What is the earliest date at which you became a HIKER / BACKPACKER / CAMPER ??

4:08 p.m. on October 10, 2011 (EDT)
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A discussion recently arose among a few of my peers.

We were trying to recall when we really thought we were hikers / backpackers / campers.

I suppose for many of us, that would be when we were Scouts.

BUT -- Let's set that aside, for the purpose of this post-topic.

I am certain many of us were EXPOSED to hiking and backpacking at that younger age.   I know I was.   It was not until a year-or-so later, that I actually attended one of those Scout JAMBOREE's, that I thought I was really into the outdoors in a passionate way.

This was several overnights (in a canvas pup-tent), and a lot of outdoor activities with other Scouts.

I'm tawkin' 'bout WHEN you actually went out on your own.  NOT in the family RV or camper ... or, with a Scout Troop.

Sooooo .... Trailheads; WHEN was it for you?   Please provide the actual YEAR DATE.   The MONTH, too ... if you can recall.

~ r2 ~

4:34 p.m. on October 10, 2011 (EDT)
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Re: What is the earliest date you might consider you became a HIKER / BACKPACKER / CAMPER ??

Year/date/month? you got to be kidding! I'm 55! LOL

 But realy most my travels were day hikes with the kids, while car camping. We were from Iowa and there are no real trails there, unless you walk corn fields. It wasnt till I moved to Oregon that my view changed. Now I'm out as much as I can, rain or shine. This time of year mostly rain. All I know is that I love it all! I think for true backpacking it was around 4 years ago without much for gear. But I find myself liking some of the older gear better than the new stuff. It might just be becouse of the cost of new gear, but the older stuff works just as well IMHO. I have been camping all my life. And my dad installed a LNT mindset into us. I passed that down to my kids. So all this seems to come very natural to me. I still cant believe that the NFS just told me to be carefull, and have fun. What! I dont have to pay for a campsite!

5:59 p.m. on October 10, 2011 (EDT)
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Re: What is the earliest date you might consider you became a HIKER / BACKPACKER / CAMPER ??

August of 1972.I was fifteen years old.My family had just relocated from Boston to L.A. My older sister and her husband had been living abroad in Panama for several years but came home that summer in L.A. I guess they were'nt ready for the social adjustment,so they packed up my little brother and I for our first venture into Yosemite.With alot of borrowed gear,we spent two weeks in the North Boundary country,leaving from Tuolomne thru Glen Aulin to Matterhorn Canyon to Benson Lake,etc.

  After that trip I was hooked.Being in San Diego for 30 some-odd years,I'm fortunate the Sierra is only 5 hours away.My brothers and I spend a bit of our free time up there on the Eastern side.

  I revisited that original trip this past summer with my son,six days five nights.Now he knows why I have such fond memories of that first adventure.

12:26 p.m. on October 11, 2011 (EDT)
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Summer 1991.  I was fifteen and my parents let me and a buddy hike Stevens to Snoqualmie Pass on the PCT in WA, about 70-ish miles, 10 days.  the next summer I was sixteen and did it solo in 7 days. 

It was really hard to finally unpack from that trip. I felt like I was admitting defeat or something.  No one in my high school circle of friends and aquainences understood the personal significance that the trip had to me and, quite frankly, I had a hard time explaining it.  Some kids even claimed that I was making it up and that no 16 yr old would be stupid enough to spend seven days hiking alone. 

It was a big deal to me.

2:15 p.m. on October 11, 2011 (EDT)
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The summer of my 12th year. I was a few miles past exhaustion on the last half of a 21-mile Lincoln Trail day-hike. It was a scout trip especially crucial for the older scouts, as they were looking to knock off a couple rank/badge requirements, but I was deemed motivated enough to "try."

I did it in just under 8 hours, and I can remember the point about 5 hours in where I understood that, while I could stop at any point and ride in a minivan the rest of the way, I wasn't going to stop until I reached the end. Already understanding that a proper "hiker" would do the same, I knew then I was a hiker.

2:45 p.m. on October 11, 2011 (EDT)
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 Soooo ....  about 1993 (?), I reckon.

~r2 ~

3:08 p.m. on October 11, 2011 (EDT)
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Hard to say. From the time I was four, the family annually moved out of the city, pitched a tent by a lake and spent the summer there; my father would commute to work for three months.

I was setting traplines as a teen in 1963. I took to spending all my spare time fishing or cruising the woods for sign. In 1967 I spent a week alone on the AT. From April 1969 - January 1979 I lived out of my pack and hitched from one coast to another in US and Canada  when the whimsey took me. I worked odd, sometimes very odd, jobs as I found them. Lots of days, months, in the woods alone. But I also took in Woodstock and sundry county jails; so I was not bereft of companionship. :)

So, from the above, perhaps I became a camper in the 1950's and a bum in the 1970's.

4:06 p.m. on October 11, 2011 (EDT)
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I'd have to say I started camping as a teenager in the mid to late 1960's when I discovered the wacky world of weed.


