In May, I ventured on a 4 day hiking trip down the Quehanna Trail with a dynamic group of women. Burnie (Megan) and Vogue (Libby) had quite an impressive hiking repertoire, so I felt nice and safe from bears and the whole fear of getting lost thing. They had previously taken 6 month hiking trips through the PCT and AT. Yep, they knew their shit! JoAnne and I….we were the newbies, and we didn’t even have trail names yet.
It began with the challenge of packing. It sounds easy, but when you have to carry all your belongings on your back for an 18 mile trek, every single ounce counts. I learned quickly how heavy water really is. And water is not something you can go without….drinking, cooking, cleaning, washing, to name a few. I might have taken for granted running water and flushing toilets (or even a private hole in the ground).
My pack and my camera all ready to go. I also packed a flash & remote for the upcoming campfire pictures I really, really wanted to capture.
The Quehanna trail greeted us with rain as soon as we stepped out of the car. This is when I learned that backpacks need raincoats too. One would think they were waterproof, but nope. Trash compactor bags on the inside and green Frog Tog poncho on the outside….I looked like a turtle, or a hunchback. Good thing I was the one behind the camera!
The trail log book signing! This was serious business…we had to prove we were there and see who else was ahead of us on the trail. This is where trail names come in handy.
I learned a valuable technique called Bear Bagging. It involves finding a tall tree at least 100 feet away from your camp. While it’s still light out (this is important), find a suitable tree and toss a weighted object over a sturdy branch. After dinner, every single item that is food or touched food (plates, pots or plastic ware) or even has an odor that might perk up a bear’s nose (toothpaste, chapstick, etc) must be stored in a ‘stuff’ sack. Then, the sacks are strung up dangling just out of reach from a momma bear on the ground or a baby bear climbing the tree. Even though we did this every night, I must admit, I kept listening for heavy footsteps and a game of bear tether ball down the hill.
Campfires don’t always happen, especially when it rains. These little portable stoves were more than essential, and I will never again underestimate the importance of headlamps.
We enjoyed some Extreme Blueberry Cous-Cous. I swear I ate better in the woods than I do at home. Another interested phenomenon….everything tastes better in the woods. It really does! Instant coffee was amazing, and I would never be caught saying that under normal circumstances. I am kind of a coffee snob.
Following the right trail is serious work and extremely important. You’re only carrying enough food for the allotted hiking days, and water sources can become scarce really quick. We were only hiking the 4 day trail, but the 10 day trail was only one wrong turn away.
This was my first experience with filtered water from a stream. Not bad at all! Finally got to use my off camera lighting with a campfire. Mission accomplished.
By the end of the trip, JoAnne and I earned our trail names. She is Sparkles, and I am……wait for it……Paparazzi!