Confessions of an Armchair Backpacker
I cannot emphasize enough how inexperienced at backpacking I am. I am an armchair backpacker, replete with theoretical backpacking expertise. I have read the gear reviews, watched the how-to-hang-your-bear-bag YouTube videos, consumed approximately every “ten things I wish I knew before I started hiking” list available on the internet. I even read the comments.
I have not actually backpacked much at all. I have never planned my own backpacking trip. I don’t even cook my own food when I car camp–I generally camp near a town and use nearly free lodging as an excuse to splurge on good restaurants. I haven’t even tested my new stove system outside of my cozy apartment (and I can’t figure out why it just stops sometimes. Help!).
Two: Backpacking trips before my AT thru-hike attempt.
Nine*: Days spent backpacking.
Seven: Nights spent backpacking.
When I was 15 in the summer of 2005, I completed a five-day,, four-night section of the AT with a gang of ten or so high-schoolers and two grownup guides. At the time, the guides seemed to be 35 and infinitely knowledgeable, but in retrospect, they were probably 21 or 22.
This past summer (I was 28 if you’re counting), I completed a four-day, three-night guided trip in Rocky Mountain National Park with the Wildland Trekking Company.
*And in the true spirit of confessionals, I will admit: We only packed our stuff in, set up camp, did two days of day hikes without all our gear, and then packed back out on day four. So my numbers may not even hold up to a close audit.
In both these cases, I was surrounded by good friends (in 2005 my cheer squad members and Latin class classmates, and in 2018 my best friend/cousin/confidant/support system). In both cases, an experienced hiking grownup planned my route, supplied my gear, cooked my meals, coordinated my schedule, navigated the trail, and basically tucked me in at night.
Learn! From everything and everyone. Through questions, through trial and error, through comments by you nice people on my posts. I plan to consume as much information as I can, pay attention to my surroundings and my body, and remain flexible and open to changes in my gear, in my goal, and in my outlook.
…. also I should probably organize a shakedown hike one of these weekends.
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