Archive for the ‘backpacking’ Category

What do you want for Vacation

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

Recently I was sitting in a meeting where tourism was the main topic.  In that meeting, I learned that vacationers are looking for three main things when choosing where to go and what to do on their vacations.   It seems that they are looking for something “new and unique” to them and to have an “authentic” experience.   They want all of this while having fun and spending quality time together with family and friends.  I found this news interesting, though this may not be new after all.  This is something that my Bride and I wanted to do with our kids when they were young.  We chose locations that were new to us; places that had an element that we did not get a chance to do every day, all the while, we want to spend quality time together.   Glad to see something never really go out of fashion.

So for those of you who are looking for something new to do with your family, something that everyone can do and have fun together while creating memories?   Let me suggest a guided kayaking adventure for your family!  Mahanaim Adventures offers quality; family-oriented kayaking adventures here in the Cape Fear / Wilmington, NC area.  We have some wonderful beaches to visit, and I encourage you to do that.  But, don’t be afraid to take a short drive away from the beach to explore some of eastern North Carolina’s rivers and swamps.  You can see locations such as Town Creek, the Black River , Three Sisters Swamp (yes, this is the place where you can see 2000 year old bald cypress tress), or maybe even Holly Shelter Creek.  Or maybe you want to add a little American Revolutionary War History to your kayaking adventure and paddle on Moores Creek?  Moores Creek National Battlefield was where the first battle of the American Revolutionary War was fought.  It is a great place to visit, and only about a 40 minute drive from downtown Wilmington.

So, if you are looking for a unique adventure, contact Mahanaim Adventures and let us help you find one of our adventures that best suits your family’s adventure needs!

Don and Diane Harty are the owners of Mahanaim Adventures, the Cape Fear and Wilmington, NC areas premier outdoor adventure guide and kayaking business. Don and Joseph, son of Don and Diane, strive for each person on our adventures to have a “Positive & Memorable” experience. We offer quality half-day, full-day and overnight kayaking adventures. We also provide team building adventures and courses, as well as wilderness first aid classes to Boy Scouts and other groups.


Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Abundance. Webster’s dictionary give us the following description as “an ample quantity; an abundant amount; profusion; affluence, wealth; a relative degree of plentyfulness.” Recently I have begun thinking about what abundance really means in a person’s life. I have come to think that we, at least in the United States may have the wrong idea of what abundance means. You see, I have grown up with the idea that an abundant life was one that had wealth and things that made life easy. But over the past 8 years, my thinking has begun to shift about this definition.
You see, I consider myself a normal, common man that works very hard to provide for my wife and kids. I worked hard and often long hours to have what I thought was “an abundant” life. But chasing after all the abundance that our society says we should have, and to be a “Successful Provider” for my family, left me tired and empty. It seemed that the abundance that I wanted; was always just one step ahead of where I was at and I needed to do more. You know, work harder to move up the corporate ladder and get that next promotion or big pay raise. Please don’t get me wrong, I do believe hard work is essential to success anywhere you go. Yet my hard work never brought me what I thought it should; the abundance I always hoped for.
Recently my perspective on abundance has shifted and I found that I already had all the abundance that I had been looking for. You see, the abundance that I was seeking was found in the relationships that I was developing with my wife, with my kids, with the people God had placed around me. It was not in the affluence or wealth of having many things or providing my family with all the worldly things that they desired. The abundance I was needed the most was in the relationships that I have been developing.
Back in 2010, I was laid off from a wonderful job at UNCW (great place to work). At that time, my Bride and I started Mahanaim Adventures. Through the past 8 years, I have had the awesome opportunity to work side by side with each of my kids, leading kayaking adventure all over the Cape Fear area of Coastal North Carolina. Now my kids are grown and all on their own, but I have all of these awesome moments spent with them, not just working and having fun, but making memories together. Today, Joseph and I run the adventures together and I am blessed having him with me in this. And my two daughters, well, they want to take part when they come into town from where they live with their families.
So you see, because of a simple little change in my perspective, my whole outlook on what I have or don’t have has changed. Yes, I still work hard to build our family business and I still can work some long hours. Most of my weekends are shot, because I am working, especially during the warmer months. But I now see my life a much fuller and richer; and has replaced the chase after things of abundance with a real abundance I was craving. All of this because of a change in my perspective; or could I say “Attitude”.
Don and Diane Harty are the owners of Mahanaim Adventures; the Cape Fear and Wilmington, NC areas premier outdoor adventure guide and kayaking business. Don and Joseph (son of Don and Diane) strive that each person on our adventures to have a “Positive & Memorable” experience. We offer quality half-day, full-day and overnight kayaking adventures. We also provide team building adventures and courses as well as wilderness first aid classes to Boy Scouts and other groups.

