There is a saying in the thru-hiking community that the trail provides. Lose your sunglasses one day? Find a pair dropped on the trail the next.  Running out of food?  There’s a trail angel grilling up some hamburgers at the next road crossing.  Though I haven’t started the trail, I find it is already providing me with a lesson in minimalism.

Planning to walk 2,650 miles over 5 months through desert and over mountains is forcing me to cast a discerning eye on my gear.  I find myself evaluating everything for its utility, value and weight and asking whether the item is necessary or a luxury to be left behind.

However, it isn’t always cut and dried. Yes, I need a backpack, tent and sleeping bag, but do I need a microfiber towel if I already have a bandana? What about small keepsakes given to me to ensure my safe travels? Their utility and weight may be small, but their value is in the memories and feelings they conjure up in me.  Of course those memories and feelings exist in me and not the things, so perhaps a photo of them will suffice?!

There is no right answer and certainly the answer to these questions may change over time, but it is certainly something that I am grappling with.

I composed the poem below to take a break and clear my head.


The Things I Carried

Small and large,

heavy and light

the things I carried

day and night.

To give me shelter

and stave off fright

The things I carried

day and night.


To protect me from storms,

and keep the cold at bay.

To block the harsh sun,

when the clouds blow away.

To make me happy,

when I have a miserable day.

The things I carried

all the way.


Up and down

and over the hills

over miles and miles

and through the fields.

Pressing on

into the unknown,

the things I carried

were my home.


Thoughts and memories,

items and charms,

we supported each other

with open arms.

Together we went

on back and in mind

the things I carried and me

forever intertwined.


-Owen Rojek, April 2017

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