Backpacking is life distilled to the essentials. With everything you need to survive packed securely on your back, life is focused on five necessities: food, water, shelter, sleep, and, most of all, adventure. Adventure, after all, is the very reason you decided to place your essentials on your back.
The theme to The Jeffersons buzzed through my head as I laid back and took in the nylon ceiling. I may not have been moving on up to the East Side, but I was now laying in the tent of my dreams: the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2. One dee-lux tent, if ever I’d had one.
“These mountains are killing me.”
I was glad to hear my new trail friend echo my thoughts. Glad as well to hear him refer to the Uwharries as “these mountains.”
The Uwharries are typically referred to as mountains, though the “mountains” part is often uttered with an implied snicker. As in, They may be mountains in name, but they certainly aren’t the Appalachians.
And they aren’t. But they are surprisingly rugged, surprisingly challenging, and within an hour and a half drive of more than half the population of North Carolina. They are one of several closer-to-home ranges in North Carolina and Virginia that may not offer 6,000-foot summits, but do offer an alpine experience for those occasions when you haven’t the time to hit the “real” thing. The Sauaratowns, bridged by Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock just north of the Triad; South Mountains south of Morganton; Cane Creek Mountains south of Burlington; the Southwest Mountains around Charlottesville, the Bull Run Mountains of northern Virginia. Relic ranges that may have once towered above the present-day Rockies but have long since settled and occupy a more subdued spot in our recreational psyches.
Over the past two and a half years, we’ve graduated more than 120 backpackers through our GetBackpacking! program. They come in with little or no experience, after three training sessions and a weekend graduation trip to South Mountains State Park, they emerge competent backpackers.