Founder File: Caroline & Why to Backpack

It was a day like any other when a friend told me that she had extra permits to backpack Northern California’s Lost Coast. The trail was supposed to have beautiful ocean views and be relatively simple hiking, but I hadn’t seriously considered it because of the required permits. Now that we had the permits, I could get to work planning our adventure! Most notably, it is necessary to hike around the tides, as much of the trail gets flooded twice a day. Organizing this trek afforded me the excitement and anticipation of trip planning without the cost or pressures of a more complex, distant adventure. Not that there was no pressure — backpacking a trail that could sweep you into the ocean if poorly planned tested my anxiety and pushed me out of my comfort zone. At 3AM, when we set off in the darkness, I was forced to trust my own research rather than looking to the ocean to confirm that it was low tide.

Hiking in the dark with a headlamp.

Hiking at odd hours of the day meant unusual wildlife sightings and encounters. In the darkness, we saw glowing eyes with our headlamps and heard elephant seals grunting somewhere by the shoreline. At dawn, we saw black bear tracks on the freshly revealed sand and, at dusk, a striped skunk rooting around in the dirt. As we ranged further from the trailheads, we encountered animals that seemed to be less familiar with humans. We went from being people, watching wildlife, to becoming actors in the natural world. From watching nature to being nature — just another predator for the animals to keep in mind. We, too, became alert to animals. Interacting with a coyote on a city street is quite different from interacting with one out there, where they do not expect any particular behavior from us simply because we are human. One of our most memorable interactions was when we found a coyote digging for roots in a streambed — and blocking our path. We had to pass, so we did so slowly, giving her as wide of a berth as possible. Our progress was like a dance: we would take a few steps, she would retreat, she would return, we would take a few steps, she would retreat… until she retreated less and less and eventually remained engaged in digging. Her golden eyes locked with ours as she decided how much she could trust us, holding a fire I had never seen and I will never forget.

I backpack primarily because it takes me out of the “every day” and into a world where I begin to understand — and become part of — nature. But this trip, and all my backpacking adventures, do so much more than that, too. Lost Coast afforded me the ability to spend time with an old friend, to test my limits, to push past anxieties, and to get to know my home state and its creatures more intimately.

People backpack for myriad reasons. If you’re a new backpacker, you may backpack to test your skills or to gain self-confidence. If you’re experienced, you may backpack to see sights inaccessible by day hiking or to take a break from the bustle of your daily life. This year, you might backpack as a relatively COVID-safe and budget-friendly way to explore and hang out with your friends. All these reasons and more are valid and exciting, and backpacking offers different benefits to everyone who tries it. If you’re new to backpacking, check out our Learn page for info and tips on how to have a safe, fun adventure.

Some Reasons to Backpack:

  1. Exercise and get healthy, both mentally & physically
  2. Disconnect and rejuvenate
  3. Enjoy sights you wouldn’t otherwise be able to access
  4. Get to know yourself by pushing your limits and testing your skills
  5. Spend quality time with friends — and make new ones
  6. Understand nature & enjoy wildlife
  7. Appreciate the little things — on the trail and in your daily life
  8. Learn more about your local environment
  9. Explore inexpensively and (hopefully) sustainably
  10. Stay socially distanced

Why do you backpack?

See you on the Trail!

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