There are things you do that you just don’t think about — you just do. Hiking is one of those things for me. Hitting the trail is just a part of life, as natural, nearly, as eating and drinking, sleeping and breathing. But every once in a while it’s good to pause and think about our motivation, to look at why we do the things we do. For the next three days, I will, quickly (in about 500 words) look at what it is that makes me hike.
Throughout much of North Carolina, the forecast through New Year’s Day couldn’t be much better for one thing.
Taking a hike.
In the Triangle, for instance, we’re looking at daytime highs in the mid- to upper 40s and sunny to partly sunny skies through New Year’s Day. Good timing since most of you likely have some time off over this same time period. Since the weather today is universally ugly and thus ideal for planning, we offer 10 hikes especially well-suited for this time of year. Look ‘em over, consult the listed sources for additional information. If nothing tickles your hiking fancy, head over to our sister site, NCHikes.com, for more options.
Rain is in the forecast for much of North Carolina, but don’t let that douse your plans. Dress appropriately (you do have a Gore-Tex tweed jacket, don’t you?) and you’ll be fine.
Silence is golden. Especially when you’re eavesdropping. And particularly especially when you’re eavesdropping on nature.
Yesterday, Sharon McCarthy stopped to look at the white dot on the tree trunk, the last of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of such white dots she had seen over the past 22 months.
Robert Williams and I waited. Sharon, a k a Smoky Scout, was yards away from becoming the sixth person this year and only the 25th total to complete the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. She was staring down her last blaze, and the two of us, her escorts for her final day, were expecting a profound statement. Maybe not “One-small-step …” profound, but something worthy of completing a nearly 1,000-mile journey.
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.