Friday, 23 April
My hiking partner, Bob, provided this guest column. Our first backpacking adventures together took place more than 40 years ago.
Bob’s/Rob’s Guest Blog
Appalachian Trail, Port Clinton to Palmerton, Pennsylvania
April 18 to 22, 2021
In the last two years, this is my third backing adventure with my dear old friend Al Stoffa. He has blog-journaled our trips including this one. I thought I would finally contribute something to his excellent journal.
There’s nothing I could add to Al’s hiking and camping descriptions, so I will simply share my opinion on why people like Al and me go backpacking as I am often asked “why?” High on the list are the physical and mental challenges of trekking over rugged terrain with minimal survival food and equipment. It is a welcomed departure from the mental and social challenges of work and raising a family. Most backpackers also enjoy being out in the wilderness with spectacular views of vast landscapes while at the same time encountering the simple beauties the many animals and flowers discovered along the way. Also, there are the wonders of many unusual geologic features one hikes through, and many bucolic streams along the way. Having a backpacking partner like Al who likewise enjoys this scenery makes it more enjoyable.
I must mention that when backpacking more popular trails such as the Appalachian Trail, there is great diversity in the other hikers encountered. They come from all over America and many countries worldwide. There are single men and women, couples, larger groups, and all ages ranging from teens to 80’s. Some are interesting; others mysterious. Most are generally friendly and willing to help others with an equipment repair, a snack, or first aid.
Finally, backpacking involves hours of quietly walking and contemplating life. There is always a far-reaching goal to achieve -> finishing the hike. Importantly it affords much time to clear one’s head and believe in one’s self that you can accomplish something most do not attempt. Personally, while walking quiet stretches I often think about my wonderful wife of 37 years and my two equally wonderful daughters.
However, not everything about Backpacking is enjoyable. Hauling a 25-to-30-pound pack 10 miles each day is hard work! It can be painful too. Sore feet. Wet feet. Cold nights. Wet days and nights. Body and Soul crushing ascents and descents. Brutal stretches of rock and boulder obstacles. Eating freeze dried food out of a bag. Instant coffee. Sleeping on the ground or a wooden floor. No comforts of home like sinks, bathrooms, or hot showers. So, again, why does anyone go backpacking? With the right equipment, supplies, planning and a little luck, backpacking can be immensely satisfying. It helps greatly to have a good hiking partner to support each other and share the miseries and joys. Finally, some people (me?) consider enduring the physical and mental challenges of backpacking as a sort of penance for the too many times being been less than your best self to family and friends. If penance is a purpose, then the backpacking journey cannot end without redemption once off the trails.