We had just crawled into our tents Friday night when the rain started: a gentle patter at first, the kind known for lulling you to sleep. Then it got down to business.
I drifted off to sleep realizing that the weekend of cavorting in the pools and cascades of Wilson Creek that we had planned might not come to pass. We’d been waiting weeks, in 90-degree-plus weather, for the chance to jump into these chill mountain pools, then sun off on the adjoining granite slabs, and repeat. Oh well, I thought, good thing we have a Plan B.
My reintroduction to backpacking, after a nearly 20-year hiatus, was in 1995. I signed up for a weekend immersion course through Smithfield Parks and Rec. We left Saturday morning, hiked and camped the Birkhead Wilderness node of the Uwharrie National Forest, hiked out Sunday. It was a crash course, and at the time I figured it taught me 90 percent of what I needed to know about backpacking. More than 20 years later, I still chuckle at the thought. Naive me. Backpacking is an adventure in lifelong learning.
Fall is our favorite time of year to go backpacking: temperatures are cooling, the forest is alit in color, the air is dry, the chance of rain is greatly diminished. It’s a great time to be on the trail — and to stay on the trail.
That’s one of the many joys of backpacking: once you’re on the trail, you don’t have to leave. Stay a night, or two or three.
It was cold and dark, and we were occasionally plunked with raindrops. But not a one of us moved from our spot by the fire.
“What is it about a campfire?” someone asks.
We’re drawn to fire for its light and heat, of course. But for us, on a three-day backpack trip on the Neusiok Trail in the Croatan National Forest, it was less about survival and more about pondering, as Guy Noir might say, life’s persistent questions. Like whether one would survive a freeze-dried meal with an expiration date of 1997. (Answer: yes, surprisingly.)
Monday — never an easy time for the outdoors enthusiast. After a weekend of adventure, returning to the humdrum work-a-day world can make one melancholy. To help ease the transition, every Monday we feature a 90 Second Escape — essentially, a 90-second video or slide show of a place you’d probably rather be: a trail, a park, a greenway, a lake … anywhere as long as it’s not under a fluorescent bulb.
Explore the outdoors, discover yourself.