As a kid, I grew up camping with my family. Car camping, we would call it now, in a tent. We camped mainly in our home state of Missouri, and farther north for relief from the heat, in Michigan and Wisconsin mostly. We were limited by how far we could drive, and our drives were limited by the tolerance of the kids. I was in the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts for a couple of years, and I primarily enjoyed the camping opportunities they provided. Those were also in Missouri.
More than fifteen years ago, my sister graduated and relocated to Denver. There she quickly got into the Colorado outdoors, including backpacking. She invited me to come out for backpacking one year. I had never gone backpacking, and I was a bit daunted, but I purchased some gear and we spent the night camping at the Maroon Bells. I enjoyed it, especially the scenery, but it was also a rough experience for me. I was more out of shape at that time of my life, in my naivety and frugality I had an excessively heavy pack, and I was not at all acclimated to altitude.
This experience is undoubtedly part of why I didn’t go backpacking again until this year. Also were changes in my lifestyle. I didn’t camp again in any form until 2015.
I have driven I-40 through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park a few times now in the past several years. The first time, we made a couple of stops and walked around. I decided then that I wanted to backpack in those mountains. Years have gone by, and I still haven’t.
Last year, in 2017, I went on a camping road trip to Glacier National Park. The place is beautiful, and it speaks to my soul. However, very little of the park is accessible from the road. The place is made for backpackers. I only had a couple of days in the park, so I didn’t have time for backpacking, even if I had been prepared. I went home dreaming of giving up my job, moving to live close to the park, fully exploring the park, and then selling my services as a backpacking guide.
I didn’t believe that was realistic, but it did help motivate me to get back into backpacking. I had been hiking more, training for Glacier (after failing to train properly for the Grand Canyon the year before). I had been camping more. I started to buy newer, lighter gear.
Earlier this month, I went backpacking for the first time in over fifteen years. I am going to do it again over this Memorial Day weekend. Assuming the confidence and experience I get this year, I am planning a week long backpacking trip next year in the Great Smoky Mountains. And if that goes well, I’m thinking about going back to Glacier in 2020, to experience it the way it was meant to be.