Just thirty minutes from the trail, I write this—my fingers are shaking, I'm shivering and I've never been so cold. But I'll get to that later.
First: astronauts go a long time without seeing other people. On my first backpacking trip to service a seismic station with the U.S. Geological Survey, I saw no one but my co-worker.
Second: astronauts eat freeze dried food. So do backpackers.
Third: astronauts sleep in small spaces. A tent is pretty small.
Fourth: astronauts need lots of training. On this trip to McGee Pass and beyond, we hiked 30 miles in two days with over 14,000 feet elevation gain. We hiked 10 miles uphill in 4 hours. Without my prior backpacking trip, I would have not made it.
Fifth: astronauts must acclimate to zero gravity. I had to acclimate to 13,000 feet.
Sixth: astronauts have spectacular views. The Sierra Nevada is the most beautiful place on Earth.
Seventh: Astronauts must fix things on their own. No one will be there to save them. Fixing the seismic station while the wind blew like crazy and with limited tools was a challenge.
Eighth: the ISS filters its water from waste. I drew my water from the stream near my tent.
Ninth: sometimes astronauts loose contact. Our satellite phone died.
Finally: astronauts must endure extreme conditions. It's Summer. It's July. Yet, after a hard morning of hiking with a hundred pounds, the somewhat unexpected happened. We knew there might be thunder. But ending the trip one day short sounded nice, so we hiked 2000 feet up to McGee Pass, praying for no lightning. None came. Then, right when we hit the tree line, it started to snow. Then hail. Then the lightning was right above us. The hail grew, the snow accumulated. We rushed down the remaining ten miles, but soon the blocks of ice hurt too much. Three inches of accumulation seemed like a winter landscape. The trail then started to flood and the bridges become slippery. As the trees turned to brush, we could see the lightning. 500 feet. 400 feet. I was already miserably cold after a momentary amazement at the conditions. My nerves couldn't handle it anymore, however, and I ran. The lightning hit the parking lot. The hail and snow turned to mush. I made it out, but now as I write this, I'm still shivering... in July.
Anyway, great trip all around.