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.
Jen (Shuttle) has been with DC UL since 2012. She’s been on over 190 trips, and now leads the group at a very inspiring level along with a co-organizer team. She got the trail name from epically messing up the coordination of a shuttle, and it stuck. Among her favorite pieces of gear? “It’s a tie between my uni-Kula and my Sheltowee Hammock.”
What brought you to DC UL? And what keeps you coming back?
I was interested in doing more backpacking, and DC UL’s style attracted me. I liked the emphasis on small groups and long days. I wasn’t particularly outdoorsy or athletic growing up — well, to be honest, not at all, as I was more often found with in my nose in a book rather than doing sports. It wasn’t until I turned 30 that I thought I’d try this hiking thing. One trip led to another, and I found myself enjoying the challenge and simply just getting away. I was eager to do more challenging trips so I signed up for a GPS class. There, I met a fellow named Michael Martin who encouraged me to finally get out on a DC UL trip. The rest, as they say, is history.
What’s been your favorite trip so far?
It is so hard to pick. I love DC UL’s Massanutten tradition. It is one of my favorite trips as it combines a challenging hike with excellent company. Kungsleden still falls near the top as it was my first experience with a multi-day trek. I loved waking up and knowing that my only job for the day was to walk amid amazing scenery. For an easy outing, Trout Run Valley is a satisfying loop for the weekend. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Adirondacks. I get my ass handed to me every time I do a trip up there — and yet I keep going back.
What do you like best about DC UL?
The people. As organizer — and previously as co-organizer — I’m lucky in that I get to interact with so many of our members. We have a stellar group of assistant organizers who volunteer to lead trips and to help newcomers to DC UL get started with our group. I’m in awe of what many in this group have accomplished and how generous they are with their time to make DC UL what it is today.
What advice do you have for newcomers to DC UL?
Take the plunge and sign up for a trip. We’re not like other backpacking groups — and that’s a good thing. You’ll learn, you’ll have fun, and you’ll challenge yourself.
What do you hope for the future with DC UL?
We have a number of new people bringing new energy and new traditions to the group. I’m excited to see what the next 10 years bring.
Feature photo credit: Ryan.