This picture means a lot to me because everyone in it still speaks to me. In fact, they’ve all gone on trips with me since.
The photo was taken last August on a GetBackpacking! trip into Linville Gorge. It was a three-day, 22-mile trip that involved two crossings of the Linville River, a knee-busting descent into Chimney Gap followed by a calf-burning ascent out, navigating a river section that had little interest in being navigated, and this drop into the gorge on the Leadmine Trail—a path that looked relatively innocuous on the topo map. In reality, it’s a path best tackled by tossing your pack down the mountain first, then scooting down after it. You know how trails rarely look as steep in photos? Not this one.
The weekend was filled with moments like this—moments, when, had a plank been handy in this raucous assemblage of rock, rhododendron and roiling water, I might have been asked to take a walk.
Yet late Sunday afternoon, when we returned to the trailhead, the requests began: We gotta do this again! (Perhaps not immediately, but within a couple days.)
We gotta do this again!
Was it because we had great weather?
A month later at Wilson Creek, it rained most of the weekend. We saw the sun when we met at the Visitor Center, but it had disappeared by the time we reached the trailhead 20 minutes later, never to return. Yet same thing: We gotta come back.
Part of what draws us back is the promise of the truly memorable. On a trip earlier this year in the Uwharries, we camped in the clearing atop Little Long Mountain and watched day ever-so-slowly fade to night, then sat star-struck beneath a brilliant winter sky devoid of clouds and much light pollution. Likewise, a trip on the AT in February found us crossing Max Patch on a cloudless day, the mountains of Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia sleepily rippling into the distance. If you’ve ever done the 14-mile stretch of AT between Carver’s Gap and US 19E on a sunny day, you know all about the truly memorable.
The evening campfire, the electronic detachment, the dehydrated meals that are the best ever, and the simplicity — wake, eat, walk, make camp, eat, sleep — make things like daylong rain and a sketchy trail seem a small price to pay.
Here on the cusp of the 2018 backpacking season, we are especially excited about the adventures ahead, which include:
- Return to Linville Gorge
- Return to Wilson Creek
- Five-day trip to the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness / Citico Creek Wilderness on the North Carolina / Tennessee line.
- A weekend trip on the aforementioned AT from Roan Mountain/Carver’s Gap to US 19E
- A series of summer weekend trips on the AT in Virginia, from roughly Peaks of Otter north to the Crabtree Falls area.
- Backpackers’ choice. Got a trip you want to do in the Southeast? Nominate it, we’ll put it to a vote and make it happen.
Maybe you’re not a backpacker, but would like to be. Our GetBackpacking! Intro to Backpacking class includes a 2-hour gear and packing session, a 5-hour field-training session (covering, among other things, setting up and breaking down camp, and food and the cooking thereof), followed by a weekend graduation trip to South Mountains State Park.
Or maybe you’re not quite sure you want to be a backpacker, but you’re intrigued. We have a new GetBackpacking! Overnight Sampler that serves as an introduction to staying overnight in the outdoors and hiking with a loaded backpack. Minimal commitment: we provide packs, tents, cooking gear and food on an overnight trip.
Backpacking isn’t for everyone. But if you’ve ever felt that a day on the trail ended too soon, and only because the sun was going down, then you’re a candidate for an extended backcountry stay. Give it a try.
Our GetBackpacking! team looks forward to exploring with you this year.
Not all of the trips mentioned above have been scheduled; when they are, you can learn about them through our weekly GetHiking! enewsletter and our monthly GetBackpacking! enewsletter. Sign up here for our GetHiking! enewsletter, and here for our GetBackpacking! enewsletter.
Our next GetBackpacking! Intro to Backpacking class begins the first week of May, with local gear clinics, followed by a field-training session at Morrow Mountain State Park on May 5, and graduation weekend May 25-27 at South Mountains State Park. Learn more and sign up here.
Our next GetBackpacking! Overnight Sampler is Saturday, June 9 at Eno River State Park in Durham. Learn more and sign up here.