Cape Fear River

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

We arrived at a small boat ramp outside of Navassa, North Carolina. We were headed out onto Davis Creek, which flows into the Cape Fear / Brunswick River. Don and I were preparing to guide a group of folks with the Leland Parks and Recreation Department. The area holds a lot of wildlife unique to the Wilmington coastal area. During the trip we paddled by Eagle Island. This island is located just north of waterfront Wilmington North Carolina. The island splits the Cape Fear River in two, thus creating the Brunswick River (flowing right of the island) and Cape Fear River (flowing to the left side of the island).

The Brunswick River has a unique history. At the end of World War II the Brunswick River held the U.S. Maritime Commission’s reserve fleet. The shipyard was the second largest vessel graveyard in the United States, giving it the nickname of the “ghost fleet”. The North Carolina Ship Building Company was located just across Eagle Island, making the river a perfect location to store the fleet. There were a total of 648 ships in the fleet. The last ship was removed from the river in 1970.

Just north of where the ghost fleet ships were moored, we entered Sturgeon Creek. Just after entering the creek we saw a juvenile alligator sunning on a log. After a quick glimpse he was startled and swam away. After paddling another mile into the creek we landed at our final destination at Sturgeon Creek Park in Leland, North Carolina. With great weather and great company we all had an amazing trip that day. I look forward to my next trip out to Eagle Island.

Don & Diane Harty own Mahanaim Adventures.  They specialize in helping families and groups to have “Positive & Memorable” outdoor adventures.  Whether these are wildlife view adventure, camping adventure or a simple kayaking adventure.  They provide kayaking adventures on Town Creek, Cape Fear River, Fort Fisher Basin, Masonboro Island, Black River, Holly Shelter Creek and Moores Creek.  Contact them at for more information about all of their adventures. (wilderness survival info)

This Blog was Written by Sam Law. I am Mahanaim Advenures new intern for the summer of 2016. I am a Park and Recreation Management Student at East Carolina, Go Pirates! I love the the ocean and outdoors more than anything. This coming summer i will be writing a blog similar to this each week to let everyone know about the awesome adventures and encounters we have. I hope to see ya’ll out paddling this summer.


Basic Kayak Safety

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Before going out on the water, the proper preparation is necessary to have a safe and positive experience. If you have never been, it is a good idea to seek instruction from a qualified guide service or instructor. Also, if you are new to an area it is important to do your homework and research the location you are going.

Having a plan is paramount to a safe successful adventure. Leaving an float plan for a friend or family member is a tool that should be utilized every time you go off the grid. An action plan consists of:

  • Where you are going
  • Who you are going with/ how many people
  • When on the water (time period)
  • When you get of the water

It is highly important to remember water, snacks, and sunblock, no matter how long the trip. Remember, Gilligan and the Skipper only planned for “a three hour tour”.

Keeping the right equipment and safety devices on hand is necessary when on the water. Before going out you should always check your gear to make sure it is in proper working order. Some basic safety necessities include:

  • PFD
  • Paddle Leash
  • Reflective mirror
  • Whistle/horn
  • Compass-map and/or GPS
  • Paddle Float
  • Bilge Pump
  • First Aid Kit
  • Water
  • Flash-light
  • Dry bag to carry it all in
  • Dry change of clothes (wicking & warming)

Weather also has a large influence on outdoor activities, specifically water based. It is important to check the weather extensively before and during your trip as conditions can change rapidly. This includes storms, winds, currents and tides.

When kayaking the possibility of falling out exists. No matter if you are the best kayaker in the world, at some point in time falling in the drink is inevitable. By following two simple rules, you can keep your chance at survival at 99.9%. Make sure that you are ALWAYS WEARING your PFD (personal floatation device) when on the water. It needs to be on your body not just in your possession. Secondly, stay with your vessel whether it is capsized or upright. All kayaks, canoes, and small craft come from the manufacturer with floatation build within. Staying with your boat gives you something to hold onto in addition to making you more noticeable.