The outdoors was the perfect place for my new hobby :)

4:33 p.m. on October 11, 2011 (EDT)
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I started camping out back of my childhood home in upstate NY when I was just about 7-10 years old. I start backpacking in Boy Scouts in 1968 in California. My parents went camping with me along when I was 6 months old in 1956. My mother said they were asleep and she woke not to find me by her side. I had rolled out the tent.

I still have my original Boy Scout Brunton compas I got at camp in the Sierra Nevada Boy Scout Camp in 1968-69.

5:00 p.m. on October 11, 2011 (EDT)
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Had to be some time in the spring of 69 or 70, my brother & a friend bushwacked & hiked a 20/25 mile section of the Bruel river in northern Wisconsin one weekend.  About the same period, I spent 2 weeks portaging the boundry waters with 12 really great people I had met while canoeing the St. Croix.  I was hooked!

I had been canoe camping the St. Croix as a kid with my dad and brother since I was about 10 and camping & hiking with the Boy Scouts after.  There were too many trails and long stretches of woods right across the street from my house.  I'm pretty sure I spent more time outside than inside.

6:33 p.m. on October 11, 2011 (EDT)
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GaryPalmer said:


I started camping out back of my childhood home in upstate NY when I was just about 7-10 years old. I start backpacking in Boy Scouts in 1968 in California. My parents went camping with me along when I was 6 months old in 1956. My mother said they were asleep and she woke not to find me by her side. I had rolled out the tent.

I still have my original Boy Scout Brunton compas I got at camp in the Sierra Nevada Boy Scout Camp in 1968-69.


Somehow, Gary, I have this mental image of you trying to crawl to the latrine.   LNT was already in your consciousness.

~ r2 ~

11:42 p.m. on October 11, 2011 (EDT)
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Camping and hiking: Boy Scouts. I never went past 1st Class. Didn't care about merit badges. Just wanted to practice basic Scoutcraft. That orientation has remained with me to this day. While I do help Scouts with various merit badges, what I like best is helping the new kids go through Tenderfoot/Second Class/First Class ranks. That's where the really good stuff is IMO.

I became passionate about backpacking in the summer of 1972. Hard to put a month on it. July maybe. I had a good job that summer, and outfitted myself with what was at the time state-of-the-art gear. Started backpacking every chance I got. Had some friends in college who were into it too, so we did a lot. There are some good trails in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.

11:07 p.m. on October 12, 2011 (EDT)
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My parents would hike the local trails around Mt. Tam and Pt. Reyes in the  Bay Area with me stuck in their old external frame packs in the early 70's.  My first real backpacking trip was in Boy Scouts the summer before 6th grade.  Our scoutmaster some how got permits to allow us to camp in the regional parks which dot the eastern portion of the Bay Area.  It was cool because the trails roughly followed the route early spanish explorers followed when they first came to California and we got to camp in many parks which only allowed day use.  In the end we hiked 72 miles in a week.  It was a total blast.  

12:36 a.m. on October 13, 2011 (EDT)
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Like you say...to be exposed to the out of doors...my whole life.  But I had never backpacked until I moved to Wenatchee, WA-- and my brother and his friend (later wife) and I decided to do a weekend up near Mission Ridge (ski area above Wenatchee) in 1984.  

We went up to a little lake, not terribly far in ...2-3 miles,  MAYBE... And BOY were we under prepared!  Didn't think the food through, had NO bug dope, didn't have warm enough bags--the food we bought was AWFUL--the only saving grace is my future sis-in-law had thrown in a bunch of homemade oatmeal cookies.

I got up in the middle of the night genuinely frozen in my bag to go stoke the fire for awhile to get the blood moving again. Much to my surprise, my brother was already huddled at the fire (if a 6'3" man can huddle). He had forgotten his jacket. It was 90 degrees when we left town. We were lucky if it was 40 degrees on this mountain side! (thus we didn't think the clothes thing through very well).  We did enjoy some really amazing star gazing that far up in the hills. Not too much light pollution up there.

Needless to say, we got up the next morning only to find we had brought the wrong kind of oatmeal--the long cook sort--which doesn't cook nicely over a fire. Even with the oatmeal cookies crushed in, it was barely edible.  By mutual non-verbal agreement, we packed up camp, and hiked out of there, drove straight to a burger joint, and ate like it had been a week since our last meal.

But I was hooked...

11:48 p.m. on October 13, 2011 (EDT)
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While in the child dogey-leash harness I climbed Ayres Rock at 4yrs.

7:30 p.m. on October 16, 2011 (EDT)
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1949, August. I was almost 9.

My dad thought it would be a good idea to get in some male bonding since we had just recently arrived in Colorado Springs from Illinois.  We went up the cog incline on Pikes Peak.  On the way the 'conductor' pointed out 'the long way up' Barr Trail head that was near the cog rail terminal.  That was the first time I ever saw and thought of a "trail".  Not something our family ever did...hike.  I was dumbfounded about the concept.

