Thinking back now, it all began for me many years ago while hanging on a rack in a camping supply store. I was new, a bright red color and with plenty of pockets and straps I had a full 70 liter capacity.
In the evenings after the store had closed, my fellow strap hangers and I would imagine a life ahead full of adventure and travel to exotic places. Occasionally though, we would muse about our secret fear of a miserable existence confined to a life of little use in a dark closet. Or worse yet, a life of abuse as a book bag! Oh! the horror of those thoughts!
Now over a decade later, I sit here comfortably perched in a chair just a few feet from my owner and dear friend. At the moment, he is busy at the computer writing another one of his silly stories. Having just returned from Istanbul, we are between adventures so I have time to reminisce a little.
As it turned out, my time in that camping store was short. Good thing too because over several weeks I was forced to endure being pulled off the rack and inspected by a long line of characters who were too well dressed to be taken seriously as adventurers. Gosh, you should have heard some of the questions they posed to the store clerk about me. Things like, “Do you think this pack would be suitable for day excursions from our RV?” I still don’t know what the hell an RV is but I’m glad I never had to find out!
One day though, a young man came in and gently dislodged me from the rack. After filling me with some weighty material, he tried me on, tugged at my straps and together we wandered around the store to see how well we would work together. At the end of that first visit however, he had to leave without me, promising the clerk that he’d be back after he could raise a little more cash. Lucky for me, he came back the very next day mumbling something about owing his parents big time as he paid the clerk and I left the store on his back. At that moment, something told me that I was destined for a life happily attached to him at the hip.
Since that day so long ago our time together has been filled with discovery and adventure. I’ve taken quite a beating over the years and have the bruises, scars, and stains to prove it. Duct tape marks the places on my interior pierced by crampon points. Once, something called Nutella got mixed up with some red wine at a hut in the Alps. My friend has never been able to get the stain off me. My color has long faded, my straps are worn and frayed, and I have scars from stove burns. I’ve been dragged over rocks, frozen into ice, submerged in mud, bleached by the sun, and ravaged in a sandstorm. At various times, I’ve been strapped to mules, lamas, and camels. Once, I crossed an Egyptian desert tied to the roof of a Land Rover. I’ve been dumped in a river and hauled up many a steep pitch by rope.
I’ve been to Death Valley and to 7,000 meters. I’ve been securely attached to my friend in the Rockies, Sierras, Alps, Andes, and Himalaya. I’ve wandered the streets of Paris, got doused with beer in Munich, walked parts of the Great Wall, hiked in the Appalachians, and rode the night train to Warsaw. I’ve crossed more bodies of water than I can ever name. I’ve been east of Suez and south of the equator.
I’ve spent many a night in a tiny tent or under the stars. I’ve carried anything and everything needed to support my friend. My small pocket has held Pesos, Dinars, Lire, Rupees, Euros, Pounds, Dollars, and currencies gone now but not forgotten. I’ve been used as a pillow, mattress, chair, and once even as a sleeping bag.
Now in what surely must be the twilight of my life, I sit in the place of honor reserved for me by my friend in his study. We are surrounded by walls covered with pictures of the two of us. Even now, the wheels are turning in his mind as he thinks of our next adventure.
I think I heard something about Mongolia!!!
About John Gorkowski
John Gorkowski is a married father of four and grandfather of eleven who has had a lifelong interest in travel and adventure and who enjoys long solo hikes and mountaineering. He enjoys entertaining the family with short stories about his adventures.