When Great Outdoor Provision Co. and GetGoingNC started the GetHiking! program in September of 2013, we did so on a hunch that more people would hike if they wouldn’t be left in the dust a mile down the trail. Thus, one of the key features of our hikes is that no matter how leisurely your pace, no matter how much you like to stop and smell the flowers, you’ll never look over your shoulder to find no one behind you.
The concept seemed to appeal: today, our Meetups in Charlotte, the Triad and the Triangle have about 2,400 members.
Last year, we had a similar hunch about backpacking, so we started the GetBackpacking! program, a series of four training hikes capped by a three-day, two-night graduation trip to South Mountains State Park. We’ve done four sessions, all four sessions filled up.
Thus far, we’ve graduated about 40 backpackers through the program. Backpackers who are eager to keep backpacking. Today, we launch a series of monthly backpack trips throughout the region targeted to the emerging backpacker, but certainly suitable to those with more backcountry experience.
Here’s how the program will work:
Monthly trips. Initially, our trips will be three or four days: leave early Friday, return Sunday or Monday. We will post all trips on GetHiking! Triangle.
Destinations. Most of the destinations will come from my “Backpacking North Carolina: The Definitive Guide to 43 Can’t-Miss Trips from Mountains to Sea” (2011, UNC Press). We’ll also venture into neighboring states. Some trips will involve backpacking from campsite to campsite, for others, we will set up a basecamp from which we’ll do day hikes.
First trip. Our first trip will be May 1-3, in the Shining Rock area. Details of the trip are posted at our GetHiking! Triangle hike.
Trip size limited to 12. Each trip will be limited to a dozen backpackers. That’s in part to minimize our impact on the terrain, in part to maintain a collegial and supportive atmosphere.
Beginners welcome — and encouraged. We do require you to have some experience and the basic equipment (tent, pack, sleeping bag and pad). We’re hoping to attract the backpacker who is still filling out his or her equipment list, who isn’t comfortable going out on his or her own and likes the assurance of being with more experienced backpackers.
More experienced backpackers, too. We’re interested in building a strong backpacking community. As a result, we’d also like to see more experienced backpackers, folks who don’t mind sharing their expertise. Besides, these are the kind of weekend trips that you often don’t do — unless someone has scheduled one. If you’re up for big miles, remember that we will likely get into camp by early to mid afternoon; most of our trips will have day-hike options for folks who want more.
Physical demands. We will cover no more than 10 miles a day in full pack. On days that we day hike from base camp, we may cover 15 miles. These trips are not designed for the uber fit, though being in decent shape is always a good thing. We will try to be as forthcoming as possible about the difficulty of each trip. If you question your ability to do a trip, feel free to contact the trip leader and discuss.
Planning sessions. Two weeks before each trip we will hold a planning session at a Great Outdoor Provision Co. store. There, the hike leader will oversee a discussion involving all manner of logistics, from arranging carpools and agreeing on an itinerary, to making sure we have enough stoves and water filters. We will also take a look at the weather forecast and discuss specific needs (extreme cold weather gear, etc.) The sessions are mandatory for all participants.
Three-day update. Three days before each trip, we will issue an update, including finalization of car pool plans, the latest weather forecast, and more.
Trip leader development program. One reason you don’t see more backpack trips is because not enough people feel comfortable leading trips. We aim to remedy that situation by conducting periodic hike leader training sessions. There may even be a perk or two for those interested in leading hikes.
We’re excited about this new phase of GetBackpacking!, about the opportunity to help those new to backcountry camping feel more comfortable on the trail. And if you’re interested in our five-week GetBackpacking! training program, our next session will be in September; drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add you to our list.
See you on the trail!