Eight years ago, my husband and I took a friend backpacking to celebrate her fiftieth birthday. Since that first trip, she has made it her annual birthday tradition to gather a group of friends and head to the mountains in mid-July for a night or two of camping and hiking.
I began backpacking close to my thirtieth birthday. As I age, the pack feels heavier, the ground gets harder and the physical recovery from sore muscles and achy joints takes longer. Still, I never regret the effort. Sitting by a crackling campfire high atop a mountainside with stars overhead centers me. The calm is vast, the beauty a reminder of all that is good in this crazy world.
There's much to be said for annual traditions. They keep us doing something we might otherwise allow to slip away, replaced by the demands of life and work. I'm grateful to my friend for getting us out into the ancient tranquility of the Pacific Northwest mountains in the early summer each year. Now, our backpacks are out of the attic, packed, and ready for the next weekend escape. It doesn't take much - only one night - to shift perspective and refresh the soul.