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Part 1: Backpacking 101 with the PATC

April 14, 2010

Christine Says…

(instead of doing both a Christine Says and an Adam Says section for this series, we’ll be taking turns with writing.  We’ll be back to team blogging when we hit the trails again)

Anyone who has read the About section of our website already knows that we’re not backcountry campers/backpackers.  Although I grew up camping with my family, we were always strictly “frontcountry.”  We had a pop-up camper and spent a lot of vacations in developed campgrounds with electricity, playgrounds and hot showers.  Adam definitely has more experience roughing it than I do.  He did a lot of primitive camping in high school and college.

PATC Headquarters

The first session of Backpacking 101 was held at the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s headquarters in Vienna, Virginia.

My only backpacking experience came when I was ten years old and attending summer camp with the National Wildlife Federation (Ranger Rick Wildlife Camp).  We did a couple one-night backpack trips in the woods of western North Carolina.  I don’t remember anything from those trips other than the poison ivy.  Our hippie camp counselor encouraged us to walk barefoot through the forest to “be one with nature.”  That was one of the worst ideas ever.

The last time I camped in any way, shape or form was in the mid 90’s.  Adam and I had just started dating, and decided to go camping on one of our first trips together.  The weather was supposed to be nice, but we ended up having freak storms with torrential downpour.  Our tent leaked, we couldn’t get a fire going, Adam got hypothermia – basically everything went wrong.  We ended up bailing out and sleeping in the car.  The next day, we broke camp and moved back into the great indoors. I’ve never looked back, because honestly… I love a soft mattress, a hot bath and access to a microwave.

Recently, I’ve decided to give sleeping outdoors another chance.  I’ve been on so many hikes with places that I’ve stopped and thought “Wow – I’d love to wake up right here and see the sunrise!”  So, when we got a Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) newsletter, we were intrigued by a workshop called Backpacking 101.  It’s an adult class for backpacking newbies.  I’m hoping that their expert instructors will be able to show us how to backpack and camp in a way that makes it safe, fun and comfortable.

Last Monday, we had our first class meeting to go over course expectations, physical conditioning and how to choose boots.  The class has 28 participants – all very diverse in age, gender, experience and fitness level.  We’ll be spending the next two class sessions doing field learning – everything from how to purify water to how to load your backpack properly to how to choose a campsite.  The class will conclude with a weekend-long backpack trip to put everything we learn into practice.   At this point, my ankle sprain is still too painful to hike. I’m really hoping it will be healed enough by May for the weekend trip.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

We’ll be blogging about each of the sessions… so stay tuned!  Maybe we’ll become backpackers yet!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 25, 2013 10:08 pm

    There is now a “Friends of Wildlife Camp” page on Facebook for alumni of Wildlife Camp. We also have a webpage now:
    We just had our 2nd reunion. Check it out!


    • August 26, 2013 11:11 am

      Very cool! I will check that out. While helping clean my parents’ basement recently, I came across all the photos, crafts and the scrapbook I made from Ranger Rick camp. The best thing I found was all the letters I wrote and received during camp. Fun memories!


  2. April 17, 2010 7:39 am

    Keep to the right spirit and enjoy the outdoors at your own leisure. Just be sure to get the backpack fit right for the purpose and weight so you can hike in comfort before reaching for something with pillows at night.


    • virginiatrailsadam permalink*
      April 24, 2010 8:24 pm

      Thanks Rick! We checked out your website with the great pack ideas. Would you mind if we link up to your site in our blogpost?


  3. April 14, 2010 10:27 pm

    You go Christine! You will be a changed person for life now! Enjoy and looking forward to your posts!!!!!!


    • April 15, 2010 8:18 am

      I hope changed in a good way! As much as I love the outdoors and hiking, I’ll admit I’m a bit of a princess when it comes to sleeping and bathing accommodations.


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