It seemed like a good idea when it first occurred to us. Based on how this past weekend went, turns out it was.
This weekend we held our first GetBackpacking! Weekend Quick Escape. The premise: fall is perhaps the best time of year to be in the backcountry. It’s also the time when us working stiffs discover we’ve plowed through our PTO (or what we referred to as “vacation” in simpler times). The challenge: cram as much adventure into the time between when the 5 o’clock whistle blows on Friday and it’s time to pick out our wardrobe for Monday.
This weekend was our first Weekend Quick Escape, to Rock Castle Gorge in Virginia. From the Triangle, it’s about a two-and-a-half-hour drive. That’s critical in getting your WQE off to a good start. Here’s what else is critical:
- A destination that’s not ridiculously far away. In our case, we got to the trailhead around 7:30, which leads to critical element No. 2
- A campsite that’s nearby. In the case of our GetBackpacking! WQEs, the campsites are all within a distance that we can reach by 8 p.m.
- Why 8 p.m.? Several reasons. One, this actually is vacation (even if The Man says you have none left); don’t stress it by spending unnecessary time on the road. Two, part of the fun of these escapes is hanging out with your peeps; get camp set up by 8:30 and you’ve got a good hour to sit around the fire. And three, Only an hour? Yes, because you’ll need a good night sleep for the adventure ahead.
- Make Saturday’s adventure worthwhile. Seems obvious, no? I mean, every adventure should be worthwhile, right? But this one even more so. For one, you’re giving it the entire day: In the case of our Rock Castle Gorge trip, we started the 11-mile loop at 9, we finished around 4:30. We stopped when we wanted to to take in the fall color, we stopped for selfies with cows, we stopped for snacks, we took a leisurely lunch break. Our goal was a good physical challenge, which it was, as well as a chance to hopefully witness fall color along the Blue Ridge at its peak, which it also was. We also didn’t want to push sunset; we wanted to get back with time to hang out before dark. Again, mission accomplished.
- Relax. You know how sometimes you need a vacation to recover from your vacation? Not our goal. We wanted to push ourselves, sure. But we also wanted to sit in a canyon without cell service and minimize the distractions in our lives.
- Sleep. Forget eight hours, go for 10! Sunday’s plan allowed us to sleep in, a rarity. Some of us even managed to catch up on the previous week’s depravation (sleep depravation).
- Work in yet another adventure on Sunday. Not a big one, but an adventure that would be new to us. We found it on a four-mile hike at Fairy Stone State Park, on the drive back. Another leisurely hike, some more fall color, and an area that only one of our hikers had previously explored.
- Return home at a decent time. Our goal was to get back between 4 and 5 p.m. Enough time to clean and put away our gear, to put in some family time, to get ready for the week ahead.
Bummed because your PTO account is down to zero? Don’t let The Man quash your adventure dreams. Take a Weekend Quick Escape.
Here are the GetBackpacking! Weekend Quick Escapes we have planned for the remainder of 2019. All assume a 5 p.m. departure from the Triangle and camp set up by 8 p.m.
- GetBackpacking! Doughton Park, Nov. 15-17. Learn more here.
- GetBackpacking! Mountains-to-Sea Trail on Falls Lake, Dec. 6-8. Learn more and sign up here.
- GetBackpacking! Birkhead Mountain Wilderness, Uwharrie National Forest (Camp 3), Dec. 13-15. Learn more and sign up here.
- GetBackpacking! Birkhead Mountain Wilderness, Uwharrie National Forest (Camp 5), Dec. 13-15. Learn more and sign up here.