My childhood heroes were outdoorsmen. Lewis and Clark, John James Audubon, Daniel Boone, the various men and women in Jack London’s stories…. Later, as a formerly sedentary man rediscovering the outdoors, I thrilled to the exploits and writing of John Muir, Nessmuck, and more Appalachian Trail hikers than I can remember.

But while I could read about them, I never thought I could emulate them. My back was in such bad shape I never thought I could carry a backpack. Yes, I can ride a bike and have the bike carry my gear, but that’s not quite the same, and while “bikepacking” is wonderful, its restrictive compared to backpacking.

The shape I was in prevented me from carrying weight on my back, and that shape was the letter “S.” The photo to the right is from my first metric century bike ride, in Delaware in June 2007. I’m a little older, a little heavier, and a lot more straightened out since my knee replacement. I’m also a little wiser, and less likely to be discouraged. So, since I have friends who keep telling me I can backpack and they want me to go with them, I thought I’d take a test hike with a loaded pack. So yesterday I headed out.

The location was Warwick County Park. The distance, two miles. The pack is an Outdoor Products “Skyline” model, a sort of entry level interior framed pack. I partly filled it with clothes, a couple of water bottles, camera, batteries, and a couple of Pop-tarts. I pulled on the pack, grabbed my hiking poles, and headed out.

The experience wasn’t quite what I expected. People with scoliosis have horrible posture unless they work at it. I slouch too much. I’m too “head forward”, and on a climb I really look like I’m leaning into the hill. The weight of the pack seemed to straighten me out a bit. I felt I slouched less. Because I was alone I don’t have a decent photo of the pack on me, so I can’t show how it fit or ask if I was wearing it correctly. That will have to wait until I’m hiking with somebody.

At the end of the two miles I felt tired and I had some slight feeling of strain in my shoulders, upper back, and

middle back. But not a great deal of strain. And I feel tired but mobile this morning. I think I might be able to backpack after all. While I may never hike the Appalachian Trail in its entirety, I feel confident I can get to the point short distance overnight and three day trips are possible. I will keep you informed how I’m progressing on this project to turn me into a backpacker. See you on the trail!