My introduction to the Wilderness

When I was 14 years old my dad and I were in therapy because we couldn’t communicate and we weren’t getting along.

When I tell a lot of people this they say… Well that’s normal, you were a teen girl.

Yeah well, my dad wanted us to get along, he wanted us to be friends, and he wanted us to understand each other better.

He wasn’t accepting the “normal” and wanted more.

Our therapist recommended we find a common hobby; something to bond over, to share. She suggested we do something abnormal and to choose an activity that allowed us to disconnect from the world and reconnect with each other.

One thing we both liked was the outdoors, so my dad chose the Grand Canyon. In fact, he chose us backpacking the Grand Canyon from rim to rim.

A 24 mile trail (not including side trails) with 5 guys, and me; two of my dad’s friends and their sons.

This trip was my introduction to backpacking, to really getting into the wilderness, to going out west, and to my friendship with my dad.

Prior to the trip, I refused to break in my shoes because they weren’t “cute” enough. I didn’t want to train because I believed I knew best. I really wasn’t interested in listening during the prep meetings, because everything was easy, right?

Wrong. On this phenomenal adventure I got 15 blisters total, sunburn, heat exhaustion, I later found out my dad was secretly taking things out of my pack to make it lighter for me, I also got major anxiety with the thought that I had to physically CLIMB OUT of the Grand Canyon.

Some days I imagine what my life would be like without this trip, and I can’t.

I am so grateful my dad chose therapy, and help, over pride and comfort. I am grateful he took me into the wilderness that he was patient, loving, and encouraging. I’m grateful that he pushed for a friendship with me, that he worked to understand, to connect, and to help me understand him.

Thanks to this trip, I learned and gained so much.

I found a best friend in my father, who I speak on the phone to multiple times a day, and who I have shared so many trail miles and memories with.

I discovered my love for the wilderness and my desire to save the earth.

I met my first park ranger, who was a badass woman, who protected and cared for herself, who helped me with my heart exhaustion, and who spends 8 days at a time down in the canyon alone, with a week off after. She is still a huge part of my inspiration.

I saw waterfalls like never before, interacted with elk, rattle snakes, scorpions, and more wildlife than my midwestern childhood had given me.

I Imagine if we had never gone to therapy? Never had advice to find a hobby, to get along, never took this backpacking trip, and never had these experiences?

At the end of our hike, we stood at the North rim looking at the Grand canyon and my dad said “Kelsey, you backpacked the Grand canyon from rim to rim, you can do anything.”

And this is something I believe with all of my being.