The easiest way I could centralize the planning and distribution of information for a light backpacking trip I’m planning for October 9-11, 2009 was to put it in my blog. So I might as well expand on it and turn it into something that will generate traffic, right? Right. The trip I’m going to be expanding on was originally a thought back in January/February for me and my Fiancee, Molly Locklear. However, she got ill immediately before the trip resulting in her being hospitalized leading to her being one organ (her gallbladder) shy of a full body. I never got back around to planning it out again, but another friend Nathaniel Foster expressed some interest in going on a short trip. So, I’ll rehash my ideas and start the planning again.
Picking a Location. The first thing that crosses my mind when I’m planning a trip is how hard do I want the trail to be. I’m taking a couple new (to backpacking) people along, so I don’t want them to be so tired and frustrated that it’s not a good experience for them. I also wanted to pick a place that was fairly scenic because everyone going along has a variable amount of interest in photography. Not too far away from Chattanooga/Dalton area is a fairly easy set of trails within the Cloudland Canyon State Park. In looking at the map available here. It doesn’t look like there are any crazy elevation changes on any of the trails except for the Sitton Gulch Trail, but it doesn’t have any camping sites.
Itinerary Planning. Getting familiar with the area and the pace of your group (however large or small it may be) are necessary for any hiking or backpacking trips. I figure that for starting out on a mildly strenuous trail, averaging from one to one an a half miles an hour is about right for most groups with full backpacks. More experienced groups will go faster and need less breaks so their average may be significantly faster. Hiking is easier, and will have a pace closer to two miles an hour for starters. The harder the trail, the slower the pace. Familiarity is the key though.
The way I’m thinking about my trip right now, we’ll probably arrive around 7:30pm, go in on the Backcountry Trail (2 miles, max) Friday night, set up camp and sleep. Get up on Saturday Morning, eat a breakfast to prep us for the day and pack up. Depending on how the sites are reserved, we may not have the same site Saturday evening but that will provide for a slight change in environment and some good training. After packing up Saturday morning we’ll hike it back out to the vehicles (2 miles, max) and move necessary gear, food, and water into our day-packs for the more strenuous trails we’ll be attacking during the day. On Saturday before noon we’ll drive over to a parking lot at the trail-head of the Overlook trail and head down to see the Waterfalls (less than 2 miles) with our day-packs and head down to the 2nd waterfall for lunch, stopping at the 1st waterfall for a short water break. Once we get back to the Parking Lot we’ll move the vehicles if necessary for the Sitton Gulch Trail. We’ll verify we have the equipment we need in our day-packs, refill our water apparatuses, and head down the trail (6.5 miles). When we return in the evening we’ll pack everything back into our backpacks and drive over to the parking lot at the Backcountry Trail. After getting the packs back on our back, we’ll head into camp (2 miles, max), set camp, make dinner, and chat around a campfire (if allowed) until sleepy time. Sunday morning we’ll pack up and head back out to the cars. Depending on whether my group’s legs are ready for another trail we may give the West Rim Loop Trail(4.8 miles) a visit with our day-packs before leaving the park to head home.
In an effort to get this post published I forgot to add the Leave No Trace ethics regarding their “Plan Ahead and Prepare” skill. It is always important to keep these in mind when planning an outdoor activity.
- Know the regulations and concerns for the area you’ll be hiking, backpacking, or camping in. Restrictions are based on any past abuse and the special conditions of an area.
- Camp and travel in small groups. They are quieter and do less damage.
- Avoid the popular areas during heavy use times.
- Learn how to properly store your food to protect it from bears and other animals.
- Repackage your food into re-usable containers like Ziploc bags. Avoid tin or aluminum cans and glass. Reduce the amount of trash you bring into the woods by eliminating all unnecessary packaging like cardboard boxes, etc.
- Make sure you have a way to properly dispose of your trash (use your Ziploc bags and bring an extra garbage bag).
- Get back to the basics. Rough it! Select your gear and plan your trip by thinking about how it will impact the environment and also how it may affect others as well.
- Choose hiking, backpacking, and camping gear and clothing that are natural earth tone colors like green, brown, tan, or black.
Stay Tuned for “Choosing Equipment for a Backpacking Trip”, “Meal Planning for a Backpacking Trip”, and “Packing for a Backpacking Trip”