It was cold and dark, and we were occasionally plunked with raindrops. But not a one of us moved from our spot by the fire.
“What is it about a campfire?” someone asks.
We’re drawn to fire for its light and heat, of course. But for us, on a three-day backpack trip on the Neusiok Trail in the Croatan National Forest, it was less about survival and more about pondering, as Guy Noir might say, life’s persistent questions. Like whether one would survive a freeze-dried meal with an expiration date of 1997. (Answer: yes, surprisingly.)
A lot of us love a 10-mile day hike. What we don’t love is when it ends and we must return to civilization. That’s where backpacking comes in. People don’t backpack so they can carry 30 pounds on their back for 10 miles. They backpack 10 miles to get away, then marvel over how rewarding life can be with life reduced to 30 pounds of stuff.
Only what you can carry
“I love the part that if you can’t carry it, you can’t bring it,” says Brandon Hicks, one of our crew. “All your concerns quickly become water, shelter and food. That leaves a lot of room in your mind for enjoyment!
“Backpacking,” adds Brandon, “fills in all the gaps in your life.”
In the fall of 2013, we started our GetBackpacking! program. Since then, we’ve led about 180 backpackers through our Intro to Backpacking program. Many of those backpackers show up on the trips we run, as well as the Intermediate Skills courses we began this year.
Friends don’t teach friends to backpack
Backpacking can be a difficult sport to get into—often because most people get introduced by “friends” who either have less experience than they let on, or have so much experience they’ve forgotten what
it’s like to backpack for the first time. Well-intentioned though your friends may be, odds are they won’t be truly sympathetic to your needs.
“Backpacking is challenging to me because I really have to invest a lot of thought, effort and planning to enable me to join a trip,” says Bob Sliwa, who took Intro to Backpacking in February and has been on several trips since. “I have to consider the weather and decide if I need to bring a tent or a hammock. What type of food to pack and how much to bring is a challenge, but as I get more experience, I think I finally have a good system. … You never want to bring more than you need or less than you think you will need.”
Our Intro of Backpacking program recognizes the challenges for the first-timer. We hold three focused training sessions (on gear and loading your pack, setting up and breaking down camp, food and the cooking thereof) that will have you well-prepared for your weekend graduation trip.
Backpacking: the next level
Backpacking can also be a difficult sport in which to advance. Once you sample a night in the woods, you immediately start thinking about the more remote and challenging places you can visit, such as Linville Gorge in North Carolina or the Saint Mary’s Wilderness in Virginia. Both designated wilderness areas, these areas require another level of backcountry skills. Navigating trail that’s neither marked nor well-maintained, for instance, or crossing challenging creeks devoid of bridges, or scrambling over rock outcrop.
This year, we launched our Intermediate Skills programs to help new backpackers hone and develop such skills. We’re expanding those Intermediate Skills programs in 2018, starting in the first quarter with a pair of winter camping trips, each including a pre-trip seminar on how to deal — physically and mentally — with the cold.
GetBackpacking!’s goal is to make you feel that the challenge is worth the effort.
“The Intro to Backpacking class was the beginning of a journey,” says Cat Brutvan, who has been backpacking with us for a couple of years. “Being self-reliant and completing each trip has built up my personal confidence, and becoming more fit has been a big and beneficial accomplishment!”
Build your own confidence and strength with us! For more information on our GetBackpacking! programs, visit GetGoingNC.com.
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Don’t see a GetBackpacking! program in your area, but would like to? Let us know, at firstname.lastname@example.org.