Finally, paddling in a group can be one of the best ways to stay safe while having fun adventures with friends. If a few simple precautions are taken, you can make a safe and positive experience.

For a quick video lesson on kayak safety check out the following YouTube video at

Don & Diane Harty own Mahanaim Adventures.  They specialize in helping families and groups to have “Positive & Memorable” outdoor adventures.  Whether these are wildlife view adventure, camping adventure or a simple kayaking adventure.  They provide kayaking adventures on Town Creek, Cape Fear River, Fort Fisher Basin, Masonboro Island, Black River, Holly Shelter Creek and Moores Creek.  Contact them at for more information about all of their adventures. (wilderness survival info)

This Blog was Written by Sam Law. I am Mahanaim Advenures new intern for the summer of 2016. I am a Park and Recreation Management Student at East Carolina, Go Pirates! I love the the ocean and outdoors more than anything. This coming summer i will be writing a blog similar to this each week to let everyone know about the awesome adventures and encounters we have. I hope to see ya’ll out paddling this summer.


Shark Tooth Hunting

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

As Tropical Storm Bonnie moved through South Carolina, we in Wilmington were left with some gorgeous sunny weather Memorial Day weekend. The sun was high in the sky as the participants arrived. That morning’s trip was on the Cape Fear River/Sharks Tooth Island to hunt for sharks teeth. Our group that day was two amazing families, both with young children. From the moment the youngsters arrived there spirits and energy level were through the roof.

After a brief safety orientation, off we went. As we paddle to our stop, our group passes by a tower in the channel just off the boat ramp where a Osprey nest is located.  The mom, dad, and their chicks live there in this huge nest. The mom stands on high alert as she intently watches us paddle by the tower. Upon arrival to our first stop, Sharks Tooth Island, the group gathered as I showed them how to look for prehistoric shark’s teeth and fossils. Quickly we began to find sharks teeth that were keepers; best of all, they were from different prehistoric sharks. While we were walking the island looking for shark’s teeth, a smooth looking rock caught my eye. After further investigation we come to find it is a 2 inch long 1 inch wide prehistoric Great White Shark’s tooth. The biggest sharks tooth I have ever found. While out on the beach we also found fossilized gastropod casts of shells that were preserved remarkably well. In all this was a great day for fossil hunting on the beaches of Sharks Tooth Island.

After a short paddle we landed at Keg Island. Here we observed White Ibis searching the mud flats for lunch. Many fiddler and marsh crabs covered these beaches. As we walked the beach of this beautiful island, the crabs dispersed as if they were making a pathway just for us. This island may not have held many sharks teeth, yet what it lacked it teeth, made up in wildlife. As the children began to crash from a full day of beach hunting the group set course for home. What a wonderful opportunity to find the treasures we did while creating amazing memories to last forever. In all it was a great day, with a great group of people.

The next day Don and I had the honor of guiding UNCW Professor Roger Shew and an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNCW (Olli) group. That day Professor Shew taught us about the different casts and fossils of prehistoric sea creatures and sharks teeth. We learned that the sand dug up from the Cape Fear River is 35-40 million years old. Meaning all the fossils found were that old as well. That day the Olli group members found some really cool fossils and we learned some amazing information about the area.

Don & Diane Harty own Mahanaim Adventures.  They specialize in helping families and groups to have “Positive & Memorable” outdoor adventures.  Whether these are wildlife view adventure, camping adventure or a simple kayaking adventure.  They provide kayaking adventures on Town Creek, Cape Fear River, Fort Fisher Basin, Masonboro Island, Black River, Holly Shelter Creek and Moores Creek.  Contact them at for more information about all of their adventures. (wilderness survival info)


This Blog was Written by Sam Law. I am Mahanaim Advenures new intern for the summer of 2016. I am a Park and Recreation Management Student at East Carolina, Go Pirates! I love the the ocean and outdoors more than anything. This coming summer i will be writing a blog similar to this each week to let everyone know about the awesome adventures and encounters we have. I hope to see ya’ll out paddling this summer.


