"The only baggage you can bring is all that you can’t leave behind." - U2, Walk On
When I was sixteen, I joined my father and his friends on the hiking trip of a lifetime in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado—trekking over 60 miles in the Weminuche Wilderness Area along the Continental Divide Trail. We physically trained for the hike and planned out every imaginable detail for our wilderness journey—where we would camp, what we would eat, which layers of clothes to pack, and where we would find water. Most of our food was pre-packed, freeze-dried meals, but we did get to make our own homemade trail mix. It wasn’t that store-bought stuff; it was a custom-made, properly proportioned, delicious blend of hand-selected ingredients. I made mine with peanuts, sunflower seeds, chocolate candies, raisins, and banana chips. It was delicious. And I was confident that I would not run out of my trail mix. Against my father’s sound advice, I filled up a two-gallon Zip-lock freezer bag with my snack blend. It was, at least, six pounds. “That’s a lot of trail mix,” he would say, “it’s a lot of weight.” But what did this middle-aged banker know about my teenage passion for trail mix? I insisted, “It’s going to be so amazing! I love trail mix!” I imagined myself sitting high on a mountain top surveying the great wide open—enjoying the fusion flavors of my delectable concoction.
By day two, everything in my pack smelled like trail mix, including my clothes. By the afternoon break on day three, the mere idea of withdrawing the giant, plastic bag of never-ending nosh from my backpack made me queasy. By the morning of day five, when everyone else’s packs were getting lighter, mine only seemed to grow heavier—heavier with the contemptuous bloat of trail mix. My pride kept it on my back, but my secret recipe was eating away my soul. To this day, the mere smell of peanuts and raisins mixing with M&Ms can turn me green.
On the early morning of our last day, as we struck camp and readied for our long journey back to civilization, I was ready to part with my trail mix. It would no longer weigh me down. Walking with purposed determination, I took the bag to the edge of our camp to dump it all out. “You can’t do that,” Mr. Fooks said, “there’s too much of it just to dump here in the open. It could be a problem for all the small creatures, and it’s litter.” I glanced at my Dad over my shoulder. “You’re going to need to bury it.”
And so began a legend that a handful of amateur hikers still tell around their evening campfires: The Burying of the Trail Mix. Dad took his trowel—and a quiet disposition that only fatherhood can teach—and dug a hole. There in the vast Colorado wilderness, we entombed the remaining four pounds of my once desirable mixture, and I was free. Each step became lighter. Each new breath of air a little fresher.
In life as in hiking, there is going to be some baggage we must unload and bury. Maybe it’s bitterness, unforgiveness, or regret. Maybe it’s disappointment. Maybe it started as something fresh, exciting, and life-giving. But along the journey, it has become dead weight. It’s probably permeating everything and everyone close to you—a giant, four-pound bag of custom-blended human stuff. It might change your stride or slow your pace. Have you let it stink up your mountain-top view of God’s grace? Sometimes it’s just best to acknowledge what it used to be, or what it has become, and let it go. So find a shovel and sink it—at least far down enough to keep the squirrels away.