How we all started

12:59 p.m. on December 31, 2009 (EST)
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I was a very well seasoned car camping guy. At the age of 49 I found myself out of work, and broak. Instead of stressing over my downfalls I decided to enjoy my new life. I would go to the nearest park and camp all weekdays. This was still car camping but during the week I was alone much of the time. Plenty of time to enjoy my surroundings. Thats when the hiking bug hit me. Many times in the morning kids would be awake without thier parents. I would gather them up and take them on short hikes. I had to read books about the local plant life. I found that these children were very responsive. Sometimes we would even gather up the trash along these trails.

Flash forward... Age 52, moved out to the Oregon coast. It was a differant world than the one I had left behind. Trails everywhere, lakes, forest, and vast beaches. Much of wich you had to traval by foot. I started out by takeing all day hikes. Then bring gear in dufflebags, one over my shoulder with my sleeping bag under my arm, the other I carried in my other hand. Sometimes making more than one trip back to the car. As time went on I found that I needed less and could make my planed stay in one trip, After a season of this I made the small leap forward.

I found an old Kelty backpack at a garage sale $20. The gentleman tought me how to adjust the straps and hip belt to fit me. This is still the pack I use today. Next as I was still useing my 15# tent, I had to buy a lighter one. As I didnt have much for cashflow I had to do this on the cheap. One day walking through a local department store I found a small, inexpensive 2 man tent, $25 and weighing only 4#. The poles were weak so I repaced them, another $25. I made a popcan stove. And I was on my way.

I have updated many things from there on. But that is how It all started for me. It isnt as much about the gear but more about desire. I love being in the wild. Its in my blood. In the end, starting out slow making sure that you love this lifestyle is the most important thing. But starting out slow, not taking risk, Learning that you can do it without the "best" gear. Understanding the environment and whats around you will make you safe. That is something that no gear can do.

11:31 p.m. on December 31, 2009 (EST)
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Gee this is better than I thought thanks Mike. I backpacked for a long time, was a cub and a boy scout, but when I split up with my girlfriend at age 21, was pennyless and "hit the road", I managed to hike about 450 miles in the Sierras and Ventana wilderness in Big Sur. I would hitch north on hiway 101 for a few hours and if no one picked me up, I'd cross the road and hitch south. Thats how I met my next girlfriend who lived in San Francisco.

Anyway I digress. I bought a packframe without a waist band, then bought one o'them new fangled waist band thingys and a blue foam pad. I made my pack from sail cloth, used an old shear curtain for a mosquito net, cooked over campfires in coffee cans and traded a broken camera for a US mountain regular sleeping bag stuffed with chicken and water fowl feathers with a cotton cover - one of the best bags I ever had BTW. I had no jacket - stayed in the sleeping bag until it warmed up, and slept on an 8x10 piece of plastic and when it rained I pulled the plastic over my sleeping bag. I covered more mileage in the high sierras that summer than I have since, cooked beans over a campfire and baked bisquick bread in my two coffee cans, one inside the other with rocks to separate them, and still my base pack weigh was 18 pounds. My friends from the Jesus saves dairy goat vegetarian gardening commune in Big Sur taught me about edible plants so I could find about half of my food. As you say, understanding your surroundings is worth a lot.

I would stop and work for Manpower for a week now and then, get a check, hitch hike to the Santa Cruz coop and load up on granola, powdered milk, dried figs and go down the street and buy 20 packs of Ramen. I was lean and mean.

Jim S

1:30 a.m. on January 1, 2010 (EST)
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I also began as a Boy Scout and going camping with my friends who I grew up with as a getaway from our parents rules at home, even if only for one night down by the creek. I enjoyed the Jamborees and two week camping trips to far away places.

When I finished a short stint in the US Navy I decided a year later to hitchhike my way around the USA, ending up going 8000 miles between mid-June and mid-September 1977 at the age of 21. I stopped along the way at many places considered to be the mecca's of camping and outdoor recreation such as Estes Park, Glacier Park, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon.

