Backpacking-More than Just Hiking!

April 30, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. This week I'm going to start a series on backpacking. What it is, why I like it, and what gear I use. I don't do nearly the backpacking that I want to.  But over the last couple of days, I have decided that I need a new goal or at least refresh some older ones.  I need to get out and do stuff while I still can. I love to backpack, but for some reason I don't.  I have decided this year that is going to change and I will start again.

Let me first talk a little about backpacking. What is it?  Well, hiking is walking through the woods.  Most people just hike.  They go to their local park and go on a trail and hike for a day.  Maybe they pack a lunch or snacks and make a day of it.  Backpackers hike the trails also, but at the end of the day they make camp, pitch a tent, cook dinner, and sleep under the stars.  In the morning they pack everything up and start all over again. There are extremes to everything.  In backpacking there are also.  On one end of the spectrum, there are through-hikers. These hikers are in it for the long haul. They hike long trails like the AT (Appalachian Trail) at 2190 miles, the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) at 2650 miles, or the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) at 3028 miles.  If they complete all three of these, they are triple crowners. There are many more shorter trails, but these people want to go from one end to the other non-stop. It may take up to 6 months of hiking to finish. These people can hike many miles in a day, but most average 20 miles a day. Then there are the section hikers.  These folks are like the through-hikers, but they don't have all the time the through-hikers have. So maybe they will hike 200 miles this year, and another 500 miles next year. They will do sections of the long trail until they have it complete. Then there are weekend warriors. This is the category that I fall into. I go out for a night or two and then it's back to work for me. I do envy the folks that can go out for longer stretches, and maybe I'll start to do more of that.  I really need to get back in shape first. The way these people think is also different. Their philosophy about hiking is different. Through-hikers are in for the miles mostly. They still love the views, but they have miles to make. They keep their pack weight down so they can travel faster and longer. The term they use is ultra-light, and they pack minimally. Section-hikers are sort of like through-hikers but probably carry a little more. Weekend warriors, like me, like to go lightweight, but it's not as important to us.  We are only going to be out for a night or so and can put up with the weight more easily.  Not to say we are stronger, but we are traveling fewer miles and only staying overnight a day or two. We are in it for the views, and breaks are welcome because we are out of breath and need them. LOL

I first started hiking when I was 50 years old.  A little late in the game. My son and I would go to state parks and start to hike.  I started watching YouTube videos of people hiking the AT (Appalachian Trail) and how they would camp out with the stuff they brought with them. The adventurer in me got excited, so we decided on a trip that we were going to backpack. It was a loop trail (one that goes in a big circle),  and we would have to do it by hiking over 10 miles a day.  We had to start training because we could only hike a couple of miles, and we had no gear.  So we started hiking and acquiring  gear. Our first 10-mile hike was from our house to the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park which is 10 miles from my doorstep. We picked this one so my wife could rescue us if we had troubles. But we made it! It only took 31/2 hours to do, and we looked homeless with our full packs on.  We made it to our campsite, and the ranger came by and asked us where our car was. When I told her what we had done, she looked at us like we were crazy. But it wasn't the first time we were looked at like that. When we went out for training hikes in state parks, we were the only ones in full packs with trekking poles. We got a lot of strange looks. But it worked. We went on our first long-distance hike in the mountains in the cold. It was so cold that the water in our water bladders froze. But we hiked our 10 miles down into the valley and back up. (up was much harder) LOL. I was hooked! I loved the views and the exercise it took to get to them. I loved taking photos in places that photos were not always taken because it was too hard to get to for most. I loved how we set up camp and made a fire to keep warm. How we cooked dinner. I loved everything about it, except for leaving.

 We did a lot of backpacking in those early years. A bunch of state parks but some of our best were in the national parks. The Smokies have lots of trails to hike and places to backpack in.  Our longest trip was 36 miles over 3 days and 2 nights on the AT.  We were there when all of the through-hikers were coming through.  We slept in a shelter with a dozen of through-hikers and a couple of dogs. We had a fire going and it was awesome. It felt great to be with these hikers who had hiked over 165 miles to get to this shelter.  It only took me 12 and I was pooped! I am looking to have many more experiences like that one in the future. I do need to get in better shape. I still have my Covid weight on and I was too big before then, so I have a lot of work in front of me. My photography goal for this year is to visit and explore all of the national forests in North Carolina, so this will be a big opportunity to get out in the woods again and do some backpacking.

So until next week please stay safe and healthy and get outside!


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