As an Instructional Designer, I am an expert in making learning effective. I wouldn’t say I’m perfect at it, but I’m better than your average Joe. So, I had dinner with my backpacking teacher and new friend, Katherine, a couple of weeks ago to discuss some improvements she could make to the Backpacking 101 course I took last fall. It is an amazing course, and she teaches all of the skills that you need to get started, so the only suggestion I had was about organization and building in some excitement around backpacking. After all, we all paid $190 to learn to how to do it. We really need to be chomping at the bit to hit the woods after we’re done.
She readily agreed, and like every good teacher I know, she turned it around and asked me to come talk about my experience. I said yes because I can’t get enough of talking about backpacking since I started, and tonight is the big night! The last week I’ve been noodling what I would tell a group of eager young (or old) novice wanna-be backpackers about my experience.
Don’t worry about the cost of the gear! That was my biggest worry. I kept adding up all of this gear and really wondering if I could afford this hobby. But, you can always borrow gear.
It’s much more social than you imagine. I thought of backpacking as a solo journey, and I guess it can be, but my social life has become over-the-top busy since I started. And I have a whole new community of friends that appeared like magic.
Katherine will prepare you well enough to do it. I was a little worried about whether or not the class would get me ready, and my trip with JoAnn and Carryn proved that she prepared us well enough to get out and backpack on our own. Now, we’re not ready for winter backpacking in Yosemite with grizzly bears, but we’re ready enough to enjoy the sport.
It is a skill, and you must schedule some trips and get over your fear. I knew when I got finished I’d better get out and practice my skills or I’d forget them or become afraid that I’d forgotten them. I get more confident and am more prepared every time I go out.
It is an A+ stress-reliever. I love the rhythm of the day with backpacking. I never really thought it would feel like it does. But, you really get down to the bare bones of survival, and every day is the same sort of routine. Get up and get the food … cook breakfast and have coffee … break camp … hike … find a campsite …. gather water …. build a fire …. pitch your tent …. cook dinner …. hang the food. It’s so relaxing to be unplugged from electronics and the rest of the world. And, of course, you’re getting exercise and fresh air to boot! Stress be gone….
But I don’t want to just talk to them. I know a picture paints a thousand words. So, I put together a slideshow I call Evolution of a Backpacker. It highlights the class, our class backpacking weekend at Chicot and my first trip without the teacher on the Wild Azalea Trail. I’ll love to return to it when I become an old seasoned backpacker and forget how happy I was to start. There’s nothing but smiles here, and I cried a little watching it because it brought up such happy memories.
My friend JoAnn says it best, “I can’t believe we just pick a spot in the woods and camp there.” It’s as easy as that but so much more. I don’t know how my backpacking partners feel but this midlife gal feels more empowered and confident than ever. I just wish that I didn’t have to work so I’d have more time to go! There are mountain ridges I must climb, and I’m anxious to get there. I just hope I make some more new backpacking friends in this class. In six weeks, they’ll be ready!