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.
Shane joined DC UL Backpacking in 2015 and has attended over 40 events. When asked about a trail name, he replied, “every time I do something stupid in the woods, I glance around for witnesses – because that’s how trail names stick.” Shane, I guess you’ve been fortunate that no one has christened you with a name just yet.
You’ve been with DC UL for a while. What brought you to DC UL? And what keeps you coming back?
I like scenic overlooks.
Five years ago, my wife made a phone call. She got the two of us a reservation at the Phantom Ranch. To get down to the only accommodations on the floor of the Grand Canyon, we had to get backpacks big enough to haul several liters of water. The South Kaibab Trail is world-class, but it is also dry year-round.
I ended up with a giant Osprey. Giant Ospreys can also carry sleeping bags, shelters, stoves, etc. I had backpacked as a Boy Scout, decades ago. Light bulbs clicked. I started looking things up. Stumbled across DC UL early in that process — even before the Grand Canyon trip — and liked their approach.
As a random middle-aged suburbanite, I might never do a long thru-hike. But I can sort of cosplay like a thru-hiker for a few days every month or so. It’s a cheaper midlife crisis than a sports car.
What’s been your favorite trip so far?
Ask me today, and I will go with May 2016: first trip to Dolly Sods. We did some of the muddier parts, Laura damn near broke her toe, and Gen’s bone-deep affinity for the place was obvious and contagious.
Ask me tomorrow, and I’ll answer with a completely different trip.
What do you like best about DC UL?
Cliché answer: the people.
Seriously, though: DC UL is an open and welcoming bunch, even toward clueless newbies like me. That circles back to what I said about pretending to be thru-hikers for a weekend. (The presence of several actual thru-hikers in our group is inspiring. They haven’t gotten it out of their systems yet. They haven’t gotten tired of the rocks or the rain or the humidity yet.)
What advice do you have for newcomers to DC UL?
Pack a FEW of your fears. Take multiple precautions to avoid tick bites, for instance: long, permethrin-soaked sleeves. Plentiful bug netting in your chosen shelter. One dose of Lyme disease could end all your Shenandoah shenanigans permanently.
And take pictures of the people along with pictures of the scenery.
Where do you hope to go in the future with DC UL?
Every summer or so, there is a small-group trip out West somewhere. I want to go on one of those. Three years ago, I wasn’t ready to hike the Maroon Bells Wilderness at DC UL speed, so I secretly went there solo that September and had a mind-blowing couple of days. (Risky days, too. I should have acclimated more.) I think I’m ready to do that kind of itinerary with DC UL veterans now.
(Just not a Utah canyoneering trip. I suck at knots, and I’d worry the whole time about scuffing the sandstone….)
Photo credits: Shane.