How were you introduced to backpacking?

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    Monte Masterson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Changes Often

    A lot has been said lately about how backpacking isn’t inclusive enough, and rightly so, yet I’ll argue that it’s mostly all to do with whether or not someone is directly exposed to backpackers at an young age. There have been threads here on BPL which have attempted to highlight the “gentrification” of backpacking, maintaining that it’s more of an upper-middle endeavor which is expensive, however I don’t see it as being very expensive at all unless you get into the cutting edge gear, and even then when compared to pursuits like horses, boats, golf, performance cars, etc, backpacking doesn’t actually cost much really. I find the gas and wear and tear on the vehicle to be by far the biggest expense, so I’m not buying the whole notion of backpacking being exclusive to just those with means.

    When I was 12 we moved to a village like neighborhood 3 miles east Louisville’s easternmost suburbs (1973). It was a rural setting and mostly working class, however it was still in Jefferson County so we went to school with a lot of upper-middle class kids from the more affluent burbs. Back then the whole ecology movement and a sense of the outdoors began to take hold and it was the middle class youth who had the time and money to enjoy outdoor activities. So yes, there was an economic component back then, but nowadays I think it has more to do with values and what you’re exposed to early on as to whether or not you’ll become a backpacker.

    The premier backpacking spot in Kentucky has always been Red River Gorge in the eastern part of the state. It sets on the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau and has some of the most unique and mind blowing geology you’re likely to see.anywhere. When I was 18 one of my school friends talked me into doing a week long trip there. I bought a North Face external frame pack, a wool blanket, ccf pad, and a small tarp. I didn’t have the slightest clue about ultralight back then. We built little fires to cook. Anyway after 3 days my buddy wussied out on me and decided to go home. I was determined to stay however and then hitchhike back to Louisville. I’d never spent the night in the deep dark wilderness alone before. Some guy working at a resupply store (Heartwood Far Department) told me earlier that black bear had been spotted in the gorge. Needless to say it got my imagination rolling, so by the time darkness set in deep along Swift Camp Creek I was pretty terrified. I heard lots of animal activity at night and I thought they all were a black bear. I simply put the blanket over my head and eventually fell asleep. Each night afterwards it progressively got less scary, but I felt a sense of real accomplishment. I overcame my fear of being alone in the wilderness at night. Hiking along in the wild with the adrenaline flowing (runner’s high) and being surrounded by such natural beauty, I felt a primordial need being fulfilled. I was hooked.

    So how were you first introduced to backpacking?

    Paul Wagner
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wine Country

    My dad loved the outdoors, and while he was a teacher during the school year, he worked as a ranger in the summers when I was small.

    I took my first backpacking trip the summer I turned 12, with my older (16) sister and one of her friends.

    Adam Salinger
    BPL Member


    This is a great question and I look forward to reading what others have to say.

    I was lucky enough to be the recipient of a yearly summer camp.  My grandma paid for me to start attending camp when I was just 8 years old.  On the east coast there were lots of camps that lasted all summer and my parents, being from the east, went looking for one out west where we lived.  There was nothing in 1976…nothing except a camp called Walton’s Grizzly Lodge in the mountains of northern CA that offered a series of 5 summer sessions.  90% of the kids that went to this camp went for one session.  I…..went to all 5.  Every summer from the time that I was 8 till 20.  Each session offered one backcountry backpacking trip that kids could choose to go on.  I chose to go every single session.  That meant that every summer I got to go backpacking 5 times.  Five times a summer for 13 summers.  It was magical.  And…this was no small win.  Growing up in the concrete jungle of LA, with parents who had no interest in the outdoors, this was a ticket to a brand new world.  The camp lodge had a stack of older National Geographic’s, and flipping through the pile in 1977, as a nine year old, I came across the June 1971 issue with the PCT featured on the cover.  I was in awe.  And…that same summer, continuing  through that pile, I found The Appalachian Trail by Ronald Fisher, Dick Durrance and Benton Mackay.   This was a whole new world. Right there and then I decided that I’d never been to the east…and hiking the AT would mean I would see 14 states I’d never seen before.  I was 10.  Dreaming big.

