Heaving the heavy pack onto my shoulders after so many years was both familiar and forgotten.
The closest thing I’d felt to its bulky weight was the solid smack of my oxygen tank hanging loosely on the same shoulder for 2 ½ years. “Tank’s” nasal cannula tube draped down my back, the prongs pulling in protest against my nostrils as the regulator pulsed puffs of oxygen.
The pack—which I affectionately referred to as the BMW of backpacks—had a sleek, silver design and was everything my silver oxygen tank was not. Adventure. Activity. Independence. Healthy.
But that was Hiking Me…
Current Me is short of breath, fatigued by even the gentlest of hikes and aware of the way the hip belt digs into my stomach from the extra 35 pounds of prednisone weight. Current Me hikes alone so that I can get back to Hiking Me without being embarrassed at my pace and how a relatively flat hike can kick my ass from here to there.
Surprisingly, now that Tank is no longer my companion, Current Me savors the ability to hike at all. My pride is on my sweaty back, my new fleece pullover and my muddy boots.