‘Backpacking North Carolina’ — Why you need this book

I’m not comfortable with self-promotion.
Usually.
I make an exception today because the book I worked on for two years is finally in bookstores, and I figure two years worth of work is worth a little self-indulgence. I cut myself some slack, too, because the book — “Backpacking North Carolina” — is pertinent to our mission here at GetGoingNC.com.
I wrote “Backpacking North Carolina” because UNC Press asked me to. We kicked around a number of ideas, they liked this one, mainly because it hadn’t been done. I liked it because it had the potential to open a world of active adventure to people who otherwise might not have  thought that marching through the woods with 40 pounds on their back seemed doable. Or fun.
Based on my first foray into backcountry camping in 1970s, I would have been among the doubters. Packs were heavy and cumbersome, your stuff and you got wet and stayed that way for the duration. Dinner was burned over an open fire, coffee did not in any way resemble the coffee of today. Our low-tech canvas tents were more inclined to collect water than shed it.
To me, backpacking was a sufferfest. Hence, the lengthy gap between my first exposure to backcountry camping in the 1970s and my reconnection with it in the mid-1990s.
Technology has had a huge impact on the outdoor experience. High-tech fabrics dry in an instant, boil-in-bag dinners range from Chicken Vindaloo to Organic Yakisoba Noodles,  I have a sleeping bag that keeps me warm down to 0 degrees, gear has become so light I no longer feel like a pack mule trudging from camp to camp. I wake up on the trail to coffee from a French press.
What I’ve tried to inject into this mix with “Backpacking North Carolina” is an emphasis on exploring vs. hauling. Wherever I could, I tried to find trips where you could backpack in a reasonable distance, set up base camp, then explore the backcountry via daypack-supported day hikes. A good example: the Shining Rock Wilderness, where you can backpack in five miles, set up camp, then enjoy a week’s worth of day trips in one of the most stunning regions of the high country.
“Backpacking North Carolina” isn’t geared toward Survivorists looking to be the last one on the island. It’s for folks who like to hike but don’t yet realize that they would enjoy extending their backcountry journey over two, three, four days — maybe a week while still enjoying nearly all the comforts of a pricey lodge. Enjoy, and be fully physically capable of doing so.
If you want to read more about what’s behind the book, check out this interview on the UNC Press Web site.
If you want to see why you should get into backpacking, check out this slide show.
If you want to come out and chat about backpacking and trails (have I mentioned my other book, “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina”?), check out this list of upcoming appearances.
And if you’re still not convinced that backpacking is for you, leave a comment voicing your reservations and we’ll have a chat. You want to try backpacking, you know you do.
Or at least I know you do.

4 thoughts on “‘Backpacking North Carolina’ — Why you need this book”

  1. Ok, Joe, let’s talk about BEARS.

    I used to backpack. I used to backpack reasonably long multi-night trips. I’ve done some one-nighters within the last 10 years. I like backpacking and how it gives you the chance to pick up long stretches of trail that don’t lend themselves to day hiking.

    Then I had three bear encounters on day hikes in less than a year in 2008-2009.

    Suddenly bears moved from being “shy, elusive and seldom seen” to a real presence that could be around any corner. At about the same time, I began seeing notices of shelter closures and camping bans on the AT due to bear activity. Recently I read a post on the Smoky Mountain Hiking blog quoting a backcountry guide who said that bear behavior in the Smokies had fundamentally changed in the last few years, with bears being increasingly agressive and having no fear of humans.

    I’m not real fond of crossing paths with a bear on the trail, but the bear I’m really afraid of is the one I haven’t seen yet: the one who has made himself/herself at home in a backcountry campsite, and isn’t about to be run off by someone banging on a cooking pot. I do know about food hanging technique, but I can’t always find the ideal setup of tall tree and long sturdy branch.

    Any thoughts? Did we just have an odd streak, or are bears really becoming more common and less shy and elusive? Have you heard anything one way or another about the frequency of problem bears in camping areas?

    1. Hey Chris,
      I’ve had four encounters in the past four years. In three instances, it was unclear who ran faster in the opposite direction, me or the bears. In the fourth, I was hiking up Colbert Ridge in the Black Mountains in a dense fog when I looked to my right and saw two cubs in a tree, maybe 10 yards away. I immediately searched for the mother, didn’t see her and picked up my pace up the mountain. The only trouble I’ve had at night has been with raccoons (I shy away from shelters, mainly because of mice).
      Your question about whether they’ve become less shy around humans is a good one, especially now as the weather warms and they become more active. I’ll look into it and report back.

  2. Hey Joe,

    So my fiance is infantry set up at Ft. Bragg. Due to his job I have not seen him in quite some time. We are an adventerous couple but have yet to backpack together. This next week he will finally be back and we wanted to go hiking on a fairly difficult trail and camp where we are secluded and have pretty much all the freedom we would like. We do not need outhouses or a camping site. We also do not want to break any rules or do something that might be a faux paus.

    Do you have any suggestions as to where we could achieve this?
    Ps we are very capable of surviving with just what is on our backs haha

    Thank you! Your book is awesome by the way 🙂

    Melissa & James

    1. You sound like you’d be up for one of the Black Mountain hikes, probably No. 1, the Colbert Ridge Loop. 80 percent of the trail is secluded (the 20 percent that’s not goes through Mount Mitchell State Park) and a challenge. It’s a 22-mile loop, some great views and scenery. Surprisingly, perhaps, the Smokies hikes are relatively private. The Smokies may get 8 million visitors a year, but not many venture beyond sight of their cars. Mount Sterling, the long Shuckstack trip and the Clingman’s Dome trip are especially good.

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