I must be in a “shoulder season” of my life.

In backpacking, a shoulder season is a time of environmental transition where trip planning requires flexibility, more planning, and careful thought before embarking on a trip—or choosing not to go.  Choosing not to go on a trip may be the wise choice given the somewhat unpredictable circumstances.  The uncertainty one faces when planning and experiencing a trip during shoulder season can be exciting; or, downright paralyzing.  Faced with more variables than usual, a backpacker planning a trip during shoulder season can either makes adjustments to address those variables, or pull the plug and wait for another day.

It’s the call for flexibility that impacts me the most.  It could rain during my trip. Better bring some rain gear.  Temperatures could drop more than expected.  Better bring the warmer jacket, socks, and sleeping gear.  I could be hiking in some strong winds, sloppy, wet conditions.  Better bring some robust footwear, extra socks.  The creek could be dry at this time of year.  Better carry extra water, just in case.

The potential for rain, wind, cold, challenging circumstances and conditions introduce a proverbial fork in the road for me: Do I really want to go on this trip?

Unfortunately, this rhetorical question has been coming up for every trip I’ve considered in the past year, not just those that involve a bit more planning or exertion.  This is a shoulder season in my life because, lately, I don’t find myself wanting to go on any trips.  I have lost my passion for backpacking.  I’m constantly staring at that fork in the road and I’m consistently choosing the path that doesn’t lead to the mountains, the desert, or anywhere in between.  I simply don’t want to go.

In the past, planning a trip was half of the fun.  Finding a route, plotting out water locations, planning a menu, deciding what gear to take for the particular adventure.  These things added to the excitement and anticipation.  However, even the process of planning a trip became nauseating for me.  Backpacking became a chore; a chore I was unwilling to entertain.

A million reasons, excuses actually, come to mind.  I’m busy.  Can’t get away from work. Family. Kids. Commitments. Injuries. Unfavorable weather conditions. My friends can’t make the trip.  I loathe driving for several hours just to reach the trailhead.  The proposition of a trip has become very unappealing.  I’ve been in a deep funk.

How does one recover from falling into such a deep, dark well?  I don’t know the answer.  But I think I just need to go. Anywhere. Just be outside.  A writer with writer’s block needs to write—anything.  An artist struggling to create needs to create—anything.  A backpacker wrestling with his indifference toward the outdoors needs to get outside—anywhere.  I don’t need more gear.  I don’t need perfect weather.  I don’t need an epic trip to the most beautiful location available. I don’t need to agonize over my menu, or whether I’m heading out solo or with others, or…

Thankfully, shoulder seasons can’t last forever.  I think I just need to go.