I’m packing for a hiking trip. My backpack bulges with flashlights and rain gear, water filter and compass, duct tape and blister ointment, and a canister of bear spray I hope I won’t have to use. Trail mix shares space with bug spray, socks, first-aid kit, and a titanium trowel called “The Deuce.”
After I add water and a host of other items I might need, my pack will rival the size and weight of a bull moose.
Nylon shushes in protest with each addition. It’s a sound I find oddly satisfying in a “good to be prepared” kind of way. The bag’s expanding girth symbolizes the ebb and flow of life on and off the trail.
My backpack wears many hats. It’s a suitcase for weekend trips. It holds groceries and farmers market fare, sandwiches and treasures found in unexpected places. Like me, it’s been scraped and scuffed through the years, but its mission will continue until it completely falls apart.
I stuffed another backpack this week, for an entirely different quest. It was a brand new model I’d purchased for Griff, my brand new grandson. Griff was born a few days ago in Oklahoma, which is famous for wicked twisters.
Griff is ridiculously handsome, so I bought him an equally rugged and masculine-looking pack. It has clips and pockets, zippers and straps just begging for adventure. Right now it’s geared up to escape an oncoming tornado – a baby bug-out bag, of sorts.
I imagine the pack plunked by the door or stashed in the car, ready to be grabbed and gone at a moment’s notice. Basements are rare in Oklahoma, and evasion is a popular option when the weather turns nasty.
It holds a blanket and pacifiers, diapers and wipes, books and bottle, extra clothes and a pint-sized sleeping bag in case Griff needs a nap while waiting out the storm.
The pack’s heavy canvas rasps a manly groan with each addition, like a guy running his hand over chin stubble. It’s another sound I find oddly satisfying, in a “good to be prepared” kind of way.
Through the years, Griff’s pack will change in contents and purpose. Baby stuff will be replaced with a ball glove and interesting rocks found by third base, last July’s firecrackers and a slingshot, a magnifying glass and a pocket knife his dad gave him for his birthday.
It will be stuffed with clothes for sleepovers and family vacations. It’ll hold thermoses of hot chocolate for football games, and s’mores ingredients for backyard campouts.
There will be basketball shoes and pop cans, electronic gadgets and stinky socks. It will hold binoculars and band-aids, permission slips and sunglasses, school reports and beef jerky, ski-lift tickets and summer camp tokens, car keys and Husker gear.
Eventually it’ll hold flashlights and rain jackets, water filter and compass, blister cream and bear spray I hope Griff never has to use. I imagine a multi-tool and pocket stove, binoculars and GPS device. Maybe there’ll be a fading photo of his grandma tucked in there for good measure.
The pockets will tear and the clips will break, the canvas will scuff like it’s been kicked down a mountain. Duct tape and superglue repairs will share space with embroidered patches added from places seen and summits met.
I questioned my sanity when I first bought that backpack. A baby bug-out bag sounded just plain goofy. Sensible grandmas would laugh me out of town, and justifiably so.
Then I thought about my old pack – of trips taken, adventures met, and trails traversed. It has served me well through the years, providing unfailing comfort and security wherever I go.
That backpack, I believe, is the perfect gift. As time passes, I hope young Griff grows to love his as much as I do mine.
I hope he occasionally thinks of the crazy grandma who gave it to him, too.
Welcome to a world full of adventure, Griff! ONWARD!