It’s been 14 adventurous years gallivanting around the wild with my Gregory Electra backpack. After countless wilderness experiences, it’s finally time to retire it. I don’t think I have any other gear that has lasted this long. Crazy. I estimate this pack and I have traveled about 700 miles together. It’s been bittersweet looking at photos from the magical places I’ve enjoyed over the years.
I originally got this backpack as part of a gear package through Summit for Someone. It’s a benefit climb series for Big City Mountaineers and they provide outdoor experiences for under-resourced youth. Gregory was a sponsor in 2005 (still are) when I signed up for my first climb which also happened to be my first mountaineering experience ever. Since it was my first time mountaineering, the last thing I wanted to stress about was my backpack. I was so nervous. I was living in San Diego at the time, so heading up to 11,000 plus feet with glacial travel and crevasses was really quite nerve-racking. What I appreciated most about the pack was how good it felt. My shoulders never felt sore and I appreciated the fit and comfort of the hip belt. To me, at that early stage, comfort was my only priority since I knew the climb would be physically challenging. It exceeded my expectations and I successfully summited Mt. Hood through the Pearly Gates.
Over the last 14 years, It has also helped me reach the summits of Mt. Moran in the Tetons, Mt. Shuksan in the North Cascades, North Palisade in the Sierra’s, and Gannett Peak in the Wind River Range. These were all Summit for Someone climbs. I think the most impactful of those trips was climbing Mt. Moran. My father had died from cancer a few months prior to the climb. I had already signed up and though I didn’t know if I could handle it emotionally, I went anyway. I didn’t realize until I arrived in Jackson that we were going to be summiting on Father’s Day. That one was a sucker punch to the heart. Grief can blind you to so many things. I spent the first day sharing my story with one of the other climbers I had just met, Matt. He held a kind and compassionate space for me, for which I am forever grateful. We are still friends today. I had decided before I left on the trip I wanted to bring something that reminded me of my dad. When we reached the summit, I pulled my dad’s Buffalo Bills hat from my Gregory pack, put it on, and cried. It was one of the hardest climbs I’ve ever done. Not only was it my second mountaineering experience ever, it was emotionally, mentally, and physically challenging. I still can’t believe I made it. It is forever etched in my heart.
A few years following my fathers death, I made the decision to travel to New Zealand. One thing I learned after losing a parent was that life was just too short not to follow your dreams and New Zealand was at the top of my list. I spent a month there and part of that was backpacking a portion of the Angelus Circuit. It was the first and last time I ever cartwheeled in a backpack. For context, I love to cartwheel in the wild. I experienced immediate regret as my hand touched ground, one of my leg’s kicking in the air and then the heavy weight of my Gregory pack shifting towards my head. My thought at the time is not appropriate for this setting. It wasn’t pretty but I did it. I’d like to think I’ve learned my lesson and…
My Electra pack also survived a year and half when I was a wilderness therapy guide. It’s one of the toughest and most rewarding jobs. As guides, we were responsible for supporting the physical and emotional safety of the youth/young adults in the program. The programs ran year-round. I worked in Utah and Colorado and the elements can be quite harsh. All my gear took a beating so it was important to have a sturdy, reliable backpack. I appreciated all the features on my pack such as the top loader with large zippered pocket, zippered openings on both sides of the pack, and the two long, skinny pockets on the outside front. Those features made it easy to access things I might have needed in the moment, like a map, headlamp, snacks, layers, or rain gear. At the end of my guiding career, a lot of my gear was covered in duct tape, but not the Electra. That pack was tough as nails.
Since leaving wilderness therapy, I’ve completed graduate school and I am now a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I continue to work with under-resourced youth. In doing this work, self-care is of the utmost importance. For me, backpacking is one of my go-to activities to replenish and heal my heart and soul. Backpacking is a powerful, internal journey saturated with all the beauty and personalities of Mother Nature. Nobody is going to do it for you. It’s you, your pack, your determination, and your sense of adventure. My pack and I have traveled to a lot of places in search of majestic, wild spaces that offer peace and grounding such as Lizard Head Wilderness, Leviathan Lake ( required a ride on the Narrow Gauge Railroad to the trailhead), Pear Lake, Fourmile Lake, Blue Lakes, Red Mountain Pass, and most recently the Pine River Trail in the Weminuche Wilderness to name a few.
I’ve giggled and cried reminiscing about these life changing adventures with my Gregory pack. I worry that I won’t be able to find another pack that fits me like my ol’ reliable Electra. The Gregory Electra is not in circulation anymore, but here’s hoping I can find one that will meet my high expectations. I am a social worker after all and if I didn’t have hope, well…I don’t want to think about it.
I want to say thank you to Gregory for making gear that lasts and continuing to support Big City Mountaineers, a great organization. My Electra pack was the bee’s knees and it will hang in my art studio as inspiration for exploration. So long Gregory Electra, it’s been a blast and thanks for all the magnificent memories.