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the birthday gift

2013 June 5
by Rachel Turiel


Guess what?

It’s my birthday on Friday!

Guess what I’m doing to celebrate?

Going on a 3-day solo backpacking trip!

Does that sound crazy? I don’t know anymore. During the day, when I think about my trip, I’m all: Wild plants! Connecting with the blessings of nature! Waking up to bird song! Slowing way down! The mental clarity that comes from being alone in the woods! Feeling the power of my own two legs! At night when the doubts come knocking on my cranial door, I have a little mantra I repeat about “peaceful nocturnal animals living their own lives.”

A friend helped me distill my amorphous anxieties into “worst case scenarios,” to check in and see if any were prohibitive enough to cancel the trip. Loneliness? Boredom? Body pain? I can handle those. A bear wandering through my camp at night, causing me to sit up in my sleeping bag, turn my headlamp on and say, decisively, “Go away bear!” Well…yeah, I’m OK with that too. (As long as the bear listens; the wild bears around here are very well behaved. Key word: wild).

I used to backpack alone a lot. You know, say-it-with-me: Before Kids. And you know how people seek travel as a means toward inspiration, personal challenge, exploration and growth? For me, all that happened on these solo backpacking trips in my 20’s. Plus, there was the gift of getting up close and personal with the plants of the San Juan mountains and seeing so much beautiful country, the kind that inflates your heart with happiness and gratitude for its very existence.

I’m leaving tomorrow under the auspices that you can teach an old dog old tricks. I’ve got my rain poncho which doubles as shelter, hella calories, two books, an envelope of notes from my BFFs to read on my birthday, one pot, one bowl, one spoon, a star chart from my astronomy-enthusiast dad, a bag of pea sprouts to ward off the risks of scurvy from the 20,000 calories of bacon and energy bars, and love in my heart. So much love.

Thanks for being here you guys.

See you all on the flip side.




50 Responses leave one →
  1. June 5, 2013

    Sounds like a fabulous way to celebrate. Enjoy!

  2. June 5, 2013

    have the happiest of birthdays! xo

  3. Danielle G permalink
    June 5, 2013

    You got this. Have a wonderful time!

  4. June 5, 2013

    I wanna hear about the calories!

    I’ll send a telepathic birthday cake on the actual day. I’m thinking chocolate with candied ginger involved somehow. Don’t know why.


    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      June 5, 2013

      I am telepathically all over that cake. And early birthday love to you birthday-sister.

  5. rose permalink
    June 5, 2013

    have a wonderful time! happy, happy birthday! xox

  6. June 5, 2013

    I know I don’t say much here, but I seem to recall you going on a few solo trips (at least one) way back when we were roommates. I have yet to go solo since Alder was born. Enjoy yourself!

  7. June 5, 2013

    Have a wonderful trip. It’s a great thing to do for yourself.

  8. June 5, 2013

    WE LOVE YOU, RACHIE!!!! i wish you sunshine and raindrops and endless plant friends and bravery and quiet times munching on delicious calories (YUM) and words – meaningful, meaningful words – and truth and discovery and self-love and wide skies and *alla* the beauty that You Are reflected back at you in all that you see. see you on the flip side, indeed. xoxoxoxoxo

  9. Sara permalink
    June 5, 2013

    Have a great trip. I’m slightly jealous, though I’ve never actually done a solo trip. I miss backpacking, though.

  10. Melissa permalink
    June 5, 2013

    Happy birthday! Looking forward to all the wisdom
    This trip brings you, xoxo

  11. June 5, 2013

    Sounds like an awesome way to celebrate!
    Happy Birthday and have a great trip!

  12. Anonymous permalink
    June 5, 2013

    I wish you a very, very happy birthday. It seems a perfect way for you to celebrate. (My idea of camping would be a suite at The Ritz and strawberry shortcake but you would hate that!). So…
    I wish you sunshine, enough raindrops to produce a great rainbow and only wild bears!

    Auntie Jan

  13. June 5, 2013

    Totally jealous. Take lot’s of pictures to share!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      June 5, 2013

      Oh dear. The camera did not make the cut.

  14. Rachel Turiel permalink*
    June 5, 2013

    You guys are filling me up with so much love to take with me!

  15. Andrea permalink
    June 5, 2013

    Say what? you are a gemeni also??? no wonder i am so madly in love with you and all that you offer to us in this space, and how even though we are just ‘friends’ here… you are my twin :)

    cant wait to hear all about it! be safe, i will look at the stars and ponder how you are doing.

    happy birthday, dear sister.

