By: Jenni Taylor
There were ten of us on this camping trip, all teenage girls with 40-pound army bags weighing down our bony shoulders and clipped across our growing boobs. We would hike, sleep under mosquito nets, and cook porridge over a fire or eat peanut butter smeared on carbohydrates. We had a shovel named Doug for all of our necessities, and I think one roll of toilet paper for all of us for the full two weeks. It was, I believe, what people call “roughing it”.
After days of this, I was tired. I was dirty. I was covered with cuts and bites. I was the last one in the hiking line and my bag towered a foot or so over my head. All the cooking pots and pans were attached to me too, rattling and clanging and bruising together with each step I took. Then, out of nowhere, we had to climb this mountain. This giant ass mountain, all in the brush, no path. I wanted to cry. I was behind, I was small, I was young, I was holding up the group. I wanted to just tumble back with my bag on top of me and lie face down in the dirt until life went away. But the girls held out their blistered hands to help pull me up, bit by bit, making a human chain; and while the pots kept clanging away and my muscles popped and ached, I found myself climbing higher and higher above the treeline.
When we made it to the top of the mountain, it was raining. The heat rising from the trees hit the cold free air and we were suddenly above the mist, looking down. Everyone was soaked and covered with mud, rivets of water running into our eyes and noses and mouths and shoes. I took off my bag, lifted up my arms to the sky, and laughed and cried and laughed again. Then I ate a snickers bar. It was the best snickers bar I had ever tasted.
I I still remember how deeply I could breathe on top of that mountain, how open it all felt. Somewhere in the silly tears of a teenage girl scratching her way to the top, the feelings of being small, insignificant and worthless had all faded away to the fact that I could do it. I could climb. I had loving people around me. I wasn’t alone. I could do anything.