My First Adventure through the Three Sisters

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

We found ourselves on a river bank of the Black River, kayak paddles dipped in the water, and Don our leader finishing up a safety discussion. We were preparing for a twelve mile journey down the Black River and through the Three Sisters Swamp. As the sun began to rise, our group of nine pushed off. The weather couldn’t have been any more perfect that day. It was slightly overcast with a solid breeze and no humidity, the perfect day for recreational kayaking. Our group of 9 consisted of old friends who were no strangers to kayaking. It was an amazing opportunity to learn from other kayakers while swapping paddle stories. Seconds after hitting the water, the Eastern North Carolina wildlife began to come alive.  ProthonotaryWarbler’s were flying back and forth over the river, while the hooting of Barred Owls echoed in the distance. Further down river we spotted Nutria swimming across in front of our group. The combination of wildlife and perfect Eastern North Carolina weather created a perfect concoction to explore God’s creation and what He has given us. Along the river bank stood Cypress trees in which Pileated Woodpeckers have dug burrows. Each year these birds create a new burrow in a new tree, residing in each for only one season. During the trip one guest reminded us why it is always important to keep close attention to what you are doing. One gentleman in particular found himself upside-down in the water while not paying attention to where he was going. Thanks to his calm reserve and professional attitude we were able to perform a flawless rescue, returning the gentleman to his boat. Roughly 6 miles into our trip we entered the Three Sisters Swamp, a freshwater Cypress forest. This swamp contains trees dating over 2000 years old. Being in the swamp with such ancient beings is truly a breath taking experience. As we exited the swamp the Barred Owl whose hoot had echoed through the forest made his first appearance flying across in front of us. A perfect farewell gift for a perfect kayak trip.

Don & Diane Harty own Mahanaim Adventures.  They specialize in helping families and groups to have “Positive & Memorable” outdoor adventures.  Whether these are wildlife view adventure, camping adventure or a simple kayaking adventure.  They provide kayaking adventures on Town Creek, Cape Fear River, Fort Fisher Basin, Masonboro Island, Black River, Holly Shelter Creek and Moores Creek.  Contact them at for more information about all of their adventures.

This Blog was Written by Sam Law. I am Mahanaim Advenures new intern for the summer of 2016. I am a Park and Recreation Management Student at East Carolina, Go Pirates! I love the the ocean and outdoors more than anything. This coming summer i will be writing a blog similar to this each week to let everyone know about the awesome adventures and encounters we have. I hope to see ya’ll out paddling this summer.


Early Morning Kayaking

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

The other evening, my son, Joseph suggested that we head out the next morning for some kayaking. Those who know me know that I am always up for a good adventure, even in colder months. However, at this time, those of us who live in Wilmington are experience some fabulous weather, especially for being the middle of January. So the next morning we loaded up our kayaks and headed out for a early morning “Father & Son” adventure on the Cape Fear River. We got to River Road Park just about 7:45 AM and set everything down at the river’s edge and began soaking up the Majesty of God’s Creation! The morning was cool, but it was a bright and sunny morning that gives you a promise of a warmer day ahead.

Joseph on the Cape Fear River

Joseph on the Cape Fear River

Once we got to the park and set the kayaks down at the water’s edge, we quickly noticed the stillness of the water. This was one of these rare mornings here in the Cape Fear area that we did not have any wind blowing. When this happens, the water in the Cape Fear River is very calm and smooth as glass. The reflections on the water a breath taking as you paddle are breath taking. A couple of other benefits of having this kind of stillness is paddling is easier and one hears sounds that you would not normally hear.

This morning we decided to head north on the river to take advantage of the incoming tide. As we paddles out we quickly notices how much warmer it was on the water. With no clouds or wind this morning, we were able to feel the warmth of the sun’s reflection of the water. This made it quite nice and comfortable for us on this cool morning. Truly this is a rear morning here in Wilmington.

The stillness of the wind and water allow you to notice wildlife off in the distance quickly. We had not paddled for then 5 minutes when I noticed a pie-billed grebe diving along the marsh grasses at the edge of the water. The grebe kept diving for his breakfast meal, but kept a close eye on Joseph and I. As we paddled closer he would dive down and come up 20 or so yards further away from us. It was kind of cool watching this little bird.

Pie-Billed Grebe

Pie-Billed Grebe

Later on as we paddled our way back to the boat ramp, we spotted a pod of dolphin about a hundred years off. This was so very cool seeing these beautiful animals. They did not let us get close, but we were able to sit still and observer them from that distance. The wind and the water remained just like it was when we started so it was easy to view them. As we sat there we counted 7 in the pod that included 2 calf’s that stayed close to their mothers. Maybe this was why they stayed away from us. Anyway we sat there floating on the water for 15 minutes watching them play in the water and chase there breakfast meal.