Once on top I found the end of the trail switch-backing up to the top.  I excitedly went down it a short ways and was surprised how far it was back up *pant, pant*. I explained to my father that the best way up had to be on that trail.  His remarks emblazoned in my memory were, "Tell ya what.  You do it and I'll consider watching."  Heck.  At 14,000' we were less than a mile and a half up from where the car was at 6,500'.  I had recently found out that a mile was 5,280'.

I took that as the parental approval of hitting the trail at my convenience.

We took a tourist open sided limo down to pick up our car at the cog terminal.  It was only about 1/4 mile up from a bus stop in Manitou.  It would be a straight run from my house in the west part of Colorado Springs.

I took off one very early morning on the first bus west.  I had packed a lunch, brought along a pocket knife, magnifying glass, some string and a canteen.  Heck I had figured that it was only a mile and half up from the trail head to the summit.  The cog made it up in an hour and it took a little more than an hour to get down by car that included a stop to secure the canvas sides in an afternoon thunderstorm.

I made it to Barr Camp (6 miles or so) about 8PM hungry, tired and a bit concerned that I hadn't told anybody I was leaving.  I walked into the camp surprising the only people I had seen all day long.  They were a youngish (VERY old to me then) couple who were a bit put out when I said I was hungry.  They thought that was best fixed if I would just get back to my family to be fed... they did say it nicely

They were a bit more surprised after I explained the day's activities.  He headed down around 9PM to tell my parents where I was,  she cooked me dinner and I had one of the most memorable nights ever 'backpacking', falling asleep in his sleeping bag, cuddled up next to her, drinking hot cocoa and listening to her tell me stories about back packing, mountain climbing and photography in the rockies.

We left the next morning early going down fast. We made it to the bottom about the time the Sherrif's Posse was heading up.  In El Paso County then, they had what constituted a presentation posse whose main role, the best I could determine then, was to ride in the annual Rodeo Parade upon silver spangled saddles and well kept horses.  So having left so early and almost running down hill we met them about a mile up from the trail head. It takes things longer to get organized on Sunday mornings what with breakfast and church and things.

If we had dawdled more I would have had a longer pony ride down.

The husband was more or less incarcerated until I showed up.  He was more than a bit ticked off that I had ruined his trip; he had lots of new scabs caused by coming down hill at a run in the dark; he was plenty tired and had had a lot of time to foment about it.  His initial contact with the police was snarled breathlessly into the telephone something like "We have your son and I know where he is!"  Soooo,  there were still considerations that it might be part of a kidnap.  In a small town without a lot happening it doesn't take much to get a LOT of action and gossip going.

As I remember there were some mixed feelings at home about my appearance 30 hours after slipping out the front door.  I didn't see daylight outside of the house until school started and even then I was to check in and check out when leaving my bedroom.

BUT I had caught the bug. 

Before the next summer I had made it solo to the top of all the big rocks that form the ridge that includes the Kissing Camels in the Garden of the Gods. The following springs and summers I more or less spent with the Barr Camp couple in the mountains peak bagging.  Unbeknownst to my family, they would let me take off for over nights on my own to explore while they stayed and fished or photographed the area they were in. 

My pack was a bed roll.  WWII surplus bag laid out and all the stuff to be carried put on it, then the entire shebang was rolled up, wrapped in hemp string then, folded over once and the two ends tied together.  The loop formed, fit over my head and down the front.  My cooking pot and bowl/plate was a #10 can with a wire hoop. Filthy with soot, it was wrapped in my towel.  I had to remember to use the correct side before rinsing it out at the next stop.  Lots of dried beans or peas, boiled potatoes, and SPAM all mixed up as a stew. Usually one of the ingredients was not fully cooked. If I didn't finish supper, it was breakfast. I ate two meals, breakfast and supper.  If I didn't finish breakfast, I'd carry the cook pot left overs by the bale for supper, perhaps adding something from a can.. like crushed pineapple or a can of tomatoes.

It was a happy time in my life!

Later years after having children, wife and I made sure our kids got and early start on the mountains.  My daughter's first big over night was up the west side of Vermont's Mt Mansfield.  She was 3.  Son (two years older) and I had already been out for a couple of years.  This was when only way up was to walk.  The next day, I figured it would be easier for her to take the kids down the east side into the park below, while I took most of the camping stuff down in a gigantic back pack load to the car.  I was to drive around the north and meet up with them.  It was, the sign said, only 2miles down 'that' way.  It was more than a 60 mile drive around from where the car was then and where I was to meet them an hour or so later -- as I remember.

I smoked down the way we had come up as fast I could with the cumbersome pack, and finally driving like a bat out of hell, I arrived at their trail head in mid afternoon. There was no sign of them!  They should have been there waiting for hours.  After driving up and down the entire length of the side of the mountain, thinking maybe I had miscalculated where the trail came out, I finally saw three figures stagger out into the parking lot and collapse.  All were completely covered in mud and bedraggled looking.  The kids were smart enough to stay well away from a mom who was ready to kill anything she could get her hands on - especially me for suggesting an almost vertical (steep any way), mud knee deep in places and only the vestige of a trail through a recent down fall. 

I thought from her description it made a passably good cross country route...didn't tell her that tho.

June 25, 2018
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