The conversation during our three days together backpacking the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area this past Easter weekend always seemed to come back to nutrition. Grace, Lois and Alan had carted in enough fresh produce to start a farmer’s market at our Rhododendron Gap campsite. Conservatively, I’d guess they had 45 pounds of food between them. I was relying heavily on prepackaged, come-to-life-with-boiling-water dehydrated food, from instant oatmeal in the morning to cook-in-bag meals at night. Foodwise, I couldn’t have been carrying 5 pounds, if that.
Sometimes all you need is a little extra incentive to get you out the door and into the wild.
Those are some of the incentives we’re offering as part of the Backpacking North Carolina Challenge 2011, which kicks off this evening at 7:30 at the Great Outdoor Provision Co. store in Raleigh’s Cameron Village.
Sing the following to the tune of the theme song for “Car 54 Where Are You?”
There’s a 5K at the coast,
Umstead’s got a paddle trip.
They’ll be hiking up at DuPont
Where the views are bright and crisp.
It’s the first week-end in April,
Spring is firmly underway …
Plan to get out and pla-ay
An odd thing happens when I do an appearance to promote a book: people in the audience wind up talking more than I do.
This evening, at the Cary Commons Barnes & Noble, I launch another book “tour,” this one in support of my just-released “Backpacking North Carolina,” from UNC Press. The book highlights 43 backpacking trips in North Carolina, with detailed information on — well, I’ll spare you the sales pitch: you can read more about the book here.
I’m not comfortable with self-promotion.
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.