The characters in my book are young ranch hands in the wide-open spaces of Big Bend. They roam the unfenced wilderness at will on their horses. They shoot their own food and sleep under the stars. By today’s standards, they travel light…canteen, pistol, rifle, cartridges, lariat, and a little food wrapped in a napkin.
It’s difficult to write about their world with insight. I live in a city, miles away and 130 years later. I’m female and until recently, my natural habitat was an office. I do have some small advantages, though. As a rancher’s daughter, I’ve spent time outside in West Texas (hot and dry, or cold and windy, throw in the occasional thunderstorm and deluge). I also have a passing familiarity with guns and horses… but to do justice to the story of these boys, I need to immerse myself in their world…
So…I’m backpacking Big Bend!
Bought my gear Labor Day at REI’s big annual sale. Pack, tent, footprint, boots, poles…the whole nine yards! I now have every modern, lightweight camping convenience. Ok, my investment in cushy, comfy gear sets me apart from the characters in my book, but…this is as pared-down as a modern woman gets…as no-frills as I’m willing to go. I’ll be packing two luxury items: a tiny notebook and a pen for writing. Extra ounces to burden my pack, but necessary to recording details for good storytelling.
I’ve taken the backpacking classes REI offers, and they were helpful. My personal trainer, Roland at Telos Fitness, has obligingly taken our workouts to Arbor Hills Nature Preserve, where I can hike the trails with my pack fully loaded. I assure you it is heavy! 20 pounds of the pack’s weight is water. My tour leader says, “it’ll only be heavy at the beginning, since you’ll be drinking it…”
I won’t exactly be shooting my own food, but I will be sleeping under the stars. I’ll experience the wind whistling in the mountains and shiver at the night noises… I will see the sunrise and feel the first warmth of morning light seeping into my bones… and I’ll see parts of Big Bend only accessible on foot. (Places our four wheel drive couldn’t go, last trip). Hopefully, the end product of these adventures will be good reading for all who pick up the book.
Stay tuned for more about my itinerary and preparations, and photos from the hike itself, which will take place next month…