Bemoaning the fact you haven’t been able to backpack much this year and worry that it’s too late to go now — especially if you’re not used to hiking with 30 pounds on your back? Well, bemoan no more: our series of fourth-quarter Weekend Quick Escapes returns in 2020, giving you the opportunity to hike a short distance (a mile, in this case), set up camp, and enjoy a weekend of daypack hiking!
Here’s the deal:
* We leave at 5 p.m. Friday, so you shouldn’t have to take time off from work.
* We drive to a trailhead that’s no more than two and a half hours away.
* We hike to a campsite that’s anywhere from a half mile to less than 3. (We’ll be to camp no later than 8 p.m.).
* We set up camp (yes, in the dark; it’s a good skill to have, and easier to learn in a group).
* Saturday, we have the entire day to hike. We’ll hike in day packs, returning to our basecamp at day’s end. Our Saturday hikes will be from 10 to 15 miles.
* Sunday, we do one more short hike before heading home. You’ll be home mid to late afternoon.
It’s the perfect option for backpackers who thought they didn’t have time to plan a fall backpack trip, let alone take one.
Our first trip: Rock Castle Gorge in Virginia. Here’s how this trip will unfold:
Friday, Nov. 19: We’ll leave the Triangle at 5 p.m. We’ll arrive at the trailhead to the primitive camping area at the base of the gorge around 7:30 p.m. and hike in the half mile or so on an old roadbed and set up camp.
Saturday, Nov. 20: We’ll take on the 10.8-mile Rock Castle Gorge Loop, hiking the trail counter-clockwise from the camping area. It’s mellow at first, then some sturdy climbing up to the ridge. Here, you’re rewarded with passage through ridge-top meadows affording great views, during the height of the fall leaf season, of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. After about four miles of rolling views, we descend down more challenging terrain into the gorge, where the 2.8 miles back to camp is on old roadbed above and along Rock Castle Creek. One of the most scenic hikes in the South.
Sunday, Nov. 21: We’ll pack up, be back to the trailhead by 10 a.m., then drive 40 minutes to nearby Fairy Stone State Park for a 5.3-mile hike on the Little Mountain Falls and Turkey Ridge trails, for more fall color.
Not a backpacker? Not a problem. With our Backpacking for Non-Backpackers you can embrace the best of backpacking — camping in a remote backcountry location — minus the burden of lugging 40 pounds the entire time.
We set you up with the key backpacking gear you likely don’t have, carry it a short distance to basecamp, then we help you set up and show you how to use your equipment. Included in the program:
- Osprey backpack. We have high-quality packs that will fit most hikers comfortably and will hold all the gear you’ll need for the weekend.
- Backpacking tent. If you’ve got a tent, great. But if you need one that’s a little lighter, more compact and will leave room in your pack for more gear (including a “luxury” item or two), we can help you out.
- Sleeping pad. A sleeping pad insulates you from the ground (providing a little more heat) and gives you a soft, more cush night of sleep.
- Sleep sack. Again, if you have a sleeping bag, great. If n.ot, we will provide one
- Stove and cooking kit. We provide a lightweight gas canister stove, the gas canister, a pot, a cup, and an all-purpose eating utensil.
eguide. The Monday before our weekend trip we will send you an eguide covering:
- Weekend agenda, from meeting time and place, to a brief daily breakdown of our hikes, to maps and route descriptions for each day of the trip.
- What you need to bring. A full list of what you’ll need to bring. You likely have the basic hiking gear; we’ll provide a list of what to bring, including general hiking gear you bring on most trips plus any gear specific to this trip.
- Food recommendations. You can eat well in the backcountry but you have to be smart about it (mainly so your entire pack isn’t filled with food). We’ll go over good breakfast, lunch and dinner options.
Zoom planning meeting. The Monday before our trip we will conduct a Zoom planning meeting. We will go over the trip, covering many of the items in the eguide. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions about what to expect, and how to pack and prepare for the trip
Fitting, packing. At the trailhead we will fit you with the pack best suited for you and help you pack it (weight distributions is key — even if you’re only hiking a short distance).
Cooking. We’ll help you figure out how to work your stove, cook your food and clean up afterward.