Frustrations of a Trapped Trail Junkie
I want to state first, I love my job. I get to be outside all day; I have no office or desk; I get to teach kids amazing things about science, outdoor activities, nature, and preserving our world and I love getting to do it. I think it is important to state this first because what comes next may make a person doubt that truth. I am also trapped. There are two places I get to be for my job, on Catalina Island and in the San Bernadino National Forest. Both have day hikes and long trails, both are places that most people would give anything to live in. Unfortunately, my job is not a 40 hour a week job. Since I’m in a camp situation, I start work at breakfast and end well after dark. I don’t have to be working 100% of that time but I’m “on call” the entire day. We life in community and the coworkers I have are all that are available. When things go wrong or something needs done we all pitch in to get it taken care of so it can be a long day, and like those of the medical professions, on call means I can’t leave. I do have my weekends but it is only long enough to go the same places over and over and I get no paid time off or am really capable of time off at all since I am technically a nomadic seasonal worker, though our season is 9 months long. So I am, for all intents and purposes, trapped in two of the coolest places a person could be in, getting to see everyone else do the outdoor activities they love without the ability to indulge in my own.
I know I am a gear junkie. That is something I think all UL, XUL and SUL backpackers have in common. It is easy to see especially online since it is easy to post about gear. What I think is somewhat implied, but not always stated, is most people who are in the UL backpacking world are also trail junkies. In fact I think it is the fact that we are trail junkies first and that is what drives us to taking so much less than the traditional backpacker in the first place. I am no different. I love hiking all sorts of different trails in many different environments all over the country and hopefully someday, the world. It is hard for me to sit in the middle of such amazing beauty, especially our camp in San Bernadino NF, and read of all my friends back in Georgia getting to spend so many days on trail while I am trapped in almost a gilded cage. I am in an area any backpacker would relish being in but instead of getting to partake, I am stuck, even watching many backpackers a week come though camp on their way to finish the 26 mile trail on Catalina Island. I do get to do 3-4 day hikes a week and I have no shortage of walking allowed to me, but being a trail junkie is more than just walking or enjoying the activity of hiking, it is the act of exploring and discovery of new places, places most people never get to see.
I get frustrated that my job has brought me closer to the outside world but keeps me off trail more than any other job I’ve had that kept me trapped inside. I feel sometimes that I’m only playing at being a backpacker instead of getting to actually be a backpacker. Like an addict, I am suffering from withdrawal.