    As a 26 year old, I became a 4th and 5th grade teacher…in my third career.  This career stuck.  I started putting together outdoor education opportunities for my students.  Working in the traditional public school system made many things I wanted to do with kids a nightmare of political red tape, but I pushed on.  In 1998 my wife went back to school at night while working full time in the day.  We were passing ships for a total of 4 years.  Two years into it, I decided that it might just be the perfect time in my life to take a try at the AT.  We didn’t have kids. I didn’t see my wife much.  I was getting frustrated with the public school system that put every roadblock possible in front of me as I tried to get kids into nature.

    Twenty-three years after seeing that magazine and book at summer camp, in March of 2000, I took my first steps on the Appalachian trail and spent the next 143 days walking to Maine.  My life would forever be changed.  I knew I was privileged to have been exposed in the first place.  I wanted to give back.  I started volunteering when I could.  It felt good.   I hiked a different trail each summer.  We had a daughter.  When she was just 6-months old we took her backpacking for the first time.  She and I have taken 15 summer trips into the wild since then.

    Still, the public school system was putting too many limits on what I could do with kids.  And then an opportunity presented itself in the form of a neighboring school district asking me to create an Independent Study Program for K-12…and when I proposed that it be centered around Outdoor Education, they were all in.

    My career and my passion were finally blending into one.  Five years later our school is going strong.  We graduate our 75th student tomorrow.  I’ve written grants for years and about $30k later, we have enough gear to get our 6-8 students at a time into the backcountry for multi day trips.  These are kids that are being exposed at 8 and 18, to things they have never done or seen before.  They’ve grown up in a small farming community in the foothills of CA.  When I take students into the backcountry everything is new.  Putting on a backpack, setting up a tent, working a stove, filtering water, a sky dark enough to see things they’ve never seen before like the milky way, shooting stars and satellites.  Touching snow for the first time.  Swimming in an alpine lake or the Pacific Ocean.  Watching an eagle launch out of a tree, hit the water of the lake they are taking a break at, only to come up with a fish and then fly directly over their heads.  The awe they feel.  Awe.  Something many of them have never truly experienced.  It changes them the way it changed me all those years ago at summer camp.  And my hope….is that even just a handful of these students, that I’m lucky enough to work with, gain a sense of appreciation and love for the outdoors because of their time in nature with us….that they truly understand the feeling of awe only nature can provide…  that even just a handful of them go off in their lives and continue to enjoy, respect and protect the wild, the way my 17 year old daughter does.  That’s my hope.  All of this, while I continue my own yearly walks in the wild.

    BPL Member


    I just had in insatiable desire to be outdoors. As a young kid I was introduced to outdoors with my local boy scout troop.. that only lasted about 1 or 2 years before I stopped going. As I became a late teenager.. I had that desire burning inside me and i arranged a few simple camping trips with friends.. also some whitewater rafting trips… that kicked it all in full gear and here I am now, mid 40s and full throttle! Lucky for me, my son loves coming out too.. backpacking and whitewater kayaking!

    Kevin Babione
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pennsylvania

    As I was growing up, my family would car camp (in a big canvas tent) for our summer vacations.  My first backpacking trip in 1976 was hiking a section of the then new Mid State Trail in central Pennsylvania.  It was a week-long (Sunday to Saturday) trip run by the church camp that I went to for a week each summer.  We spent Sunday night practicing putting up our tents (Eureka Timberline 2P) and picking our food for the week.  Monday morning we hopped on the camp school bus and they drove us to the trailhead and we began hiking.  The camp provided some of the big gear (tents, stoves, cooking pots) but we were responsible for:

    • Pack (Big external frame pack from K-Mart)
    • Sleeping bag (hand-made synthetic bag – my Mom owned a fabric/sewing store)
    • I don’t remember carrying a sleeping pad, but I probably had some sort of rolled foam
    • Boots – Jungle Boots from the Army/Navy Surplus Store
    • Canteens – 2 Aluminum GI canteens that fit perfectly in the top side pockets of the pack

    Our food was Mountain House FD food for breakfast & dinner.  Lunch was melba toast with peanut butter & jelly squeezed from those refillable tubes.  Snacks were hard-candy sour balls and Hershey’s Tropical Bars that didn’t melt.

