Hey Everyone! This week I want to talk about my favorite social distancing technique. Backpacking! No, not the kind of backpacking that college students do in Europe. But the kind where you pack all of your gear on your back and go into the woods. You have your tent, sleeping bag, food, and everything else with you. I love traveling at the speed of what your feet can take you. It gives you time to see nature and experience all that is around you. I am a late bloomer and didn't start hiking until I was 50, My camera brought me outside. I was taking studio shots, then to my backyard, and eventually to a state park that is near me. Then exploring other state parks. My travel companion then was my son, and we started hiking the trails of the parks we were going to. Then we got interested in backpacking, but it's a big leap from day hiking to a multiple-day hike. So we started training moving our miles up and up until we could hike 10 miles with a full pack and do it in about three-and-a-half hours. We had a trip all planned out in the mountains at Doughton Park, a national park. The trip was about 10 miles in and out. We took smaller trips trying to work up to the Doughton trip. Then we did it! We started doing more trips, and our longest was a 3-day trip in the Smoky Mountains that we hiked 12+ miles a day and crossed waist-high rushing water many times. It was an epic trip, getting out in nature and away from hustle and bustle and screens. Most of the places we go there is no cell service, so phones can really only be used for GPS.
This is a story about my first solo backpacking trip all by myself, in the woods, with no one else to depend on. It sounds kind of scary, but it really isn't. My first solo backpacking trip was to Grandfather Mountain State Park in North Carolina. I packed up the car and drove to Grandfather Mountain. I left very early and got to the parking spot at the trail head as the sun was coming up. I had my maps, backpack, camera, and everything else so I headed out. After about 15 minutes I figured I was going the wrong way and had to backtrack. LOL Today's hiking was going to be all uphill! A very big workout. But even more of a workout than I expected. There were ladders involved and rock scrambling, which I had done none of. On the way up there was a landmark of a wrecked airplane which I stopped and took some photos of. I only saw one group of people all day, and they were day hikers on the way down as I was going up. I had lunch on the top of the mountain with a fantastic view as I ate my tuna wrap. Then it was down the other side of the mountain to my camp site. It was a very rocky and uneven site, and they had built a platform for tents. But since I was using my hammock, terrain didn't mater. I used the platform to cook my food on and make a video on how I cook in the wild. YouTube Link After setting up camp and fetching some more water (which was a 1/2 mile away), I did the cooking as you can see in the video. After that, it was just relaxing and waiting for the sun to go down. Now there are no lights and no electricity, so if you want to get around at night you need a flashlight or a head lamp of some sort. But usually after a day of struggling and working hard, when the sun goes down you're ready for sleep. Hikers, midnight comes right after the sun goes down and a great night sleep happens. Or should. In the middle of the night I had to get up and go to the bathroom as most men my age have to. So I stumbled out of the hammock and went to a tree out of the way. While I was doing my business, I noticed some eyes looking at me. It startled me at first, but as I kept looking I noticed it was a big rabbit. Not a bunny, a big rabbit, and it was watching me pee. After I was through it scurried off, and I went back to the hammock. Then in the distance I started hearing some chanting or singing, I couldn't really tell, and it kept getting closer and closer. Something or someone was coming up the trail. I don't know who they were, but it was after 12 midnight and these guys were hiking along the trail singing. I don't know if it was a college fraternity or what, but it was strange. I could barely hike the trail in daytime, and they were doing it at night and singing. After they had left I went back to sleep and I slept well. When I got up in the morning, I noticed that one of my trekking poles that I had leaned against a tree had fallen over. When I picked it up, I noticed that the cork grip on it had been chewed and gnawed on. By that pesky rabbit I suspect! I still use the trekking poles, and the grip always reminds me of the rabbit. After a breakfast and cleaning up my campsite, I was ready to head back to my car. Today should be easer than yesterday, right? I'm going mostly downhill. Well, I've learned that, for someone of my age and worn knees, downhill is worse than uphill. Going uphill makes your chest beat hard, and going downhill makes your knees throb. And the places that I had to scramble up the first day I had to go down today. So basically I had to sit on my butt and slide down, which of course made my pants rip. Well, I finally made it down the mountain and back to my car and was pretty worn out. Now only a four-hour drive home. LOL
This trip was only a small out-and-back trip, but as you can tell it has left an impression on me. I had great views, a brush with wildlife (rabbit), saw a wrecked plane, and really got a workout. But most of all I got away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. So I really was doing social distancing five years ago. Just me my backpack and a map traveling at the speed of walking, taking in the scenes, smells, and sounds of the forest and mountain. I hope everyone stays healthy. While I'm writing this blog, I'm also watching the news and it's all about the virus that is affecting the world with sickness and death. I'm hoping that you and your family can get through this with no big changes to your life. And hopefully you can get back outside and enjoy some social distancing of the outdoors and wilderness. Until next time be safe, get outside, and keep shooting.