For me, backpacking isn’t primarily about pain. Seeing beautiful scenery, watching wildlife, spending time outdoors with my husband, testing myself, yes. But pain? It’s not a goal.
But, with the way we backpack, it is a reliable by-product.
I’m sure there’s a way to backpack that would be pain free. It probably involves hiring other people to carry your gear and traveling no more than 5 miles in a day. Does it count as backpacking if you yourself are being hauled in a backpack? I wouldn’t count it.
So I’m prepared for the inevitable pain that comes along with backpacking. My feet will swell. My toes might knock against my boots and blister. My knees will complain. My muscles will ache. My shoulders will require longer and longer periods of adjustment each morning before they submit to their fate.
Most days, I will reach a point where I don’t feel like I can go on. That usually means it’s time for lunch or a substantial snack. Food won’t cure the pain, but it will allow me to push past it. A nice half hour boots-off break gives me a morale boost, even if putting the boots back on makes me want to cry.
Even a short hike with a light pack can cause the pain to rise. Training hikes up to Lucky Peak are no walk in the park. I don’t see how someone could gain over 3000 feet in elevation over the course of about 5 miles and not feel pain. Such pain free people must be better athletes than I.
I’m not the best athlete, but I’m a good backpacker. I know how to push past the pain. I know how to get my body to do more than I thought it could. I am, perhaps, a little crazy, and definitely, driven to succeed in my chosen sport.