Finding the Rhyme and Rhythm

Updated: May 21

By Mary Anderson


When I write poetry I feel that every word counts in a way it does not when I write prose. It’s kind of like how every ounce matters in my pack these days. Certainly I weighed everything last year and even cut the handle of my toothbrush shorter. But it is much more of an issue this year when I have to carry over eight ounces of bear spray, a bear-proof food container weighing fourteen ounces, an ice axe coming in at half a pound, and a whopping 1.11 pounds for crampons (ouch!). Every fraction of an ounce I can cut will count.


There is not a lot I can eliminate. By removing the inner cardboard tube on a roll of toilet paper I save two-tenths of an ounce. By allowing myself only a few sheets per day I can carry only an ounce at a time instead of the over three ounces that my roll weighed in at. I save another two-tenths by not taking the outer cover for my umbrella.


I can try to carry fewer band-aids and less aspirin. Just under one tenth of an ounce will come off my toothbrush handle. I won’t bother carrying a comb or soap. I can carry less dental floss by using one section over and over until it breaks.


Carrying a tent that allows me to use my hiking poles as tent poles brings my shelter to eighteen ounces. My spoon doubles as my knife and fork. I will carry a one-inch-long pair of scissors to cut my toenails on the trail but the 0.2-ounce mini can opener has to go. I only used it in towns, anyway, when I splurged on things like a can of beans. (Yes, canned beans were a treat!) My pot cozy comes in at almost an ounce, but it saves me more than that in stove fuel, especially when the town stops are more than five days apart.


By using my pack as a pillow I save even more weight. I will carry only the clothes I wear (yep, one pair of underwear for four months). This does include a few layers of warmer clothes, but very few. I’ll just keep walking when I feel cold.

Jacques Balmat carrying an alpenstock and an ax.

If I carried a book, which I don’t, I would savagely tear it apart and pack only the pages I could read in a week. The rest would get mailed ahead. And once read, it would probably get left behind in some hiker box. But there is no room for even those few pages. It’s the same with the paper maps I’ll carry. I’ll cut out the sections I need and do without the rest.


I will pack only the bare minimum of food. No more than one and one half pounds per day will be allowed. No matter what. I’ll go for dense, high-calorie food over flavor and I’ll tank up in towns. (Let’s see how long that lasts.)


Just like I do when writing a poem, I will weigh each item before it goes into the pack, searching for the right balance of rhyme and rhythm.

From Wikipedia: The antecedent of the ice axe was the alpenstock, a long wooden pole with an iron spike tip, used by shepherds for travel on snowfields and glaciers in the Alps since the Middle Ages. On 8 August 1786, Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard made the first ascent of Mont Blanc. Balmat, a chamois hunter and crystal collector, had experience with high mountain travel, and Paccard had made previous attempts to climb the peak. Illustrations show Balmat carrying two separate tools that would later be merged into the ice axe – an alpenstock (or baton) and a small axe that could be used to chop steps on icy slopes.

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