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.
Beth has been with DC UL for a few years, testing her stamina and leading a few (wonderful) trips. Her favorite piece of gear is her UL Patagonia down jacket.
“I joke that it’s because I was born and raised in south Florida, but I truly hope to condition myself towards colder weather eventually. Until then, my green puff is stuffed at the bottom of my backpack year round!”
You’ve been with DC UL for a while. What brought you to DC UL? And what keeps you coming back?
I found DC UL before I had ever backpacked. Before I joined in 2015, I was a member of a hiking group at work and every time we would hike I’d say “I really wish we could just stay here longer” or “wouldn’t it be cool to wake up out here?” Finally, coworkers started explaining to me what backpacking was, so I thought I’d find a local group to help me get started. Luckily, I stumbled onto the DC UL Meetup website. I knew nothing about backpacking and the people in this group have taught me everything I know now.
I keep coming back because I love to be outside, and I like the people and the culture. I like that the goal is for each person to come prepared with their own map and gear, which ultimately builds independence and confidence on the trails.
So far I’ve been on 9 trips with DC UL, co-leading 2, leading 1, and only bailing on 1 because it was too cold!
What’s been your favorite trip so far?
Each one has been special to me in different ways. The trips in the summer of 2017 were memorable because they were my first as an assistant organizer. David S. and I had fun planning one almost every month that summer. Our trips had black bears and lots of wild blueberries and good memories. I also went cross-country skiing for the first time with DCUL and discovered a reason to love winter. But, I feel like my favorite trip has to be the first backpacking trip I ever went on — to Mt. Roger’s/Grayson Highlands in May 2015.
It just so happened to be a gorgeous weekend. The weather was perfect, the group was perfect, and every moment I was ear-to-ear smiles. I loved that we made it to camp on Saturday with time to hang out on a giant boulder and watch a beautiful sunset. The wild ponies and landscape of that area is simply magical. I’m still in awe each time I go back, but nothing beats that first trip!
What do you like best about DC UL?
DC UL is the best to me because of its culture and people. There is nothing I love more than waking up with the sun and hiking all day–but not just hiking all day, pushing myself to go farther and faster than before. After trying to find people outside of the group to go on trips with, I’ve realized that this is not everyone’s idea of fun! I like that we’re all a little extreme but we are safe about it.
What advice do you have for newcomers to DC UL?
Ask every question you can possibly ask and then try it yourself! From what to pack to how to go to the bathroom, this group has given me everything I know about backpacking. From the start, Mel was kind enough to give me some of her gear & walked me through what I needed on the trails.
After a few trips, I wanted to learn how to hang my own bear bag, so Eric very patiently stood with me (for forever) until I was successful. I still feel so proud of hanging our food that night! Lots of DC UL members I admire gave me their feedback on my abilities and shared their own adventures, giving me confidence to explore more trails on my own.
I am grateful to everyone who has been on a trip with me so far because of the knowledge and experience they’ve shared.
Also, have a good attitude. Because it’s a choice, so why not?
Where do you hope to go in the future with DC UL?
My goal is to eventually do the Four State Challenge with everyone. I think about it every year but every year I chicken out. Maaaaybe this is the year!
Feature photo: Beth N.