Backpacking has always been a tool for exploration, both internal and external. Our perhaps not too distant ancestors, who carried things into the wilderness out of necessity rather than bourgeois whimsy, used their backs only when nothing else would do. Preferring elk dogs, as the Blackfeet called the horses of Lewis and Clark, or the like whenever possible. This being the case, it only follows that the quality of external exploration will be internally etched via the introspection it in turn engenders. Mr. Eliot has us pegged, and while backpacking may most of the time speak of something less grave than existential torpor, that the suffocating comfort of the contemporary global north has directly popularized something as absurd as walking in big circles carrying weight for fun cannot be well questioned.
Every backpacker has a piece of that violent, bold soul, and thus every backpacker should at least think about visiting Craters of the Moon National Monument, in central Idaho. It is one of the most extraordinary places to go walking for fun of which I am currently aware. Since my first visit and hike out on the lava flows I’ve wanted to know more, and to that end have gone back several times in the intervening years, slowly learning more with each subsequent visit. The rest of this essay will focus on logistical minutia to facilitate and enhance the first trips of backpackers new to the area.
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