Both Joseph and I reflected on our morning spent paddling on the Cape Fear River. It was so cool to watch the wildlife together. It was simply amazing to take advantage of this beautiful morning and to enjoy it together. It was also a great experience just to get out and paddle together as, father & son. We both agreed that we have to take advantage of the next time we have such nice conditions.

Osprey nest on tower

Osprey nest on tower

Don & Diane Harty own Mahanaim Adventures and provide “Positive and Memorable” kayaking and other outdoor adventure in the Wilmington NC area. Some of the kayaking adventure locations are: Fort Fisher Basin; Cape Fear River, Sharks Tooth Island, Masonboro Island, Eagle Island, Town Creek, Holly Shelter Creek, Moores Creek and the Black River. Long onto to read more about these adventures and to schedule your adventures. Or call 910-547-8252 for more information.

Family Camping Part 2 / How to Prepare for Outdoors Activities in Colder Months

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Why do some people consider it unthinkable to spend time in the outdoors during colder months? Yea, it can be cold, but don’t let that stop you for enjoying outdoor adventures when the thermometer drops below 45 degrees? Consider the reverse of that situation; when that thermometer rises to high 90’s during the summer? There is not much keeping people from heading out to a mountain lake and enjoy some camping and other outdoor adventure. What about the people who head to the beach with all those other tourist? During the summer months, it is almost impossible to get a last minute camping site at your favorite camp site at Carolina Beach State Park. Yet in the colder months, you get your choice of site and if you are lucky, there are no more than a half dozen sites filled in the whole campground.

I think part of the reason is a fear of the cold and not knowing how to deal with it. I hear from people who worry that their children will get sick if they camp outside during the colder months. Granted, I’m sure this can plays a role in how we get sick, but we are probably just as likely to get sick by being cooped up inside all winter also. As a parent of three kids, my wonderful wife and I wondered the same when our kids were smaller. I also must admit that it is harder to winter camping, but the rewards and memories have been priceless.

Over this past Thanksgiving Holiday’s our family went camping once again. Each morning, it was in the upper 30’s at Carolina Beach State Park, and then warmed up into the higher 50’s on Thanksgiving Day. So in my opinion the temperatures were just perfect. Yet, we were prepared and knew what to expect in the way of weather for this adventure.

So you ask; how to you prepare for cold weather camping? Well here are a few important tips that will help you when you want to attempt to try a colder weather camping expedition.

The first tip is to make sure that you layer you clothing when you go out. Layering is the best way to stay warm as the temps cool off at night. It is also important to properly layer so that as the temps change throughout your cold weather adventures, you can adjust your layers for comfort. More layers as it cools down and fewer layers as it warms up. Remember, layering allows you to control your warmth level by adjusting your clothing. Another important fact is that you can also have too many layers on. You can get warm quickly by properly layering but you can also get over heated quickly. Why over heated? Because with too many layers you will begin to sweat and once you start sweating, your clothing gets wet. With these damp or wet clothing from sweat, as the temps drop you will get colder. If you have a full day of activities planned, you may want to change clothing, getting out of the damp sweaty clothing.

Another part of layering is to stay away from cotton clothing in the winter months. Why? Because cotton dose not wick away your sweat, causing your clothing to remain damp. So when you are packing make sure you pack plenty of clothing that will keep you dry. Clothing made out of quick dry nylons, polypropylene, suplex, polar fleece, wool, thermax and other materials are great for layering.

When getting in your sleeping bags at night, also remember the layering principle. On cold weather adventures with my scouts, often I hear the next morning that a scout was cold. When asked what he wore to bed, I get this layer and that layer of clothing, or the clothing I wore yesterday. WRONG answer. The same layering principle applies when sleeping. First, find out what your sleeping bag is rated for. A 30 degree bag is designed to keep a person warm down to 30 degrees. The problem is that too often what happened is people will have two layers on and then get into their bag and get warm quickly. In the middle of the night the bag gets damp from the sweat and you get cold. In most instances a single layer of dry clothing or long underwear worn in the bag is just fine.

One last thing, dry socks are critical to saying warm. Don’t make the mistake of wearing the same socks you had on that evening in your shoes to bed. These socks are damp and your feet will get cold. We teach our scouts to take off their socks, dry their feet and place on dry socks. When you do this, you will be surprised how warm your feet stay.

