I’m going on a weekend backpacking trip with friends next month– we’ll hike out to a backcountry site, spend a couple nights, and then hike back to the car. This is a first-time trip for 2 of the 4 of us, so I wanted to check on the sites and the trails to get there, to make sure I wasn’t going to get lost or that there wasn’t anything too weird or hard, and to see where there was water (if any, it’s been so dry). The NPS website said it was a 3.5 mile hike back to the site.
Yesterday was a family reunion for my husband’s family. His cousin is a park ranger, and used to work at the park we’re going to be hiking in, so I took the chance to pick his brain about the sites and the hike (lucky!) He told me that, along with the way the internet said, there was also another, unmarked way to get there– a shorter, 1.5 mile hike.
So today I drove up to the park and hiked to the site using both trails. I did the short one first– my husband’s cousin had only told me where to park, and said that the trail was through an immature forest, scrubby reclaimed farmland, for a while, but once I got close it would open up into mature forest. I had no idea where I was going on the unblazed trail, and I was nervous about trespassing– on one side of the trail was very well signed private property. But once I saw the trees change I remembered what he had said and breathed a sigh of relief, and sure enough the campsites weren’t much farther up the trail. The trail was easy, wide and relatively flat.
Then I drove to the parking lot for the other trail, the longer one. This one was overgrown with spice bush and brambles and grass– tick central– and it had a really steep, long section that wasn’t fun with a mostly-empty daypack, so I didn’t feel good about newbies with 35+lb of stuff on their backs trying to do it. But I did cross a couple running creeks this way– now I know where there’s water.
Altogether I got about 9 miles of hiking in, and now I have a better grasp of the trail system and where to find water. Success! I’ve decided that we should go the easy way, so the newbies have a nice experience (and I’ll stash extra water in the car too, where it’s quick to go back and get.) The best way to get people into a new activity is not to throw them into a tough situation, right? If it’s easy and they enjoy it then I might be able to get them out for longer trips next time…