I was NOT aware of how meticulous seasoned hikers were about the weight of their “packs.” I guess, in some practical sort of way, they are like turtles crawling up and down the cool forest floor carrying the weight of their home on their shoulders; Ready to take to shelter at any given moment. I had never gone backpacking for days like this before, so my cousin Miles had offered to show me the ropes. Miles also measured the contents of his pack in Milligrams. Needless to say, I hadn’t quite reached that level of insanity (I MEAN, genius) yet.
We were en route for the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail; A 70-mile trek from Ohiopyle to Ligonier which passes through State Game Lands, State Parks, and the outskirts of Seven Springs Ski Resort. Since I am a newbie and all, we didn’t hike the entire seventy miles, but we opted for about half of that from the 30-mile overlook in Donegal to the steeply graded slopes towards the Yough River.
Late May must be the perfect time to go hiking in Appalachia, because while it was nearing 80 degrees and calling for thunderstorms, it was still dry and cool underneath the trees. It was like traversing through a different world that had delayed the hot summer sun. We would stop to refuel and sit on big limestone boulders that were soft and weathered from the elements and felt heavenly on tired, sore, and overheated hamstrings.
I’m not sure if all hiking trails are like this, but it was as if we were passing through a series of different ecosystems. Deep green ferns stretched out on each side as we started out, and then areas of toad families would hop up in waves from each little movement as we passed their homes.
We trekked through areas with many different flowering plants like Rhododendrons and Mountain Laurel that were speckled between Oak trees, and then through TALL pines that trimmed the floor with blankets of brown needles. I learned that THIS mushroom was called “Chicken of the Woods,” and that vegetarians LOVE them. I regret not taking one of these guys to try out.
There were also stretches of the trail that didn’t have ANY ferns. It was almost as if you could FEEL the environment change given the point you were hiking through on the mountains.
It was nearing dinner-time, so we took shelter for the evening in one of these bad-assy stone platform shelters. There were about 6-8 of them in each campground along with a men and women’s room that left A LOT to be desired. This shelter was really roomy, though, and the fireplace helped to keep the bugs away. We chilled for the rest of the evening and ate our freeze-dried Thai food and Chardonnay that I brought in my new Go Vino wine pouch.
I would say that after my first overnight hiking experience that I packed just the right amount of everything! I was comfortable (my pack wasn’t TOO heavy) and I feel like I had enough food and water for the whole journey. Below is a quick picture of what I packed, and for those of you that are curious of it’s contents I’ll write out a little list. Plus, this will help me for the next time I head out into the woods!
Pack for 2-day Hiking Trip:
Sleeping Pad, Sleeping Bag w/ Compression Sack (Goes into pack first)
Sleeping Clothes (Goes into Sleeping Bag)
Since I am a girl: A plastic baggie filled with a mini-brush, travel-size dry shampoo, Ponds Face Cleansing wipes, and itty-bitty travel toothbrush.
Dinner Food: Dehydrated food pouch, Go Vino pouch, Instant coffee, Peanut Butter Cliff Bar, Banana, Apple, Popcorn, Small lightweight pot, cup, and spoon. (Miles had a little stove.)
Ditty Sack with Essentials: Headlamp, Small Flashlight, Twinkle Lights (Not really essential, but I couldn’t help myself. REI impulse buy.) Small First Aid-Kit that I made myself from a pill bottle (Band-aids, Neosporin packets, alcohol packets, Advil, Anti-acids, Gauze Pad, Duct Tape wrapped around the bottle for blisters.) Small Knife, fire starter, and Pack rain-cover.
2 bottles of fresh water (I don’t have a reservoir yet, but I just kept refilling the bottles along the way.)
Cell Phone, Chapstick, and Lindor Truffles within easy reach.
OH, and my selfie-stick. 😉 I almost forgot!
If there is anyone out there that has somehow come to the end of this post, let me know if you have any hiking tips or suggestions in the comments. Thanks for reading!