Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pinchot Trail Backpack - Reflections

Wow, looking back, I am amazed at the quantity I have written on this trip! I guess I was pretty excited, huh? I would imagine future trips of this kind will have the same desire to get in a lot of pictures, but probably not as much verbage.

When all was said and done, we covered 19.7 miles in 3 days and two nights, divided as 1.0 miles Sunday, 12.0 miles Monday, and a final 6.7 miles Tuesday. Our pace was somewhat leisurely, with stops and photo-ops whenever we wanted. We were in no hurry and knew we had plenty of time to cover the ground required. For actual hours on the trail compared to distance, we had an effective pace of right around 2 miles per hour, perhaps a little less.

Two main things occur to me as I look back on this trip. First and foremost, hiking is hard work. I don't care if the trail is rated as "easy" in a relative sense; any backpacking is difficult. Second, despite the effort involved, the worries, and the painful moments (or hours), this was a LOT of fun.

In retrospect, I planned too aggressively on what we could realistically do on day 2, especially with the rain we got. Under the best of conditions, 12 miles is probably a couple of miles farther than I would want to plan to do in the future, and wouldn't feel like it was a cop-out to do even less if the terrain were more difficult.

Preparation served me well. In the lead-up to this trip I spent many hours with books, reading articles on websites, talking to people with experience, and understanding my gear. Despite never having done this before, when I was actually on the trail or in camp I never had the feeling that I didn't know what I was doing. To the contrary, I felt like I had things pretty well under control and with Leo and Dave's assistance, I think I did.

I also have a better idea of what I would look for in a next backpack jaunt (and there will be a next one). Racking up sheer mileage is of absolutely no importance to me. I would want the trip to be planned around a destination or series of destinations. This could mean a lake with nice camping, or a place to fish, or just a series of good scenic spots to visit. This trip was a nice walk in the woods and a good training experience (which was my main goal), but there were very few "wow" moments from a scenery perspective. There was a lot of nice stuff, but little that was extraordinary. In the future I would be looking for those "wow" moments.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly of all, I know now that I can do this. I also have a better feeling for my limits. My day 2 knee issues might have been more specifically related to a single body part, but Dave and Leo seemed to have their moments of struggling with sore feet, general weariness and the like just as much as me. My suggestion to shorten the day 3 loop didn't seem to disappoint anyone. In that regard, I feel like I held my own fairly well.
And I had fun!!!
One correction to my earlier posts, for which I am too lazy to go back and find all of the places I was wrong... My references to the large evergreens we saw throughout the trip, primarily in some of the shadier and wetter low lying areas, were not spruce of any variety; they were in fact Eastern Hemlocks, the state tree of Pennsylvania. I brought a sprig and a cone home with me and confirmed that fact.


  1. Very nice (and detailed) write-up. I think your reflections are just right. You did great, and didn't disappoint or hold back anyone. We were unanimous in wanting to cut the third day's loop shorter than originally planned.

    As you say, for future backpack outings, I would now consider 10 miles the max distance for a day (shorter if the terrain is difficult.)

    It was a good time, and I'm looking forward to the next chance to get out.

  2. An enjoyable read and you've given me enthusiasm to look into hikes in my own area and hiking in general. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Just wanted to thank you for your posts. I'm hiking it this weekend solo and used your blog to make some notes on the map. Thanks again, happy trails!