Hey Everybody! I hope everyone is healthy and safe today. Today's subject is about backpacking and the things I love and hate about it. Now, I'm no expert. I haven't hiked the Appalachian Trail, but I've been on it. I'm not super fit or young. I'm just an upper-middle-aged old guy (LOL) that likes to get out into the woods every now and then. For those of you that don't really know the difference between hiking and backpacking, hiking is something that you do in a day. "I'm going to hike this trail today." Backpacking is hiking on steroids. When you backpack, you're planning to be gone for a couple of days, and you're carrying everything in your backpack to survive on the trip. Your shelter, food, clothes, everything that you think you will need for the trip. It's hiking and camping all rolled into one, and being a pack mule is part of it. So with that explained, I'll start with the things I love and the things I hate list.
Love 1 - Isolation. I love walking in the woods, and backpacking can take you deep into the woods. And the deeper you go, the less people and civilization that you see. Depending on where you are, you might not see anyone at all, or maybe one or two other people that are backpacking also. You are away from all the sounds and smells of the city, and you can really smell, feel, and taste the forest. It's a wonderful feeling.
Love 2 - I love the exercise that you get. Hiking 10 miles with a 35 or 40 lb pack doesn't seem like fun, but if your gear is dialed in and adjusted properly, you really don't feel the weight. Backpacking in the woods is much different than taking a walk in the park. The uneven ground up and down hills really gives you a workout. You really have to be careful that you don't overdo it because you can get injured if you're not careful. And deep in the woods is not the place to get hurt.
Love 3 - I really love the gear. I am a gear head and love all of the backpacking stuff I take with me. Backpacking gear needs to be lightweight, durable, and dependable. Minimal is less. So managing what you bring and what you don't bring is key to a successful experience. Weight is very important. Remember, you're carrying everything from water to your tent. There is an old saying, "Ounces = Pounds and Pounds = Pain."
Love 4 - Sleeping in the woods. After a long 10-mile day and setting up camp doing all of the camp chores that you have to do, settling into your tent or hammock and finally resting for the night is awesome. Be warned, you might need some earplugs because of all the noises in the forest, which is all the bugs and creatures doing whatever they do. But after they have gone to bed, it's quiet. I mean QUIET! It's fantastic.
Love 5 - The speed. Traveling at 3 miles per hour or less is fantastic. Everything is not in a hurry If you drive to work or to the grocery store, it's like a race on the roadways. Everyone is in a hurry. When you're in a hurry, you miss a lot of things. When you slow down to a walking pace, you see more. Seeing things that other people haven't seen is awesome. As a landscape photographer, it's nice to take photos that you know a lot of people will not get because they haven't traveled to get there.
Hate 1 - Carrying water. Water is the most important thing that you will carry with you. It is also the heaviest one. At 2.2lbs per liter and with all the exercise you are doing, you need a lot. It can be bulky and cumbersome to haul water. This is where planning comes into play. Knowing when the next water source will be close by and having a water filter to purify it is key. So carry enough water to get to the next water source.
Hate 2 - Going uphill. HATE, HATE, HATE. This is an old fat man thing. Many people enjoy going uphill, but I have to take many breaks because my heart is pounding and I'm out of breath. If you're young and fi,t this is no problem. My son cruises up these hills like they are nothing and is constantly waiting for me to catch up.
Hate 3 - Going downhill. Not as bad as uphill, but my knees take a pounding. Another old fat man issue. But I do like it more than going uphill.
Hate 3 - Snakes EEEEK! I'm not a fan. I am always on the lookout. Now to be fair, I have only seen a few while hiking, but I am always looking where I put my feet and hands when out in the backcountry. If you stay on the trail, you will most likely not see any because they know that the trail is traveled by humans, and they want to stay away from you also. But when you go to the bathroom, you have to do it like the bears do and go in the woods, so you have to be careful where you step.
Hate 4 - Driving. Where I do most of my backpacking it's a good 2, 3, or even 4 hour drive to get to. I really hate the drive to and especially back home. On the way there, driving takes so much out of you that your first day is usually a struggle. You drive a few hours there through traffic, and then you get to the trailhead and have to hike 6 to 10 miles. On the other end, you've just hiked 6 to 10 miles, then you have to drive through traffic home. It sucks.
Hate 5 - Leaving the trail. After you have backpacked for a few days, you are just getting in the groove. I once took a 36-mile backpacking trip for 3 days split into 12 miles a day, and each day I got stronger and stronger. I would love to take a week-long trip to see how I would feel after a week. But that last day getting to the car as your goal, when you get there you feel a good sense of accomplishment, but then you have to put your stuff away and drive home. It's a big change in such a short amount of time going from forest to interstate.
These are just a few of my loves and hates. There are many more, and most of them are loves. The overall experience is great. You get the sense of adventure, exploring, and seeing the world from a 3-mile-per-hour perspective instead of a 70-mile-per-hour rush to get wherever. You also get the accomplishment of planning a trip and carrying it out. Instead of using horsepower from your car, you're using human power to get somewhere. It's quite a thing. So until next week, get outside and explore and shoot!