    We were hiking in July so it was warm & humid.  I remember our counselors handing out salt tablets twice a day and how annoying it was to have the condensation from my canteen dripping onto my arms from the side of my pack.  We were hiking about 7 miles a day, but on Wednesday we had to hike 11 miles to get to the next water source.

    The trail ran fairly close to the camp and we ended up hiking into camp on Friday and I remember just how good the pool felt after we set up our gear to dry in the sun.  I loved it!  Two years later I did another backpacking trip with camp as well as week-long down river canoe trip.

    Sadly, when I was on staff at the camp budget constraints forced them to stop doing the “offsite” camps so I didn’t get to be a counselor for the trips I so enjoyed.  It turned out that I wouldn’t spend an overnight backpacking again for another 25 years!

    I’ll save that story and my transition from a 70-lb pack to 15 lbs for another post…

    Mark Wetherington
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Montana

    Cool topic, thanks for starting it. I’m also interested in the variety of how folks here were introduced to backpacking. And who stuck with it enough to eventually become BPL forum members.

    First off, small world — I also grew up in Louisville, KY! So I suspect we shared some of the same destinations for our early trips, albeit a few decades apart.

    As a kid, there was a small stream that flowed behind my house in one of Louisville’s inner suburbs (upper Highlands). I spent a lot of time there looking at minnows, crayfish, trees, etc. — as well as broken glass and cigarette butts, unfortunately. But I was fascinated by the nature that persevered and would spend hours back there walking up and down the creek as it paralleled the backyards along the block. I just loved the sense of exploration. It was also really cool to watch the creek flood during thunderstorms and see the “power of nature.”

    My extended family lived in Georgia, where my parents were from, so we would do lots of trips down there for summer vacation, holidays, etc. We’d often stop for a few nights in Great Smoky Mountains National Park or other Tennessee state parks along the way and either camp in a campground or stay at a hotel, cabin or lodge. My dad would fly fish and sometimes I’d just wade along the creeks or my mom and I would go on short hikes. In Georgia, I’d explore the forest around my grandparent’s house.

    That was pretty much my only exposure to hiking/camping/backpacking. I was briefly in the Boy Scouts but found it a bit too rigid and stayed less than a year. I then mostly spent my teenage years skateboarding and exploring the urban environment.

    When I got to college (University of Kentucky) in 2006 I rediscovered nature as a place to spend my leisure time. I also had absolutely no idea what I was doing and had a college kid’s budget (which, granted, is a lot more budget than most people that age have). I still had some gear from Boy Scouts — Kelty external frame pack, sleeping bag, some mess kit items — but needed a shelter, sleeping pad, etc.

    So, I splurged and spent around $250 dollars on some absolute junk via Campmor. Three-person Eureka car camping tent, Outdoor Products backpack, and a bunch of other random items. The inaugural trip was to a friend’s farm where we hiked in and had a great weekend just a few hundred yards from a road, but were surrounded by forest.

    After that, I started researching “backpacking” on public lands. My first year or two of trips (none of which were more than 10-15 miles of hiking total, over 3-4 days) my pack probably weighed at least 35-45 pounds. It was miserable, but I loved the immersion in the landscape. The friends I had that were interested in backpacking knew even less than me, so it was a classic case of the blind leading the blind.

    I distinctly remember a three-night summer trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a friend (who I still backpack with almost every year) that involved the 10 lb. three-person tent, a stool, stainless steel coffee percolator, potatoes cooked in a campfire and canned chili, a heavy wool blanket for no apparent reason, several books each, Jack Daniel’s whiskey in a glass bottle, and a Maglite. The 3.5 mile hike to the campsite with a few hundred feet of elevation gain felt harder at the time than 20-mile days with 4,000 feet of elevation gain do now. But for various reasons that trip is without a doubt one of my fondest memories of backpacking.

    Over the years I gradually lightened up my kit (using coupons and sales to get deals — I’d say 90% of the stuff I bought in my lightening up phase were at least 20% off) and became a voracious consumer of backpacking media (reading back issues of Backpacker in the library, local/regional trail guides, etc. — working in the library gave me plenty of time to do that) and local knowledge (talking to folks at the local gear shop). This helped me not only lighten my back, but learn about the ethics of the outdoors and the hiking community. I feel very, very grateful that I was able to learn about backpacking and outdoors culture in that way rather than predominantly through social media (but that’s a whole other topic).

