Battling Mother Nature in the Backcountry Photos by Ellen Baker

Mustaches, man buns, beards (really, just hair in general), flannels, iPhones, Instagram, Snapchat, craft beer, selfie sticks, high-waisted pants, raw denim, wayfarers, GoPros, tattoos, all things gluten-free, road trips, traveling, and my favorite; the outdoors. What do these things all have in common? Millennials, hipsters and the trends of the current decade. Like it or not, the youth of today has taken pieces of history and molded them to fit into a “new” lifestyle.

This “new” lifestyle encourages everyone to “get outside,” even though that might mean carrying a selfie stick to document your every step. Regardless, people are getting into nature and hopefully, taking away from it a better sense of well being … or something like that.

No longer are the days of people saying “I wish I could do that” to rock climbers, skiers, hikers, base jumpers, slackliners, canyoneers (thank you, 127 hours), trail runners, surfers, sky divers and backpackers. Thanks to all the easily accessible gyms, slopes, rentals, guides and blogs, pretty much anyone can do anything relatively easily today, as long as you own a Subaru.

As an avid rock climber and outdoor enthusiast, I spend a lot of time in nature. I have spent weeks-on-end in a tent and have slept under the stars on countless occasions but until last summer I had never hiked for over a week in the backcountry—with no accessible toilets, only a topo map as a guide—just myself, my partner, our backpacks and the great outdoors. We backpacked for seven days and through our novice experience, I am here to drop some knowledge about what I learned and how you can avoid all of the things I did wrong on your next backpacking trip. And so it begins:

Battling Mother Nature in the Backcountry

Lesson #1: Bring more than enough food.

You WILL need/want it.

Breakfast, check. Dinner, check. Water, check.

“All we need are a few snacks and we’re good to go!”

Michelle and I packed our backpacks and headed to Boulder, Colorado, in search of some mountains. We planned to hike along the Continental Divide Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park for seven days.

We had two days in Boulder to adapt to elevation and make sure we had everything we needed for the backcountry.

“One box of Clif bars, two bags of trail mix … Where is the beef jerky!?? Ahhh … Here it is, one bag. Perfect.”

Let me start off by saying, there are seven Clif bars in a box. We planned to be in the backcountry for seven days, so that’s perfect, right? Wrong. If you are counting for two people, that’s completely wrong.

So, for every food item we had, we had enough for one person. I’m still not quite sure if this was just a simple lapse in judgement, or the most “blonde” moment of my (our) lives, but it happened, and once we were on the trail making breakfast, we realized what we had done. We split every meal and rationed out the trail mix, peanut by peanut, almond by almond.

On average, we were eating 690 calories a day, hiking anywhere from 5–14 miles a day. That is just not enough sustenance.

Moral of the story, I will never, ever, ever, miscalculate my food allotment again, and will probably always have some food to share. We were hungry, determined girls attempting to catch fish, find pine cones and roast squirrels, but unfortunately, fires were not permitted. You learn a lot about yourself when you’re hungry and tired, but having the right company can make all the difference.

Battling Mother Nature in the Backcountry

My friend Michelle Diaz.

Lesson #2: Pack light, seriously …

Even though we seriously miscalculated our rations, every day that passed was 690 calories less to carry, and boy did it feel amazing. If you have something in your pack you don’t NEED to stay alive, leave it behind.

Battling Mother Nature in the Backcountry

Lesson #3: Don’t have expectations.

The trail began to feel easier, and I was feeling great when we reached the summit. All of a sudden, the winds picked up. We were literally blown off of our feet, it was hard to breathe, I couldn’t open my eyes and my happy-go-lucky vibe had completely vanished. I was over it. I wanted off the mountain.

The most important thing: Mother nature knows no boundaries. The minute you feel safe might be the same minute you lose your life by the slip of a foot. Take caution, care for the earth and come out of the wilderness with a new perspective.

Battling Mother Nature in the Backcountry

    Ellen Baker

    View Articles

    Rock scrambling, exploring and taking photos along the way.