Posted by: Staff | 01.25.2010

This I Believe: Katie Block ’11


When I look at the world, it is divided into three parts: developed, front country, and backcountry. The pavement-encrusted suburbia where I was live my daily life is the part I am most familiar with, yet I feel out of place amongst the cookie cutter houses. In the world I must navigate every day, girls my age worry about burning themselves with a hair straightener or which pair of two hundred dollar jeans to wear each day of the week. The materialistic tendencies of my peers, ones that I try so hard to resist, are constant reminders that I am somewhat different than teenage girls who list shopping and texting as their favorite activities. To me, nature isn’t just something outside that I walk my dog in or look at through the windows of a car.
    The front country is where wilderness meets the civilized world in the form of small cities focused on the outdoors like Jackson, Wyoming. I am more comfortable in this environment. Walking around in hiking boots, jeans and a polypro shirt doesn’t earn strange looks. Many shoppers at the grocery store are buying odd combinations of items; five pounds of cheese, three pounds of summer sausage and ten jars of Kool-Aid are not part of the typical American supermarket trip. The front country serves the purpose of a transition between civilization and wilderness. It is the place to make last minute preparations before venturing out into the vast unknown, unfamiliar yet wonderful backcountry.     
    The backcountry a sparsely inhabited rural region. It is wilderness areas that are more than one full day’s hike away from a trailhead, which itself could be a long drive away from any form of civilization. I know that the backcountry air feels crisper and fresher in my lungs than the overcrowded smog of cities or the musty air of the indoor. The rhythm of each monotonous step after another along a muddy trail clears my mind and helps me remember what it is to be alive.  
    After a long day of trudging up a narrow, muddy trail etched out by pack mules, a meal cooked on a whisper-light stove tastes better than any gourmet I’ve ever had. The undercooked fettuccine and Alfredo sauce with a few mosquitoes mixed in is more satisfying than any dish at Blue Ginger or Radius.  Earning a meal by hiking all day in the pouring rain or reaching a campsite surrounded by snow capped mountains makes it taste better than anything ordered on a menu or cooked on a stove in the comfort of a home kitchen. The act of carrying on my back a pack that includes all the things I need to live remind me how little is actually important in this world. I need the tent resting strapped behind my head to protect me from the rain, lightning, bears and mosquitoes. The food in my food sack is simply fuel, what gives me energy to hike each day. The clothes I carry are just the basics, some quick dry shirts and shorts to hike in, long johns for cold nights and rain gear. The most important item of all are my boots and socks. Keeping my feet happy means keeping me happy.
    This summer when I spent time in the backcountry of Wyoming, I learned to appreciate life’s small pleasures. Kool-aid and Countrytime lemonade became my two favorite foods, since they masked the taste of iodine. My bandanna became my favorite piece of clothing since it kept the sun of my badly burnt ears. Inside my sleeping bag on top of my z-rest became my favorite place to sleep, initially in my tent and then outside in the open. The vast and prodigious night sky filled with twinkling became the last thing I saw before I fell asleep. I believe in falling asleep under a canopy of stars. This, I believe.



  1. Wow, I loved this essay Katie. I’m with you — happier outside than in. I especially liked your observations about your backpack and what’s really essential.

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