    Oddly enough, I started backpacking and working in libraries at the same time (2006) and I’m still doing both 15 years later (although in Montana rather than Kentucky). It certainly is a blessing to find things you love early on in life.

    Overall, I’d say my path to backpacking was fairly conventional. Although I never backpacked with my parents (and they’ve never backpacked on their own), they supported my interest in nature and provided me with enough gateway experiences — camping, short hikes, allowing me to explore forests, swim in creeks, etc. — to allow me to feel confident exploring on my own and developing my hobbies. And they certainly gave me the privilege to do so by having placed our family solidly in the middle-class through their careers and sacrifices. But I certainly wasn’t send to expensive outdoor summer camps, or enjoyed ski vacations together, or long road trips to western national parks. We just made the most of what was in our backyard with the limited time and resources available.

    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    Locale: California

    A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …

    My parents never took us camping but couldn’t keep me indoors – unless I had my nose buried in a book. We moved a couple of times a year, so always new places to explore on foot or (eventually) on second-hand bicycles. Surprised I survived some of those adventures.

    In my early teens, the Boy Scouts introduced me to backpacking – painfully. Gave up for a few years. Then my high school track coach re-introduced me to backpacking with better, loaned gear, and I was hooked.

    Not financially privileged – I was the first in my family to finish high school, much less college, thanks to loans, scholarships, working-my-way-through, and better government support for public universities. Cobbled together enough money as an undergrad to buy basic backpacking gear, often military surplus. It’s been all downhill from there :-)

    I’ve tried to introduce friends and family to backpacking, but mostly failed miserably.

    When I was a whitewater raft guide, sometimes we took less-privileged groups down the river on day trips. Eye opening about their misplaced fears and lack of outdoor knowledge, but almost everyone had a good time. A few came back, and I trained them as raft guides.

    Seems like some people enjoy backpacking, usually after a good introduction. But there are many barriers to enjoying the outdoors.

    — Rex

    Steve Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northeast

    My introduction to backpacking was through the Boy Scouts.  I was the short fat kid with the full size external frame official BSA canvas backpack with the 10lb ‘Dacron 88’ flannel lined sleeping bag secured with bungee cords with my feet blistered raw in my RedWing work boots. We were walking Hard Luck Road to an old Forest Service campground now at the bottom of Pyramid Lake.

    I hurt so bad when I got home I cried.  But signed up to go on the next backpacking overnight to Dollar Lake on San Gorgonio. That wasn’t much better.

    We next summered at Camp Wolverton in Sequoia National Park.  Loved the Sierra, the backpacking still trashed me.

    Not sure what motivated me to endure, but onward. I saved my allowance and got a Camp Trails frame pack that fit with a full wrap padded hip belt, my parents sprung for an army surplus down sleeping bag, my feet toughened, and I grew nearly 10” over the course of one year and stretched my 200+ lb body along 6’ of height. About 2.5 years into my scouting ‘career’ on a weeklong outing from Mosquito Flat to Mammoth Lakes I got the bug.

    It’s been 53 years since those first hikes, 51 years since I became a backpacker. And God willing I’ll be granted at least another 20.

    Brett A
    BPL Member


    This thread brings back so many memories.  My early childhood outdoor experience was limited to a lot of car camping.  Maybe some short day hikes.  My father loved to fish so all of our summer vacations centered around him going fishing while leaving my mother to entertain four kids.  Us boys would occasionally tag along with dad to fish but otherwise it was doing a day hike or two or the typical tourist attraction crap.  My dad had no formal schooling in botany but he was a voracious reader and knew more about trees and plants than most anyone.  I wish now that he had tagged along with us more often.

