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Although we had equipped ourselves with gear and food enough to last nearly a week, my partner and I had not anticipated that the natural spring would be bone-dry. We had
ascended 1000 meters that first day, and now had only a liter of water left to last us through the night. It was August in Spain, after all. We should not have taken our chances.

This was my first-ever backpacking trip. I had otherwise done my best to mentally prepare myself for five days of trekking the Cavalls del Vent, a through-hike in the Cadí-
Moixeró Park in the Pre-Pyrenees of Catalonia. I am a queer woman raised in cities whose only experiences living in the outdoors were occasionally sleeping under the stars
in the backyard. The heat of the day melded this urgent problem with an emotional challenge. My partner, a relatively experienced backpacker, had taken the lead planning
the trip. How could they have gambled on this small spring running with water? I took a deep breath. There was no use arguing when supplies were low, I quickly realized—
circumstances demanded that we work together to resolve the issue.

As it turned out, we had to descend the same distance we had hiked that day. Though parched and initially annoyed, jokes and songs eventually guided us along the trail. The
sky was dark by the time we finally came across a stream in the valley below and safely set up camp there, cooking with ease and replenishing our water bottles. Before bed I
cautiously emerged from the safety of our tent to brush my teeth. In the headlamp, a dozen eyes flashed in my direction. Their uniform gaze pierced my own, a force
unknown yet disarming in its familiarity. “The animal has secrets which, unlike the secrets of caves, mountains and seas, are specifically addressed to man,” writes art critic
John Berger. Reconciling this fear of the unknown with the connectivity I felt to my hiking partner, and even to the long trail we had descended, was a pivotal moment.

This newfound sense of connection to other species and to the natural world while backpacking unlocked new avenues for me. Despite a fear of heights, I have since learned
to rock climb, a sport that has (ironically) kept me grounded while processing recent trauma in my personal life, and has allowed me to reclaim autonomy over a body
constantly scrutinized by the male gaze.

By Emilie

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