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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Quotes of Hemingway Guide to Enjoying a Weekend in the Woods.

Warning, shameless Ernest Hemingway name dropping ahead...  
Ernest Hemingway was born in 1899.  Through his years, he was best known for his writing, but he was also a boxer, solider, U-boat hunter, war correspondent, deep sea fisherman, and a general adventurer.  He did all of this while having 4 different wives, 3 children, and 5 grandchildren that were born before his death in 1961.  Needless to say, he wasn't the most doting father and husband.  However, from a philosophical sense, his writings and quotes hold numerous meanings to me with regards to enjoying a calm, relaxing weekend in the woods.

I'm 33 years old, the father of a 7 year old, and married to a woman who received a double lung transplant a few years ago.  Unlike Hemingway, I tend to feel guilty about going away for a long weekend to someplace without cell phone service, leaving them to fend for themselves.  I'm sure that without me there, the dogs will run away, the house will burn down, and they'll both die of starvation by Saturday night because I wasn't there to order a pizza. 


"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."


This quote of Hemingway means so much in so many different ways.  The only way I can trust that the dogs won't run away, is to give them the chance to do so, and then see that they don't.  I have to put trust into my wife that she is a wonderful mother, and will make sure that they are fed, clean, and having fun while I'm gone.  She's never let me down.

When I get it in my head that I want to go to the woods, it starts with weeks or even months of planning, a month or so of buying "essential" gear like the special backpacking stove that I REALLY need because "Look! It can charge my cell phone!", followed by a few days of packing, unpacking, repacking, remembering that the sleeping quilts should be on the BOTTOM of your top loading pack, unpacking again, and finally repacking and throwing the pack in the damn car before you realize that you put your cell phone in the bottom of the pack, and you aren't leaving for 2 days.

But what really throws a wrench in the mix is the final 24 hours before I leave.  I tend to ask my wife 4,000 times if she's OK with me going, because I feel like she secretly doesn't mean it when she says "I'm fine with it, just go so I can have a weekend to myself with Shelby."

So, how do I finally get up, get out, and get going without just calling the whole thing off?


“The shortest answer is doing the thing.” 

Look at him.  Just enjoying being out, without a worry in the world.
So for all the planning, buying, packing, preparing, and asking "permission" to go away for a few days, I just have to go.  And you know what?  That always works out just fine.  The minute I hit the road, I feel better.  My mind clears, and I can already smell the pine trees, and hear the babbling of the stream I'm lying beside.   

What about that gear I just had to buy?  Well, I generally find that having that stove that charges my cell phone, is more trouble than it's worth when backpacking.  It's heavy, noisy, finicky, and I don't even have cell phone service.  Sure, it boils water faster than a regular wood stove, but then again, so does my canister stove.  I use the gear once, and then it sits in my basement, only used sparingly for a "change of pace".  


"The man who has begun to live more seriously within begins to live more simply without"


When you're in the backcountry, you have a lot of things with you.  The thing you have the most of is time, even though it can sometimes feel like you never have enough.  With this time, one tends to think.  I think about my family, I wonder what the species of trees are that my hammock is hung from, and, perhaps from my military background, I think about "debriefing", all the time.  It's only after the day's hike that I begin to tear down my packing list, and realize that half of the things I carried were never, and will never be needed in the woods.  Once I'm home, the gear gets stashed, almost never to be seen again.  Once I sit down and seriously think about what I'm doing and what I need, I begin to simplify my life.  The trick is doing this BEFORE I start packing.


"My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way." 


  No special notebook, no typewriter, just pen, paper, and time.
This is the most important "non-philosophical" quote of this whole post.  Keep a journal, or a "travelogue", of your trips.  It can be a stack of index cards, a small spiral notebook, or a nice rite-in-the-rain field journal.   Not only will it be nice in your golden years to read, reminisce, and perhaps even publish somewhere, but it can also be useful for the next trip you are planning for.  The point is to put pen to paper, and clear your mind of everything that's running through it.  Only when you're sure your thoughts, observations, and events are captured outside of your mind can you truly clear your mind and enjoy the weekend.  You can shrug off the problem of carrying that heavy stove 7 miles back to the car by ensuring that you'll just deal with it at home upon your return, and never carry it again.  

This post was never intended to be a technical "how-to" (although the title may be a little misleading).  It's more of a philosophical mind-hack.  But, if you want a quick checklist to summarize, here you go:

  1. Don't worry about what others will be doing.  Trust them completely and honestly, and enjoy your weekend.
  2. Plan your trip, smartly and simply, but don't obsess over things that really don't matter.  JUST GO, and enjoy your weekend.
  3. When you're finally out there, reflect on where you are, what you're doing, what you're carrying, and if you really need all of that gear to enjoy your weekend.
  4. When you feel like you've got it all figured out, write it down for future use, clear your mind, and just ENJOY THE WEEKEND.
  5. See the words in all caps?  There is your ultra simple, handy guide to "Just go, and enjoy the weekend".  You never know when you'll get another chance.