    Later, in Scouts, I went on a couple of short overnight hikes, using ancient borrowed gear.  But it was a good introduction and wished we had gone more often.  One year, 1979, the “family vacation” destination was set for Land Between The Lakes in KY/TN.  I was looking over the brochures and maps dad had received, trying to figure out how I would kill the time when I wasn’t out fishing with him.  That’s when I discovered the 60 mile North-South trail.  That seemed like the the adventure of a lifetime…if they would let me do it.  A buddy was all in for it.  We were just going to attempt to do the northern portion over 3 or 4 days.  Remarkably, my parents went along with it.  Who in their right mind would drop two 14 yr-old’s off, say “OK, see you in four days”, and watch them walk off into the woods?  Insane.  I suppose they thought I knew enough to not get into trouble or get out of it if I did.  Nothing could have been further from the truth but it worked out just fine.  I took all of my lawn mowing savings and purchased a new Camp Trails external frame pack, 2 lb synthetic summer bag and cheap single wall 2P  pup tent, all from Campmor, IIRC.  Picked up a Hank Roberts canister stove from a local store.  I thought that was the greatest invention ever.  Cheap aluminum cookset with plastic mug.  Still have the pack but unfortunately gave away the stove.  It was actually a pretty light kit…with the exception of the extra Levi’s and a full size, non-collapsing bow saw that I was absolutely certain I would need.  Bought some freeze dried meal kits from somewhere.  Night one, we got the brilliant idea to put our breakfast for the next morning out so we could jump right into preparing it and get on the trail sooner.  Of course, that didn’t end well.  The raccoons made quite a mess of that.  In the end, though, I had a blast and would go on to do more in LBL the next two summers.

    Of course, there were much bigger priorities, namely girls and partying, in high school.  The one redeeming takeaway from that period was meeting my wife.  Somehow she’s stuck with me all these years.  After getting married and having kids of my own, we just did car camping and day hikes.  Backpacking wasn’t even on the radar.

    In 2009, we planned a trip to GSMNP with the intention of doing no more than some day hikes.  My youngest son wanted to bring a buddy along and do several nights of backpacking (he was out of high school BTW).  Neither of them had done any backpacking and they used surplus MOLE packs, carried huge sheath knives, can goods and all sorts of other heavy crap.  The whole time I kept telling them “Dudes, you gotta lose some of this weight”.  They had this ambitious plan for four days, some of which included the AT.  I recalled reading Peter Jenkin’s book, “A Walk Across America”, when I was a kid.  I was fascinated with the beginning of the book when he described setting off on the AT to start his trek.  Of course, I lost interest once he decided to get off the trail and do a much different walk but a tiny seed had been planted.  Somehow, the idea of doing the AT drifted away over time.  We got to the Smokies and drove up to Newfound Gap to drop the guys off to start their hike.  My wife and I walked along with them a mile or two as they headed up the AT towards Clingmans Dome (tough direction to tackle that portion of the trail).  I saw that AT sign and all of those memories from my childhood came flooding back.  The guys bailed out at Clingmans Dome on day 2 but I was hooked.

    We got back home and I jumped right into the whole ultralight thing, eventually getting to a 6.5 lb base weight.  Made much of my gear early on, including a Cuben Blast clone and 1 lb quilt.  Needless to say, my base weight has been going in the opposite direction as I’ve gotten older and seek more comfort.   I’ve done approx 300 or so miles of trail in the Smokies and have just 150 miles or so to reach the halfway point of the AT.  Many other shorter trips as well.  Father Time and other obligations in life may prevent me from ever finishing the AT but I’ve had so many memorable experiences these last 10 yrs.  I’m so fortunate that my wife enjoys going as well, though we tend to dial it way back mileage-wise and concentrate more on simply being together in the outdoors.  A much more relaxed experience than when I go alone or with a buddy.

    A big thanks to BPL and all of you amazing people for the part you have played in making my/our experiences so special!  Sorry my response was SO long!

    Tipi Walter
    BPL Member


    I was born to sleep outdoors for some reason.  My 4th grade teacher told me I was a “nature boy” and gave me bonus time to work on fossils I found in Kansas when it used to be an ocean floor. (Using a file to remove Foraminifera from rocks).  This was back in 1960 around Lawrence KS at Univ of Kansas (My Dad was getting his doctorate in Music).

    I remember collecting petrified seashells and my Mom took me to the university archeologist for dating.  I remember it well—My Mom was really into antique furniture at the time and would drool over stuff a 100 years old.  The archeologist held my prized shell in his hand and said “It’s about 180 million years old” and I looked at my Mom and realized her “antiques” were brand new and nothing special.

