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Field Notes Blog

Trail Mix, Inside Jokes, and Life Change

If you have never gone backpacking I’m sure there’s a few pictures that come to your mind when you think about it. The amazing views, heavy packs, people wearing bandanas and hats because they haven’t showered in a few days or the endless amounts of trail mix.

My name is Marah and I am a backpacking guide for Noah’s Ark. While I know all these things to be true, they are just a teaser. The greater story of the backcountry is that no one comes back unchanged.

There are so many things that make the backcountry great. The views, the quality time with people, the quiet, and the simplicity of life that comes with living in the woods. I have been on countless trips, but I remember each one so distinctly.

Sometimes I remember a conversation that changed a friendship. Sometimes I will remember the moment someone overcame their fear or an insurmountable mental obstacle. Sometimes the best memory was one joke that made us laugh for days.

I can picture faces of kids I’ve taken up mountains- some of them are faces with huge smiles, others with tears in their eyes realizing they made it to the top of the mountain. I have seen a father and son conquer something together, I have seen a group of strangers become family, and I have seen people fall in love with the outdoors for the first time. No one comes back unchanged

People often ask, “What’s your favorite part about being a backpacking guide?” I have an easy answer. I love getting a front row seat to see the way people transform when they leave their world behind and follow me into the backcountry. One trip, while peaking a 13er, I was in the back of the line when a girl named Grace started to fall behind. I stopped her for a moment and with tears in her eyes she told me she simply could not do it. Her anxiety was overwhelming. She was hyperventilating and on the verge of giving up completely. We stopped. Grace calmed down and regained her breathing. Grace made it to the top that day, but not on her own. From that moment on, the strongest hiker decided to hike the rest of the way with Grace, her friends never ceased to encourage her and right before the peak the entire group held hands and summited the mountain as one unit. Grace overcame an insurmountable obstacle and the entire group became more unified in the process. They came out of the back country changed.. I never know what will change and oftentimes it is surprising to see.

Backpacking is hard, peaking a mountain while backpacking is even harder. I get to push people out of their comfort zone and see them achieve a feat they did not think was possible. Four to five days in the backcountry bonds people together unlike anything else I have seen.

It’s the combination of quality time, no distractions and accomplishing a feat together that unifies a group. No one comes back unchanged.