical hike by foot, with heavy packs. We were passed by a Jeep and then another truck. After hiking farther up and up and up, we came across the truck with a flat tire. The family didn’t have any lightweight gear and was miles away from the hut and the trailhead.
My friend and I checked in, not sure how to help aside from hustling ahead and talking to the people in the Jeep, who were likely already at the hut or a camp. The truck was at such an angle that it would be very hard to get a spare on (and was way past my skill set). We stepped on it and hiked on to find the Jeep and, hopefully, some help for the family, including a small child. We found the Jeep and eagerly ran up to the camp and shared the situation.
The wife was hesitant at first, claiming the family was not properly prepared for the road and shame on them but offered to tell her husband. We left the camp feeling a little discouraged, worried the family would be left in a bad situation and me feeling like we didn’t do enough to help.
About an hour or two later, we heard the Jeep come driving up the summer road with the family and gear loaded up. I had tears when I saw them, moved by the kindness of a fellow human. We celebrated above 11,000 feet with the family, and everyone went to bed with bellies full of s’mores and the promise of a ride to town to get the family’s truck unstuck from the Jeep driver.
I’ve been in a friend’s vehicle when it was towed out of a muddy situation in Dinosaur National Monument. I’ve made amazing friends just by being neighbors at a campsite. I’ve had a stranger stop to share skin wax when I was not prepared for sticky snow. I’ve heard a harrowing tale of friends with two flat tires in a remote desert, with a giant RV rescue. I’ve borrowed a water filter in Olympic National Park before I knew they existed.
Even something as simple as waving at a group at a camp along the river is a gesture of kindness. It would be amazing if people could carry that camaraderie into the everyday world. I myself am guilty of forgetting that once I get back on pavement. Don’t wait until you are on singletrack to lend a hand.
The next time you experience that generosity and empathy in the backcountry, sit with it. Really soak up the feeling, and carry it back to town with you. Look for opportunities to share that. You never know when you will make someone’s day or make a new friend.
Katie Berning is the print production manager for Steamboat Pilot & Today under Colorado Mountain New Media.
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