Philip Jay Davis discovers the joy and the challenge of pitching the tent in “The Lessons of My First Backpack,” from the 2020 issue of Deep Wild: Writing from the Backcountry:

“First, I erected, in a mere two minutes, my little free-standing tent. What a remarkable invention! Then, anticipating my comfort, or lack thereof, during the long night ahead, I crawled into the shelter and stretched out. Nope. Ground not level. Feet too high. I got out. Studied the immediate terrain. Moved the tent. Crawled in. Uh-uh. Too much tilt to the right shoulder. I got out, sweat returning. Swiveled the tent. Got in. No. Something poking into the left buttock. I did this for several minutes, like a neurotic golfer calculating an eighteen-foot putt for an eagle. At one point, absurdly, I wondered if anybody was witnessing this ridiculousness. Then it finally dawned on me: there is absolutely no level ground in the wilderness. None. That’s why it’s wilderness.”

Deep Wild Journal, the home for creative work inspired by journeys to places where there are no roads, is now reading essays, stories and poems for its 2021 issue. The 2020 issue, 150+ pages of wilderness-centered words, is on sale for $16, postage paid. Visit for submission/subscription info.

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