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You know you're a real backpacker when...
Photos & Article by Darren Hill

You get exciting looking forward to a hike. Not like kinda excited....I mean WHOOPIE!!! I just got off the horn with Mr. Black, discussing our upcoming hike, the route, food, gear and such. I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas to come tomorrow. After getting off the phone, I came downstairs and my wife looked at me with the one eyebrow up. I started telling her what I had discussed. She just smiled warmly and continued folding clothes....sigh, I wish I could help her understand. She does appreciate my excitement, but only a few really know the feeling. Most of you, I hope.

I have to start packing and repacking my pack after I decided which one to use tonight, even though it is a week and a half away. It has been the first time I have been out hiking in a month. This trip is going to be awesome. We are going for some serious agony, exploring, and beauty.

Sometimes, when we (My partner, Mark and I) are driving up to our starting point, I give a big loud whoop in the truck, making Mark jump out of his seat. I attempt to pump him with excitement. Sometimes, we pass the time of the drive, just sitting quietly, with the windows down, feeling the wind. As we get closer, the city lights fade and trees get larger. I can smell the fir, cedar, ferns, and foxglove when we are close. After the final turn-off on Salmon River road, I hear the sound of the river. After a few minutes, we can see it in the moonlight. We gage it to see how tricky the hike up river is going to be. Soon after, the last of the Gatorade goes down. Finally, after two long hours, we hit the gravel road, put it four wheel drive and start the last winding, bumpy road up the steep climb to the start of our hike. We pull the packs out, look at the stars, and swing them up onto our shoulders. We adjust our bandanas and turn on our headlamps after cleaning the lenses. We slide on our gloves and clench the leather to loosen the hide. One last look, "To a glorious journey, a prost"...and off into the wilderness we go.