Is this what your backpacking trips typically look like, with people wearing shorts and lots of leaves still on the trees? Try winter backpacking for something different.
The response we got from non-outdoorsy friends in the past, when we announced we were going camping anywhere between the months of November and March, was always the same.
You’re going to sleep outside? In winter? On Purpose?
You’re nuts, they’d say.
It’s actually a lot of fun, though, and a new way and exciting way to experience the woods without a lot of competition.
But don’t take my word for it. There’s an opportunity this weekend, March 4-5, to try it yourself.
The environmental educators at Forbes State Forest and Laurel Hill State Park, Rachael Mahony and Kim Peck respectively, are leading a winter backpacking outing from Saturday morning into Sunday afternoon and there’s still time to register.
The hike will cover about six miles each day along the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. Participants are going to leave from the “North Woods” area near Hidden Valley, hike to a set of Adirondack shelters at what’s called the trail’s “Turnpike” site, spend the night, then hike to the Laurel Mountain warming hut.
From there, hikers can either head for home or stop by the restaurant at the Laurel Mountain Ski Resort for dinner.
“It’s kind of a new thing we’re trying to get off the ground and do every year,” Mahony said. “We’re pretty excited.”
Initially, she and Peck were considering this an advanced-level trip, as they were planning to do the hike in snowshoes. There’s no snow and none likely, however.
So they’re rating this an intermediate-level outing. It’s designed for those 18 and older with some background in backpacking.
“It’s always good to have some hiking under your belt and some experience carrying something on your back,” Mahony said.
Backpackers will stay in shelters that have a fireplace and wood. They’ll all get a tarp and rope – which they can keep afterward – to build a windbreak, Mahony added. Participants will also be provided with some snacks.
They have to supply the rest of their meals, though, and their gear.
Cost is just $10 per person. Registration can be done by contacting Peck at either firstname.lastname@example.org or 814-352-8649 by the end of the day Thursday.
It should be a fun outing, Mahony said. Best of all, it should prepare those who go along to feel better about being in the winter woods, even overnight.
“If you’re interested in backpacking and you have some experience, this is a great opportunity to get some new skills and develop some new confidence to be able to go out and experience things on your own,” Mahony said.
“There are a lot of opportunities out there for hiking and backpacking, all year round, and we always want people to get outdoors more.”