  16. Amy Morrison permalink
    June 6, 2013

    Happy Birthday Amazing Gemini Inspiration!!
    sunshine, hawks, rainbows, endless, wildflowers, serenity, clarity, healthy body, good nights sleep, perfectly crisp bacon, chocolate at just the right moment, uninterrupted reading, and a safe return home to your beautiful family… these things I wish for you on your Birthday!
    Enjoy your celebration!!

  17. jodi permalink
    June 6, 2013

    I have been reading your blog for a few months and enjoy reading about your family and your way of living. My birthday is Friday also Happy Birthday!

  18. June 6, 2013

    It is important for us Geminis to take some solo time away from being so social and animated all the time. Loved my solo 4 day lower San Juan trip this year!

  19. June 6, 2013

    What a great birthday gift! Have a fantastic time! (And is one of those books you’re taking along HARD-covered? You are HARD-core!!).

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      June 10, 2013

      Crazy, I know. The Anne Lamott is hardback, but very very small.

  20. June 6, 2013

    Have fun!!!! Happy Birthday x

  21. June 6, 2013

    Have fun you adventurer! Happy Birthday!

  22. Ania permalink
    June 6, 2013

    Can’t think of a better birthday gift myself. Best wishes!

  23. Emily Reynolds permalink
    June 6, 2013

    All right!! It’s going to be gorgeous Rachel. The happiest and most wonderful of times on your birthday journey to you. You have been such a gift to Jojo and to me. Thank you for your wisdom, your humor, your book suggestions (NVP all the way baby! Can we form a practice group?) and of course, your recipes (^_^)v Love You!! Have fun out there

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      June 10, 2013

      Emily, Col and Rose miss your dog. I miss you and Jojo. And YES to the NVC practice group. Yes! Yes! Yes!

  24. Barb permalink
    June 6, 2013

    Happy Birthday Rachel! Mine is next week, yay June. I wish you the peace and delight of knowing that “nobody needs you” for 3 days. Or, if they need you, they can wait! xxoo

  25. Amy Carney permalink
    June 6, 2013

    Yay…..I am wanting a solo tent camping trip over night with my kiddos in Big Sur….I know the 4 of us would love it….it’s a hike in camp and it’s beautiful….Happy Birthday! Can’t wait to here how your solo trip goes! P.S. My bday is happening this month too!

  26. June 6, 2013

    A woman after my own heart. You’ll love it. And you’ll probably miss your family. Happy Birthday!

  27. June 7, 2013

    have the best adventure filled birthday and please try to avoid being eaten!

  28. June 7, 2013

    happy birthday, dear friend! i hope you have an amazing, inspirational time! xoxoxo

  29. Susan S permalink
    June 7, 2013

    Hey hey!

    Revel in your time away to think a thought all the way through to its conclusion or to wherever it goes on its wandery, free-associative path. Pee unaccompanied! Feel whatever comes without having to hide it or explain it to the small people who look to you for direction. Come home smelling like sweat and woodsmoke tent and lodgepole pine. Most of all, enjoy your time away and enjoy coming home!

    Happy Birthday, Rachel!


  30. Emmanuelle permalink
    June 7, 2013

    Happy birthday, dear Rachel! Enjoy your connection with the beautiful, silent, vibrating wild world – the wise aspens, the nodding plants, the busy birds, and your own wild happy soul.


  31. June 8, 2013

    Love it! What a wonderful way to celebrate your birthday. And I love that you carry an envelope from your friend. That is just perfect.

  32. June 9, 2013

    Happy birthday! (And, by the time you read this: hope your solo trip was awesome!)

  33. June 10, 2013

    Sounds like a great birthday plan. Hope it was lovely.

  34. Ring permalink
    June 11, 2013

    I lurk on your page quite often and indulge my living off the land dreams vicariously through your adventures. Have a glorious birthday, and when you get back to the Interwebs, I think you might enjoy checking out Eustace Conway and his Turtle Island Preserve, both on FB. Right up your alley.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      June 11, 2013

      Ring, lurking is A-OK. And nice to hear from you. I loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s book about Eustace Conway, Last American Man.

  35. October 17, 2013

    I get delight from, lead to I ran across what exactly I had been taking a look with regard to. You might have concluded my Some day lengthy quest! God Thanks a lot person. Have a very wonderful working day. Ok bye

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