I've only been a backpacker for the last 15 years or so. Sure, I've done
lots of hiking over the years, but I differentiate your basic hiking, day-packing,
and backpacking. Hiking is usually hopping out of the car and setting out
to enjoy the day (even those days when the rain is relentless!) and involves
nothing more than dressing for comfort - no great distances, no great challenges.
Day-packing is a bit more involved; taking a few items in case the weather
changes (it will), perhaps a lunch to enjoy on the trail, maybe some fishing
gear to tempt a trout out of that little stream you've located on your map.
Backpacking is more intense; it involves taking everything you need to live
on for an extended period, generally in a wilderness area.
These days, we often get our needs and our wants confused. Backpacking makes you sit up and take notice when you're planning your trek; you are going to have to determine carefully just what you really are going to need to have with you. There's not going to be room to drag along a lot of those things that we have learned to take for granted - each extra ounce that goes into that pack of yours is going to feel like a pound when you're humping it down the trail, so we learn to sort and re-sort; paring our load down to a manageable size and then fighting even that to eliminate that last couple of excess ounces.
I lived in the northwoods of Wisconsin for nearly a decade; up in Vilas County. It was a great spot to allow access to some fine hiking trails. I learned a lot while living there; indeed, I view backpacking as just one great, long learning experience. Every trip out earns another little tip that you collect over the years, parsing them out carefully to those trail partners that are deserving and attentive. We are a sharing lot, out on the trail, and the best advice is usually from those that are doing it.
If you've spent some time out hiking through your State or National Forests and enjoy the beauty and serenity and are looking to make that time more enjoyable, more sustaining, read on and I'll try to show you some paths to follow.
And now for something completely different... how'd you like to go packing in the Smoky Mountains with a couple of llamas doing the carrying? English Mountain Llama Treks has put together several very intriguing packages doing just that - looks to be a pretty deluxe trip from my perspective! Take a look - this could be VERY cool!
And if you're looking for something a bit less exotic, but still comfortable and closer to home for us Wisconsinites, take a wander through Randy Gustafson's pages for Northwoods Outdoor Adventures based in Iron Mountain Michigan. They've put together some fine travels to whet your outdoor meandering appetite throughout the year! Winter in Iron Mountain is a treat in itself - putting together a multi-day stay with the Larsons just might be the answer for those midwinter blahs until the rivers open up or you're able to hit your favorite trail again.
The Knobstone Trail A very nice journal entry of the Knobstone Trail (KT) by Matt Averill.
The KT is the longest continuous hiking trail in Indiana- a total of 58 miles passing through a rugged, forested part of Indiana highland known as the Knobstone Escarpment. The trail intermittently follows the crest of this escarpment rising to heights of 500 feet above surrounding forests and farmlands. (Also read the Knobstone Home Page)
Adventurous Traveler Bookstore One of the nicest book vendors I've found online; excellent selection
The Backcountry Home Page Good general information and a variety of good links - try this one!
Grizzly Gear I'm a bear-phobic! This looks to be good gear for bearproofing your camp
The Sky Above Another fine hiking page with many links
National Lakeshore Fees? See this note I received from Jonathan Beers - apparently the Lakeshores are now "fee areas" - still well worth the price! Links, also, to Superior Hiking Trail.
Pictured Rocks Page The National Lakeshore home page
The complete Backpacker's (hostel hoppers) Checklist
Don's World Backpacking lives on in Ontario! Don's put together a real nice page dealing with his personal experiences in rock climbing and backpacking. Don't miss his gear selection!
Izon's Backpacker Journal Wow! Neat Site! For those of you contemplating international or domestic packing trips, Lucy Izon serves up a wealth of information. Includes How to e-mail home from just about anywhere in the world. Good stuff. If you meet Lucy on the trail, share a bit of your Dinty Moore... I'll bet she's got some great tales to share! She's published a journal with a bunch of worthwhile tips - buy the book!
The Backpacker If you're looking for the list of resources that contains just about everything you'll ever need for backpacking, this's the place to go. Excellent, thorough page with tons of gear reviews, great pictures, a gazillion links.
Views from the Top While this page specializes in the northeast, particularly the White Mtns, it has very good information laid out in an easy to access manner. Good equipment section.
The Long Trail I've been taken to task by Mary Garceau of Johnson State College for not mentioning her favorite trail. I haven't been there (ah! a trail my boots haven't met...yet!) but her exuberance over it compels me to add this link to information about it. She says, "When one is in the forest, they truly become that. In the wild all flags are down and forgotten, your enemies are your friends, and boundaries, limits, and rulers melt into one. If everyone took a little time to actually live and clear their mind in an open space, peace could be an obtainable goal." Thanks, Mary!
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