SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – May 2013

First Night Out: Essays

Three authors write about the moments that changed their impressions of the backcountry forever.

by: Tracy Ross, Bruce Barcott, and Jim Whittaker


Catch Fire
by Jim Whittaker

I spent my first night in the wilderness in November 1941. I was a 12-year-old Tenderfoot Scout in West Seattle’s Troop 272. Scoutmaster Ray Meyers organized a camping trip to the base of Mt. Si in the Cascade foothills, 30 miles east of the city. The mountain loomed over our campsite as we cleared away leaves, staked down tents, blew up air mattresses, and shook sleeping bags out. We peered into the woods and wondered, half scared and half curious, what was out there to “get us.” We told ghost stories around the fire. A classic scout’s poem recalls that night: “Have you ever watched a campfire when the wood has fallen low And the ashes start to whiten round the embers’ crimson glow. With the night sounds all around you making silence doubly sweet And a full moon high above so that the spell may be complete. Tell me, were you ever nearer to your land of heart’s desire Than when you sat there thinking with your feet before the fire.” The next morning, we explored the trails and terrain around camp. It was a glorious adventure. We discovered crisp ferns, rough Douglas fir bark, and tiny mushrooms protruding from dark humus—the newness and purity of nature. And that was just the start. I climbed Mt. Olympus in 1945, and five years later began guiding on Mt. Rainier. In 1963, with my Sherpa partner, Nawang Gombu, I became the first American to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. I have seen the teeming beaches of the Antarctic Peninsula; I have tasted the thin air of the Himalaya; I have smelled the richness of the Serengeti. But I will never forget that first night, nestled into the foothills of the Cascades, listening intently to the deep silence of the forest. So go ahead, take your first overnight. Who knows where it might lead?

Whittaker has just released a special edition of his book, A Life on the Edge: Memoirs of Everest and Beyond, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first American ascent of Everest. Get a signed copy ($25) at jimwhittaker.com.

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Trailhead Register
Thoughts on a FB group
Posted On: Jul 31, 2014
Submitted By: RumiDude
The Political Arena
Israel/Gaza Conflict
Posted On: Jul 31, 2014
Submitted By: Ben2World

Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

>
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions