During a presentation on backpacking a couple weeks ago at the Durham REI, I bemoaned the lack of a good beginner backpack class in the Triangle. Smithfield Parks & Rec had one years back, couldn't recall another one since.
Brad Freeman, right, and 13-year-old son Jackson, were on just their second backpacking trip together this past weekend on the Uwharrie Recreation Trail. Despite being newbies, they appeared to be dealing with that nemisis of backpacking trips — rain — quiet expertly.
In the crowd — OK, "crowd" may be stretching it; we had a nice, intimate gathering — was Chris Plummer, outings coordinator for the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club. Now, Chris hasn't been able to hold this pretigious position for years by doing only what he wants to do. Within a week, he had created, "Doorway to the Back Country: Sierra Club Beginner Backpacking Class."
The class will be offered twice — one beginning in early November, the next in March. According to the Sierra Club Web site, "Training will involve several class room lectures on bringing the 'right stuff,' backcountry navigation, and other skills like Leave No Trace." Classroom dates for the first session are tentatively scheduled for Nov. 8, 22 and Dec. 6. Those sessions will be followed by three outings to "progressively introduce you to backpacking." Those outings:
Outing 1: A shakedown day cruise in Umstead Park to accustom you to packing & carrying your pack over an appropriate distance and elevation change.
Outing 2: An overnight backpacking trip to an area convenient to the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area, location tbd.
Outing 3: An easy 3-day backpacking trip in the mountains in North Carolina or Virginia.
Cost for the lectures and shakedown cruise at Umstead: $75. The second outing is $15, the third $25. "All funds go into the NC General Outings Fund to defray our outings program expense," according to the club. Sierra Club members get first dibs, any leftover slots will be offered to the general public.
Equipment is not included, though several outfitters rent equipment. At the three REI stores in the Triangle, for instance, you can rent stoves, tents, backpacks and sleeping bags and pads.
Questions? Make contact with Chris at (919) 720-8125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mmm, mmm! Nothing like fresh-brewed camp coffee first thing on a crisp morning in the woods. One of the many secrets of backpacking to be learned in the Sierra Club's new beginner backpack class.