July 8, 2015 Marion MacDonald

Backpacking and Recovery

Backpacking is lot like recovering from an eating disorder. It's a long uphill climb with a lot of baggage. Sometimes things get pretty hot, and you may experience an occasional breakdown.

And so it was the day we left for Mirasol's second backpacking trip with clients. This time of year, going anywhere outdoors means traveling to higher ground, since temperatures in mid-June here in Tucson were topping 110 degrees. We set our sights on Arizona's Mogollon Rim, a 200-mile-long wall of sandstone and limestone that slices diagonally across the northeast corner of the state and divides it into two distinct regions. The Rim is home to North America's largest stand of Ponderosa pine, and also gives birth to dozens of permanent streams that tumbles over the cliffs and water the canyons of southern Arizona. Between the generous canopy of trees and opportunities to splash in an icy stream, we figured we'd be okay to hike, even with temperatures in the mid-90s.

About 100 miles out of town, one of the vehicles broke down, so we sheltered everyone in the shade with plenty of water while we ordered a tow truck from Tucson and made a mad dash into nearby Globe to rent another SUV. I think most people would have given up and gone home at that point, but we pushed through, and we were rewarded for our perseverance with a delightful weekend in the mountains.

More challenges — and more lessons — lay ahead. In an open pasture under a full moon that night, we were all reminded how important it is to stay close and take care of one another. The next day we trekked to a shady campsite next to a gushing spring. Sometimes the solution is flowing right there at your feet, but you still need to pump it up and take it in!

It was a great trip that gave us many opportunities to practice the skills we learn in treatment, including controlling anxiety, being prepared, overcoming obstacles and taking care of ourselves and others. I hope the memory of that sparkling cool stream will serve as a reminder that there's a big payoff for perseverance, patience and teamwork.