Part 1: Success
A few weeks ago I took my very first backpacking trip, ever. Terribly exciting, right? The trip consisted of 2 overnights and a total distance of 14 miles on the Appalachian trail in New Jersey. Our party was myself (obviously), my oldest sister, C, her husband Ce, and three of her children, J, K, and A. A, though a wild and adventurous boy, unafraid of running into the middle of the street if given the opportunity, is still too young to navigate a hike, so spent the trip on C’s back.
I learned a few important lessons I’d like to iterate.
1. The sun rises in the East.
Unfortunately for my exhausted mind, on day three I forgot this important bit of navigational information and was insistent that the lake on our east, was the one indicated in the guide book to the west. The devastating realization that we were not as far along as I thought we were was not good for morale. Thank you C for pointing out the error in judgement.
2. No matter how many times you say a mountain is not a mountain, it’s still a mountain.
J came up with a wonderful inspirational motto for our hike: “tis not a mountain, but one foot in front of the other.” Unfortunately the two large ridges we had to scale up and down disagreed with her statement.
3. When hiking in a group it’s far easier to be the fastest than the slowest.
The person in front can hike ahead and wait for the stragglers, but the latter is forced to keep going in an attempt to keep up with the fastest. It creates an imbalance of exertion. Also, a 28lb child who is prone to bucking and steals all your water while he hangs out on your back makes it really hard to keep pace.
4. Appropriate underwear are vital.
If you wear boyshorts with a lacy border an then buckle a hip belt over top the for 3 days, you will get a rash on your lower abdomen from the chafing. I don’t recommend it. I really should expand beyond a thousand pairs of the same style underwear.
5. 2 lbs of spaghetti is never a good idea.
Honestly I don’t know when this is ever too little food, even for 6 people. We only used like a quarter pound and had to carry the rest out. Portioned meals are an excellent idea.
6. Bug spray ratios and reapplication are not as hard as I expected.
In the whole bunch we only got a single tick. The basic rules of thumb I’ve learned is deet on the legs and natural eucalyptus lemon bug spray on the top half. Reapply when the gnats get too annoying.
7. Throwing your cooking pot across the field at a shelter is never productive and actually rather rude.
After spilling my Ramen on the ground I may have thrown my jet boil as far as possible in a fit of hangry rage. This did not assist in the acquisition of food into my belly, but did spread food particles in a bear heavy area. I apologize profusely to the other hikers on the trail for my poor judgement and lack of care.
8. If you trip with a top heavy pack, said pack with slide forward and smack the back of your head which, in turn will lead you to smash your face on a rock.
No permanent damage done, but I did break my favorite sunglasses and ended up laughing hysterically as a lump formed on my head and my family looked on worried. I recommend head injuries while hiking even less than wearing lacy underwear. I have to say it was a rather funny experience and I wasn’t hurt badly, so it all works out.
9. Hiking with people you love has both ups and downs.
The obvious benefit is the shared memories with your loved ones. Bonus, less embarrassment about the more taboo bodily functions that occur in the day to day, as those barriers have long since broken down. The negative is the other side of that same coin. Because we are family there is a certain amount of rudeness allowed that would not be acceptable among strangers, or even friends.
10. Everything will hurt.
It really really did, but once you warm up, it improves. But I mean everything. But it was worth it.
I want to wrap up with a quick review of some of my gear. I carried a hennesy hyperlite asymmetrical zip, and I absolutely love it. It went up easily and I was relatively comfortable sleeping. I was freezing though, so I may need to invest in an under quilt. My ULA catalyst pack sat comfortably, I especially appreciated the straps which allowed for 3 across the body buckles, which helped distribute the load. I will definitely go more into detail about my gear in a later post when I feel like it. I really can’t praise these two pieces enough. One thing I’d like to say is don’t waste money on BodyGlide, it doesn’t do shit. Here is a great video with some alternatives and a better explanation than I can give about the previously mentioned product.
Finally, I’d like to say thank you to my sister and her family for the amazing support you give me and for the adventure we went on together. I’d additionally like to broaden that thanks to my entire family. All of you have been more supportive than I could dream of. Each and everyone of you is vital to my success and has helped me on the path to where I am today.
P.S. I thought of a couple more things I learned.
There was some crazy wildlife, I was unaware that porcupines lived in New Jersey. We also saw some tiny baby birds, wild turkeys, and various rodents.
People will mock you if you just try and relax in your sleeping bag and happen to be in the middle of a parking lot.
I really need to invest in legitimate hiking clothing, regular t-shirts and lularoes aren’t cutting it.