Backpacker

8. External Gratification

THERE WERE A dozen northbound Continental Divide Trail thru-hikers—most looked to be in their 20s—dillydallying at the first natural water source they had encountered since leaving the Mexican border two weeks prior. From a quarter-mile away, I could hear their excited, collegial chatter. When I approached, walking the other direction, conversation ceased mid-sentence and jaws dropped. Their facial expressions indicated they thought an apparition had just rounded the bend. Maybe a ghost from the area’s gold-mining past.

I was on a 10-mile dayhike, test-driving a brand-new pack, getting a feel for its plethora of adjustments and its weight distribution.

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