Pardon the hiatus, but a lot occurred since the start of deer season.  Now, fishing and turkey season is upon us.  However, this post discusses neither.  Rather this post is an introduction to Dustin and I’s new passion, backpacking. 

Since my youth, I have always enjoyed the outdoors.  I was the girl in the group getting muddy from head to toe.  I was prime for an adventure whenever and wherever.  Something about the outdoors always spoke to me, but I never did anything to develop that passion.  Life took me down some interesting paths, as some of you are well aware.  My excuses for not satisfying my hunger for the outdoors were many.  Looking back, none were good, but such is life. 

Dustin’s love the outdoors goes without saying.  His passion for it helped cultivate mine.  With this, I feel have found a true partner.  Not only a partner in life, but also a partner in pursuing the happiness found only when spending time in nature.

I turn 30 in just a few short months, as does my friend Brooke (she beats me by 3 days…ha!).  Her and I are taking this monumental decade change with some apprehension, but also entering it with ideas to make our next thirty years truly ours, no one else’s (we’ve had a problem with that in the past).  One night we delved into a discussion we’ve had a million times.  It was about our desire to do more things outdoors, to hike to new places, to camp on a river, to spend more time in the wilderness. 

We’ve done our share of car camping and what not, but we were in search for more.  It just so happened earlier in the day I picked up a Sierra Club brochure detailing the chapter’s Spring activities.  Among the activities was a Beginners Backpacking Course.  I asked Brooke if she wanted to take the plunge and attend with me.  The class was the next morning.  She was game.  I asked Dustin if he would like to join us; he agreed with skepticism.  Here begins our new chapter.

The meeting was taught by a fantastic couple, Paul and Melody Gross.  Their passion showed in the detailed handouts, patience through endless questioning and enthusiasm on their faces when explaining just how great and scary the backcountry can be.  The classes were thorough and gave us a burning desire to get our gear and get out of town.

I’ll skip through the gear purchasing part; it is difficult for me to discuss.  Rather, I’ll talk about our first trip with the Sierra Club to Paddy Creek Wilderness.

Paul was co-leader of the group, and another couple from our class attended as well.  We met a great guy named Andy, that I hope to hike with again.

We hiked in about 2 miles Friday night under a moonlit sky.  Have you ever walked through the woods by only moonlight?  It was spectacular.  At the end of our hike we were met with a campsite set up on a bed of pine needles.  We could not ask for a better place to camp our first night in the wilderness.  

Morning arrived and we woke to see a beautiful vista in front of us.  The camp was on a high ridge with a creek flowing beneath.  Enjoying our coffee with breathtaking views and the smell of pines was second to none. 

The second day, we hiked approximately 7 miles.  Dustin and I had a close encounter with three deer.  They trotted along the trail about 20 yards in front of us.  Then they scaled a rock face.  We set up camp in the shadows of an approaching storm.  We set up just in time for the sky to open and drench us with rain.  We spent dinner time in an intimate setting under the cook tarp provided by Paul. 

The evening was wet for Dustin and I.  Our nice, new, expensive tent leaked, contrary to its claims otherwise.  We arose Sunday morning still wet, but thankful for our warm dry clothes, the hot breakfast and coffee that awaited us.  We hiked out a short distance that morning with a longing to stay in our hearts.

Backpacking the first time with Paul was helpful and enlightening.  For me, it was nice to be around so many people that share my views.  Sometimes, I feel like I am on an island when I am around people in KC.  I was not alone on this trip :) 

Things we learned:

  • Carry a sportsman’s tarp
  • Bring plenty of cord/rope
  • Never cross a stream barefoot
  • Take your time and enjoy what is around you
  • Leave No Trace

The next post will be a pictorial of our first trip.  Following that post look for a post about our first trip with Brooke and Matt and our subsequent float trip.

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in". –John Muir

Stephanie & Dustin

Written by Stephanie Mullins

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