After returning home in the fall of 1977, I worked a month then went to Alaska where I lived, worked and played two years. I worked in Anchorage during the winters and hiked in Denali NP in the summers.

I returned to the Lower 48 well off after saving tons of money in Alaska and decided to take off some time again before having to look for work again. I spent the christmas/new years holiday with my folks in southern Arkansas and then went to Yosemite in early January and spent the next 5 months winter camping there. In the early summer at the advice of a ranger friend I went to Jackson Hole to work. But I still actually had plenty of money saved and only stayed 3 weeks camping and hiking in the Tetons. I also went up to Glacier park Montana and hiked a few weeks there. After I left there I attempted to hitchhike back to Alaska the Fall of 1980, but did'nt make it as the Canadian border patrol stopped me from hitchhiking thru BC with less than 1000 dollars.

I returned to Arkansas and spent the winter then began my 28 years summers back in Jackson Hole and wintering at the Grand Canyon and here in Flagstaff. I've spent 33 years working 4-6 months of the year and backpacking/camping around places like the Grand Canyon, Tucson,Zion, Denali, Yosemite and a few other places back east like the High Peaks of upper state New York.

It has been a great adventurous life and next year I hope to go abroad to maybe New Zealand, Austrailia, or at least Hawaii. I have never been to the ocean but one day trip to Point Reyes and the Redwoods north of San Francisco back in 1984.

4:27 p.m. on January 9, 2010 (EST)
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I was always dragged along by my parents to Europe on family vacations over the summer (my mom was born and raised in Germany, and had lots of family and friends over there). I say "dragged along" because most of our time was spent in museums, castles, etc. I hated it. Then we did Germany > Switzerland in the summer before 4th grade. We got up in the mountains and I loved it. My mind was blown, honestly. I remember running, climbing, scrambling over anything i layed my eyes on as we hiked. The next summer we went to Ireland, and it was more of the same.

My love for the outdoors really blossomed after my senior year in high school when I went on a week-long backcountry trip through the Tetons with a church group. Hiking out that last day, my body ached from covering so many miles over the past 6 days. But my soul ached even worse for having to leave that sacred place. Ever since then, I knew that I wanted to go (in the words of John Muir) "to any place that is wild."

9:44 p.m. on January 20, 2010 (EST)
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My first trip was with a carton of smokes and a bottle of whiskey. There was this girl that I like who was really into it at the time so I always tagged along with her.

After terrible hangovers and being starved to death all the time I started buying some gear. Then it got crazy and I was going ALLLLLLLL the time. Nothing huge of course, just alot of weekends.

Now I'm in the kayak and fly fishing alot. Still do the trips but most of my friends prefer to car camp. At this point my backpacking is done solo, but that is okay (my current girlfriend is stricly a car camper.)

6:06 p.m. on March 29, 2010 (EDT)
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I started with a hand-sewn bag on a third-hand frame in fifth grade. Hunting in the rain soaked reprod of the Western Cascades made me used to misery. My dad, brother and I ate powdered potatoes, rice, oat meal and whatever the Lake gave us. We slept under a sheet of plastic and wore K-Mart boots.

I bought gear as my preteen budget allowed and when I was fifteen a friend and I hiked from Stevens to Snoqualmie pass on the PCT over a leisurely ten days. In that trip we ate lots of fish and a poached grouse I killed with my K-bar knife. Close to the trailhead, we even met a woman who told us we had no business to be on the trail at such a young age. Being fifteen year old boys we said some nasty things to her which I sometimes regret. The next year I ditched the buddy and hiked it solo in seven days. How my parents allowed a sixteen year old to do this a good question.

Now I take the older of my kids with me up in some of the same areas I used to go. A lot of things I never used to bring I think of now as indespensible. Will I be able to let my kids go on solo hikes as readily as my parents let me?

August 27, 2014
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