Backpacking vacation restores physical, mental health

Mark A Mahoney

Madera Peak as seen from camp in Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, July 2021.

My column today focuses on a personal trip to California to undertake a yearly backpacking trip with a friend in California to the high Sierra Nevada Mountains, something which had been a yearly endeavor for many years now.

However, this July’s experience was particularly important as we had missed 2020 due to the pandemic.

As I have noted in prior columns, there are direct positive effects from movement, both to our physical as well as our mental well-being.

Nature and the outdoors can truly provide a needed respite from one’s daily routine. And, as we know, over the past year many of us have spent more time indoors with less human contact outside of our immediate families.

Planning for a backpacking excursion is always a bit of a challenge as one carries everything in and takes everything out. However, the thought of getting away into the solitude of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Ansel Adams Wilderness provided all the motivation needed.

This was particularly relevant post-pandemic to allow for reflection on what had occurred over the past year and one-half.

Ansel Adams Wilderness with peaks In distance during California backpack trip in July 2021.

As a public health professional who tries to educate the public on health promotion/disease prevention topics through scientific evidence and best practices approaches, the fact that we had lost over 600,000 people to COVID was particularly disturbing.

The backpack experience was truly one of the most physically arduous but the fact we were able to camp at 9,000 feet in front of a 10,500 foot peak and not encounter another soul for almost 4 days provided a serenity that is not often encountered in today’s world.