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9/1/2016 5:59 PM
Intro to Backpacking August 26-28, 2016

This past weekend I had the extreme pleasure of attending HPG’s Intro to Backpacking course. I came away with a different and better, I think, way to enjoy wilderness travel and a lot more awareness of the natural environment.

The course began weeks before we set off with a series of videos and reading material that helped prepare us for the trip. Videos on gear selection, trail food, contingency tools, natural pace and conditioning helped make sure we were ready to have an enjoyable time out there. All the videos are available to watch on the HPG Youtube channel, so go check them out!

Next, Evan looked over our packing lists, giving us personalized critiques and tips. Some of my gear was less than optimal for a trip like this, but Evan gave me some pointers to make it work better and suggested additions to compensate.

We arrived at the trailhead campground around mid-day on Friday and Evan began the instruction right away. Evan checked the contents of our packs and helped get them adjusted to our individual bodies. This was a huge help to me in the comfort of my pack. Evan showed us the correct way to pack our bags for balance and accessibility. Next we had instruction in basic land navigation. Evan gave us a map of the area we would be hiking in, but also showed how he uses his smartphone as a GPS. The land nav instruction in camp and throughout the course really increased my confidence in off-trail travel.

Next we had a discussion on ethical impact and some problems with the current wisdom on leave no trace backpacking. Evan’s positions are thoughtful, sensible, and reflect a lot of wilderness experience.

We camped at the trailhead and got an early start in the morning. As opportunities presented themselves periodically, Evan would stop the group to give a quick lesson on different features of the landscape, methods of travel, land navigation, animal behavior and so on. These lessons added up quickly and really opened my eyes to all that nature has to teach us. The lessons really whetted my appetite and curiosity to go out again and see what else nature has to show me.

The majority of our travel the first day was off-trail, which was an extremely pleasurable experience. We saw a lot more critters and sign than we would have seen trudging down the dusty trail. Off trail travel can be quite intimidating, but thanks to Evan’s instruction, I feel better prepared to venture off the beaten path in the future.

When we finally reached our destination we were greeted with an amazing vista. We looked down from a high ridge after nearly 1000 feet of elevation gain and relaxed for a while, observing the patterns of nature.

We found a suitable campsite after some instruction from Evan to that end and set up our shelters. We passed the evening in good company and had interesting discussions on a multitude of topics as the rain came down on our shelters.

The next morning we took the opportunity to watch for more animals and were greatly rewarded. As it came time to leave we discussed the best route back to the trailhead and came up with a suitable plan. Evan guided us back in a way that both conserved energy and brought more opportunities for teachable moments.

I can’t exaggerate how much I got from this class. Evan is a patient and calm teacher with vast experience that is truly mind boggling. He never scolded me for the times I was a bit loud and obnoxious, but just continued on in his calm manner, leading by example and asking pointed questions that made us think. I think the class would be beneficial to many who consider themselves experienced hunters and wilderness travelers. I am looking forward to more from the developing training division at HPG.
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