It’s been a while since I’ve done a full-on backpacking plan for a group of more than, say, four. This weekend, I’ve got 10 people headed out, many first-timers hitting the trail for the first time.
It’s a whole different dynamic when you can’t rely on singles or pairs being self-sufficient and just sharing the same patch of forest. These folks are excited, a little scared, a tad worried, and putting a lot of faith in my experience and know-how.
Logistically, I’ve split the gear as if we had two groups of 5… almost. Each crew will have their own cooking gear, their own water filtration systems, their own stove, and meals are packed such that each crew can work as a team when it’s time to eat. The three most experienced of us have our own tiny little tents, most everybody else is doubling up, tripling in one case – sharing the load by dividing a tent into pole-groundcloth-fly and tent pieces. As a group, we’re sharing first-aid, bear bag, and cleaning supplies. As an aside… a bear bag has to be pretty sturdy to hold smellable gear for 10 people.
Regardless, the first thing we do will be to verify everybody’s got what they need, and split up the shared equipment to distribute the load. We’re not walking far, but far enough.
That step off the trailhead is an act of faith – that we’ve thought it through, we have what we need, and we have the skills to deal with whatever happens. There will be some weather, there will be some grumbling during the climbs to the ridgelines, maybe some wet feet in a stream crossing. There will also be great views, stories told around a campfire, the gurgling of a mountain stream, the sounds of katydids and tree frogs, and maybe some other forest dweller that will have some laying awake wondering what made that twig crack.
When we return to our cars, this group will be transformed – and hopefully, they’ll get a glimpse of the enormity of the world, but also realize that they have the skills necessary to go explore it. I hope there’s a sense of accomplishment, but also a sense of wonder, a little better understanding, appreciation, and an ability to look past the sore muscles and start thinking of the next trip. I’ll certainly be there to help that one happen too. I hope they invite me along.
Get Out There