This has been a wild week. Our Wilderness Training Course (WTC) has, quite frankly, taken over our lives. Who knew one little two and a half hour weekly class could create so much stress? I've barely left the house for days it seems, as Mike and I obsess over the assigned readings, the assigned homework, gathering the necessary equipment, and prepping for our second WTC trip.
First the bad: Navigation is tough, really tough! Mike and I have spent hours, and I do mean hours, on our navigation homework. We're beginning to see the light at the end of tunnel, and working with a compass and map is starting to make some sense, but I'm still struggling to put everything together in order to grasp how this will actually work out in the backcountry. There are five tests that we have to be checked off on before graduating the class - conditioning, rock climbing, snow travel, snow camp and navigation. I've already been checked of on conditioning, and I'm confident that the next three are well within my abilities, but I'm not yet confident at all about the navigation piece.
Also bad: Backpacking is expensive, at least initially. I earmarked what I thought was a reasonable amount - $2,000 - to outfit us both, and although we'll make it, it will be, literally, with just pennies to spare. Ideally we would have had many months to gather things slowly, looking for deals on both new and used items, however, the rapid pace of our class simply doesn't afford us that luxury.
As a result, we have made so many trips to REI over the last five weeks, and spent so much time talking with their enthusiastic employees that I feel like I'm majoring in WTC, and minoring in REI!
Now the good: Initially I was freaked by the idea of spending eight long, cold hours sleeping (or not!) on the hard ground. However, after attending several WTC classes that discussed proper insulation and equipment, plus testing out some surprisingly comfy sleeping pads and and sleeping bags at REI, my concerns are pretty quickly diminishing. We've spent a considerable chunk of our backpacking funds on just these two components, but in my opinion they are the make-or-break items for ensuring this hobby becomes a significant portion of our early retirement lifestyle, so I believe it will be money well spent.
|My new 2 lb, 2 oz, 19 degree sleeping bag. Kinda cute, yes?|
And warm . . . really warm!
And finally: It's pretty awesome to be learning something so new, and that we are so excited about, at the ripe old ages of 51 and 58. I can't wait for all the wonderful adventures that will soon be coming our way as a result of making this effort.
This weekend we'll be heading to Joshua Tree National Park for our first overnight WTC trip, where we'll be using and testing out all of our new equipment. I am packing Tylenol PM just in case, but have fingers crossed that I won't need it to get through the night.
In addition to seeing how sleeping on the ground as full-grown adults feels, we'll be doing some minor level rock climbing, and spending lots of time putting our newly earned navigation skills to work. If all goes well, we'll be passed on both elements. If it doesn't, well, lets just hope they don't have to send out search and rescue!