10 Years of DC UL: Aileen

DC UL Backpacking is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019. As part of the celebration, we’ll be featuring conversations with group members throughout July and August.

Aileen joined DC UL in 2013 and has been on some 50 trips. At the time of our conversation, she had recently been called “Ever-ready” on the trail, but only time will tell if the new trail name will stick.


You’ve been with DC UL for a while. What brought you to DC UL? What keeps you coming back?

At the time I was hiking with other Meetup groups. I had heard of DC UL but I found it very intimidating. But, someone I was backpacking with wanted to go on a trip, so we did. We popped right in and we never popped out!


What’s been your favorite trip so far?

My favorite trip is always the last one I went on. I’ve been on so many wonderful adventures, it’s hard to say which one is the best.

The best one recently was the women’s trip. I was the organizer for the trip. It was memorable because it created a very cohesive group. Women from the trip are continuing to do things outside of DC UL.


What do you like best about DC UL?

I love all the great activities and people. Backpackers are a hardy and self-reliant group, but DC UL is able to strike a balance of being mindful of each other, too.

Being ultralight allows you to smile when everyone else is grunting. I’m known for having a small pack It’s 27 liters no matter what the conditions. It allows me to hike with ease.

Photo credit: Michael M.

What advice do you have for newcomers to DC UL?

Ask questions!

And know that anytime you join a group where there are some people who have been there for a while, it can feel off-putting. Just remember that everyone was a virgin at some point! We want people to feel comfortable.

Also know that different organizers have different approaches and different personalities. If you have an experience that doesn’t feel like the right fit, come back and try another trip with someone else.

Photo credit: Andrew C.

Read the trip descriptions. Be aware of what’s involved so that you won’t be caught off guard, and then know that after you do that, you’ll still be caught off guard.

Where do you hope to go in the future with DC UL?

I’m going on a lot of upcoming trips, including Costa Rica, which aren’t DC UL trips but were DC UL-inspired. DC UL has legs!

Aileen gives a shout out to Brian Horst, her first trip leader, back in the days of minimal barefoot walking and kilts; and also, to Jen Adach, organizer extraordinaire, who is so giving and kind, so thoughtful and patient. Thank you for leading the group at a very inspiring heart-level.

Photo credits: feature photo, Andrew C; others from Meetup.

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