    My first backpacking trip was a 9 mile overnight trek with a cub scout group back in 1958.  I remember the Sears flannel bag my Mom got me and it weighed about 9 lbs.  I still had the bag into the 1980s when I lived in a NC tipi—before the bag rotted away—


    In them days kids lived outdoors all the time and never spent much time watching TV or staring into Screens.  We set up heavy 50 lb green canvas tents in the backyard and screamed at the big spiders who always seemed to live in the folded up material.

    I lived in Oklahoma/Texas until I turned 19 and went into the USAF in 1969. (With one year in KS).  In Oklahoma I “ran” a Reptile Garden and charged neighborhood kids 5 cents to look at my collection of snakes, frogs, tadpoles, crawdads etc.  This was around 1962.


    My parents were not outdoorsmen but did on occasion take road trips to Great Salt Plains Lake in Okla and here I am at 2 years old in 1952 standing next to my Dad by the lake.

    It’s amazing how a kid understands the woods—5 acres with a creek in his neighborhood might as well be Yellowstone NP—and that’s how I understood it.  In the 1950s kids roamed everywhere unsupervised and we claimed all land as our own.  It was common to cross a suburban tract on foot and go over everyone’s fences to arrive at some place with a creek to catch tadpoles—or make animal footprints with plaster casts.

    Brett A
    BPL Member


    In the 1950s kids roamed everywhere unsupervised and we claimed all land as our own.  It was common to cross a suburban tract on foot and go over everyone’s fences to arrive at some place with a creek to catch tadpoles—or make animal footprints with plaster casts.

    LOL!!!  Yeah, we did the same in the early ’70’s.  Only our nearby wooded tract was approx 20 acres owned by and adjacent to the local Shell refinery.  God only knows what us kids picked up from there!

    Scott H
    BPL Member


    All right I was not born to it, I am not an outdoorsman either.  I am not terribly interested in identifying birds, plants trees, rocks.  I like a great view though and I like something a bit challenging.  i have no real interest in through hiking especially after meeting thru hikers.  It is not the hikers themselves by the way but the jaded sense I got of just following the white blazes on the AT as they tried to finish.   Actually that is what I literally heard one hiker say, I am just following the white blazes.  If I am only there to follow the trail it is time to find something else to do.

    I was always intimidated by what I thought was the expectation of backpacking that if you had to take a dump you had to bag it and carry it out.  Non starter for me.  So I found my way in through Scouting much later in life, but not as a Scout.  My son was in Cubscouts where we live in Mid Pa. and crossed over into BSA.  Someone posted about the mid state trail, it is only a few miles from where I am typing.   So we did a camp out a year in Cub Scouts and in BSA more camping then a backpacking trip which I wanted him to go on so I went.  My mind had been drifting that direction as I talked to others in Scouting anyway.  So I started going with our troop and basically making my son go so I could.  He enjoys it though enough when he is out there.

    I also became more interested and looking for bigger challenges, in 2019 I went looking for a more serious trip and found the Pemi loop in the White Mountains.  So I made a solo trip for that one.  I made it out on two local outings last year but with Covid was reluctant to venture far from home.  I have trip this weekend as my son has a BSA event down by Ohio Pyle and I don’t need to be there but it is not worth driving home so I reserved a primitive camp sight and will get out in the woods for a couple days while he does his thing.

    For me I am expecting backpacking to be more of a destination travel activity.  I don’t want to spend months on a trail.  i have no interest in the AT or through hiking or section hiking.  I have watched Mile, Mile and half too many times and want to hike some portion of the John Muir trail though.  I want to take a trip to the rockies.  I love the challenge and spectacle of the white mountains above tree line.  At the same time after doing it, I did not want to do it again for quite a while.  It was the hardest thing I have ever done.

    I won’t be in the woods every weekend unless civilization fails and I have to be.  I am happy to go out a few times a year.  I would like to get a big trip in every year or two.  I have a number of them I want to do.  I would like to do the TGO challenge in Scotland, the Canadian Rockies, the Presidential Traverse,  some of the John Muir Trail.  I will come u with more.

    Brett A
    BPL Member


    It is not the hikers themselves by the way but the jaded sense I got of just following the white blazes on the AT as they tried to finish.

