Andrew Terrill

The outdoor diary of a writer, photographer, and wilderness wanderer

Gratitude, Not Discomfort

IN LAST WEEK’S BLOG I mentioned backpacking discomforts. I commented on how photos of backpacking trips seldom show them. I suggested that backpacking photos lie because of it.

I was thinking about it again during this week’s outing, a single overnight trip in the Colorado foothills with good friend, Igloo Ed. The discomforts of backpacking were especially prominent when we had to vacate our exposed summit camp at midnight after lightning flashed across the sky. Relocating in the dark, and then lying in disturbed sleeplessness listening to rain – when rain hadn’t been forecast – wasn’t exactly the height of luxury. Neither was the hot and humid night that followed, or the mosquitoes and gnats that hounded us the next morning.

But I was also thinking about other things too. I was thinking about fortunate I was to have access to a summit to not-quite sleep on. And how fortunate I was to live somewhere where rain was unexpectedly falling. And how fortunate I was to have such an interesting and warm-hearted companion with whom to share a squadron of hungry gnats.

Which helped me realize that backpacking photos don’t lie. I was so wrong! Sure, they don’t show everything – how could they? But they DO show the important stuff, the good bits, the only parts that really matter, the parts that make life worth living. And honestly, compared to the good bits, the uncomfortable parts are barely significant.

I think that dismissing discomforts is one of the many ‘life skills’ that backpacking can teach… and has taught me. In backpacking, as in life, it would be really easy to focus on the negatives. But what would that achieve?

So despite the gray skies and rain, the heat and fire smoke, and the biting gnats and mosquitoes, the sweat and the effort, the smothering clouds that hid the almost-full moon, and the marauding black ants that seemed determined to explore my face while I tried to sleep, this week’s outing brought nothing but pleasure. It was something to treasure. There was so much to be grateful for. Too much to list, if truth be told.

Gratitude, that is the thing. Gratitude is what getting out on foot into the real world is all about. Because of backpacking I live most of my life at home and away from it in gratitude. My photos merely show that. So I guess they don’t lie after all!

wild colorado foothills june 2021
Our destination – a rugged little foothill, all forest and rock.
columbine and roses in wild colorado forest
Lush summer vegetation in the woods. Colorful Colorado!
hidden trail
Not the Continental Divide Trail this week. Something even better.
pine needles and pine cones in spring
Forest detail: flourishing life and optimism.
ponderosa pine sapling growing from rock
Talking of optimism. What a crack to grow from!
colorado foothills granite summit rocks
Our summit: an elevated rocky perch.
mount audubon indian peaks wilderness colorado
Gray skies and smoke haze surround Mount Audubon on a hot evening.
evening light over rocky mountain national park
No fiery sunset, but drama all the same.
morning light over the front range foothills and lyons colorado
Dawn was a long time coming, and I was glad to see it. Looking east across Lyons and the plains.
rocks trees and foothills early morning colorado front range
Heading back to the summit.
pine colorado in front range foothills
Bonsai tree, almost!
sunrise across the colorado front range foothills near lyons
A fleeting moment of glorious light. It lasted less than thirty seconds. Or far longer, depending on your point of view.
morning coffee andrew terrill and igloo ed
Morning coffee with Igloo Ed, moving about to leave the gnats behind.
indian peaks wilderness and navajo peak seen from the distance
Looking past Sheep Mountain towards the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
navajo peak indian peaks wilderness colorado
Navajo Peak.
wild basin rocky mountain national park late june
There is still some snow up in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Wild Basin.
longs peak close up the diamond rocky mountain national park
Close up of Longs Peak’s always impressive Diamond face.
colorado front range indian peaks wilderness and rocky mountain national park summer
The Divide, from the Indian Peaks to Rocky Mountain.
sunbeams above lyons colorado
Sunbeams across the plains.
tarp camp among the rocks andrew terrill
Camp among the rocks.
special place
Igloo Ed. Few companions are better. 


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