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My First Bus Trip

by Scherry F. Johnson, Ed.D., The University of Texas at Dallas

As a life-member of the Sierra Club, I obviously have an interest in nature, the environment, and outdoor activities. Although I am a certified diver, an active birder, a mediocre skier, and former scout camp swimming instructor, I had never gone backpacking. I kept seeing wonderful photos of places I would never visit if I stuck to roads and day hikes and I felt cheated! So at age 68, I decided to take action!

We are lucky in Dallas to belong to a local group which offers many hiking and backpacking options and even better for me, they offer a class for beginning backpackers. Signing-up was a "no-brainer" although it meant committing an entire valuable Saturday's to the class. I felt a bit shy about going alone and of course, most of the participants were younger, but I went with an open mind and determination to follow up with a trek! I knew it would take planning to find one which fits into my schedule. I am not retired and I have to fit trips into a busy professional life.

After completing the class, I knew that I needed to make an investment in basic proper equipment (and yes, I might be able to remodeled a small kitchen for about the same amount of money), but the backpacking class helped me evaluate what I really needed and what I could do without. I love my one person backpacking tent and my down sleeping bag. I am pleased with my compact cooking unit and my trekking poles. I covet having a better sleeping pad so one is now on my "wish to receive or to purchase" list. Although the topic is covered in the class, the whole issue of what food to cook on the trail still eludes me! I hate the commercial freeze dried food and I know I can survive a long time on hard crackers and peanut butter!

I got lucky on my first outing because the assistant trip leader is a professional colleague of mine and his wife was the leader - they were supportive and encouraging. The hiking was moderate but the altitude in the Colorado Rockies and the heavy back pack made the first day more challenging that they needed to be. I loved the hiking days that only required a day pack and the warm days and cool nights outdoors were just the break from my desk and computer that I needed. Some of my fellow travelers were very experienced back packers, others, not so much, but they were all friendly, fun and funny. The mountain wild flowers were breath taking.

The South Rim of Big Bend has been on my personal "bucket" list for years and this Thanksgiving, I ate my turkey sandwich there with my daughter and 8 other Sierrans on Trip #2 of the annual Dallas bus trip to Big Bend. The sunset on our last day was spectacular!

When they first learned that I had taken up backpacking, my friends laughed, my daughters could not believe that I would actually go several days without a hot bath or a glass of wine, and the trip leaders were probably skeptical as I got on the bus for my first outing with a pack that was obviously too heavy. But, I am happy to report that I am now a veteran of two bus trip outings and my tent is cleaned and ready for my next hike. (I have to keep going so I can amortize my investment!)

So, to all of you considering backpacking as a new adventure, here is my commercial:
Cost of equipment - $$; Cost for trip - $; Value of the experiences - Priceless!

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