    Being strictly an AT section hiker myself, I can certainly understand your take on thru hiking.  I try to NEVER miss a blue blaze to an overlook, waterfall, etc.  My thinking is that I’ll likely never have that opportunity again.  Early on in NC, I took a 150 ft side trail to catch an amazing view.  Upon returning to the AT, a thru hiker comes flying down the trail towards me.  I tell him about the view just steps away.  His response?  “There’s 2000 miles of great views” and he flew on by.  I couldn’t help but wonder if he ever took the time to stop and look at anything.  To each his own, HYOH and all that but I wonder if many of those who just mindlessly follow the blazes later regret that they didn’t take some time to stop and smell the roses!

    Scott H
    BPL Member


    My main activity for 20 years was cycling.  It was always a home for type A personalties with an obsession with weight, speed, miles and so on.  I left it because I just lost the drive to compete and then was board riding down the road.  I have found my way into hiking and backpacking as a way to slow down.  I can still bring my sport hobby obsessive that I learned in cycling and appreciate going light.  However I don’t think I am an ultra light.  I don’t put my gear on a scale, I don’t have a spread sheet and I only have a guess as to base weight.  I am 50 years old and appreciate though that lighter is better.  If you are getting my drift I am neither fish nor fowl in many regards.  I only want to hike and backpack to the level of my enjoyment.  Sometimes it is casual sometimes a bit sadistic in my own way.  I will guarantee FKT will never appear after my name on any trail.

    I also think section hikers , I met, from my observation and limited experience were enjoying the AT more than the through hikers were.  I tried to make a point to meet some people and talk to them while in camp which was an equally great experience.  My first night I met a cigarette smoking section hiker trail name Cake and she seemed to enjoy what she was doing more than anyone out there.

    Brett A
    BPL Member


    My main activity for 20 years was cycling

    We have that in common.  I took up cycling in high school and had the patches from all of the centuries I had done sewn onto my backpack.  Seems strange now that that’s where I elected to put them because I was no longer actively backpacking and what did one have to do with the other?  Tried competitive cycling a little but sucked and the opportunities were limited.  Backpacking now fills that void of being self-sufficient in nature that existed for so many years.  And section hiking the AT is just plain physically challenging.  Just when you feel like you’re starting to get into a grove it’s time to head home :(  You’re basically starting all over again each time.

    David Noll
    BPL Member


    Locale: Maroon Bells

    My wife got me into backpacking.

    Alex H
    BPL Member


    Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW

    Sounds like we are all lost brothers.  Tipi somewhere there is a picture of me at 2 or 3 with a harness and a long rope that they used to tie me to a tree when camping so I wouldn’t wander off to explore while they were setting up camp.  We were camping before any of us could walk because that was the only vacation my parents could afford.  As soon as they could afford more they stopped camping which frustrated me no end.

    I would camp in the neighbors empty lot and like Tipi and others spend my days ranging all over the country side, almost always came back wet because I couldn’t not get into the creek.  I used to deliver my newspaper route on snowshoes occasionally.  I too collected rocks and would take them to the Univ. geology department to have them identified.  Scouts filled in some but it was just carrying our packs into a campsite.

    Remarkably, my parents went along with it.  Who in their right mind would drop two 14 yr-old’s off, say “OK, see you in four days”, and watch them walk off into the woods?  Insane.

    My parents were more insane then when they dropped me and a friend off for a week on the AT when we were 13!

    That was 51 years ago and a lot of miles and packs and other equipment under the bridge.

    Elliott Wolin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia

    My parents were not interested in the outdoors.  But I must have shown some interest since my father bought me a Boy Scout handbook, which I read multiple times from cover to cover.   I grew up in Brooklyn and never connected to the Boy Scouts, although I wanted to.

    In college I joined the Outdoor Club and took a course in winter camping, and got hooked.  Fortunately they had a large rental stock so I didn’t have to buy much.  My wife’s (then girlfriend’s) first backpacking trip was in the winter, -12 degF at night, and she loved it.  Then and throughout graduate school we went backpacking as much as possible.

    After school, with a job, kids, house, and mortgage we did car camping but only one backpacking trip.  Then I read “Beyond Backpacking” by Ray Jardine and realized we could outfit ourselves for backpacking without spending a fortune, and that I didn’t have to carry the enormous traditional loads I was used to but had no interest in carrying anymore.

    These days, in our late 60s, we don’t go as much as previously, but we’re hoping to change that.

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