The second important item to have is a good sleeping pad. A good sleeping pad between you and the ground is critical. You can have a 5 degree bag and still get cold without insulation between you and the ground. A good closed cell pad or a Therm-a-Rest type backpacking pad are great to use. If you don’t have one of those, you can use wool blankets or even several comforters from you linen closet at home will also work. The key here is getting a good layer of insulation between you and the ground. One last thing about standard air mattresses, they do not insulate you against the cold from the ground. These types of mattresses will allow the air in them to get cold, creating cold mattress for you to sleep on.

Third thing to have is a pair of warm gloves and a warm hat to wear. I typically carry two winter type hats to wear, one for the day’s activities and one to wear at night, even while sleeping. Enough said.

Lastly is a warm fire and warm drink. Having a nice warm cup of hot tea or hot cocoa by the fire at night is warming and cozy. The added benefit is that the fire is something special at camp that no camping adventure is complete without. You don’t have to have a huge bonfire to keep warm, but plan accordingly. Remember don’t let your fire burn unattended in camp, even when you head to the tents for sleep.

Check out for all your family camping gear, click here for a Campmor coupon.

So, are you ready to give a Family Camping Adventure a try in the colder months? If so contact Mahanaim Adventure and we can help you have a fantastic and safe cold weather camping adventures!

Backpacking in the Uwharrie National Forest

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Ah, what comes to your mind when you hear about someone going backpacking? I am not sure about you, but I think about experiencing God’s created world and all its natural beauty and wonder. My most recent adventure with my son, Lawrence Lee and his son Joe was no different.

Our adventure began early on December 20th as I was driving to pick up Lawrence and Joe. It was a cold frosty morning here in Wilmington and the weather forecast for the next three days was going to be “Cold”! It was not the first time I have been backpacking in cold weather like this, but this was going to be the first time for the other three on this trip. I could not help but wonder if Lawrence and his son followed the instruction I had given them about how to pack for a cold weather backpacking trip. I made sure my Joseph had packed everything he many need, without bringing too much.

The challenge with cold weather backpacking is that if you pack to little, the cold will hurt you and place you at greater risk of getting hypothermia. On the other end of the spectrum, it is carrying too much extra clothing and supplies. This mistake will keep you warmer, but carrying all the extra weigh will make the hike very unpleasant. There is nothing like being too cold or carrying about 30 pounds more than needed and I wanted to avoid both.

Anyway, after our 3 hour drive to the Uwharrie Forest, Woodrun Trial Head just to the west of Troy, NC, we were ready to begin our three day adventures. The sky was clear and we had a cold wind blowing steady from the NW, so we were anxious about getting on the trail to get warmed up. After about a mile of hiking, we pulled over at a nice stream crossing to adjust our packs and for a quick drink of water. After about 10 minutes of adjustments and arranging items in our packs, we were back on the trail hiking. We hiked another mile and half and found a nice large flat area overlooking a forest service road below. This spot was perfect for lunch.

Father and son backpacking adventures

Lawrence and Joe as they eat lunch on the Uwharree Trail

It is amazing how good a simple trail lunch can be when you are in the outdoors. Some granola, gorp, cheese, some crackers and summer sausage make a great filling meal. I really enjoy backpacking in the winter months because you can carry some food items that will not spoil. Summer sausage is one of them. In the colder month, you can enjoy items like this without fear of spoilage. Anyway, we enjoyed about 40 minutes of rest and conversation before we got our packs back on to head out. I was quickly reminded how your muscles can tighten up over a short lunch break.

Now began the real work with our first real climb of the day. The Uwharrie Mountains are more like foothills when compared to the Appalachian Mountains further to the west. But to flat land folk like the four of us, these mountains might as well been the real thing. What made this even more interesting was the trail was covered with a large amount of fallen wet leaves. These wet leaves make the trail somewhat slippery if you were not careful. It was a good thing that there was no ice on the trail, which would have been even more fun. We did see a few places that had some remaining snow from the storm the week before.

I wanted to get to camp quickly this day since this was the shortest day of the year. I was expecting it to get dark quickly after the sun went down. Usually in the winter months when the sun goes down, the temps drop quickly and I expected tonight to be no different. So I wanted to get to camp with enough time to get set up and gather firewood. A fire tonight would be greatly appreciated. So my main focus this afternoon was to keep everybody moving and not wasting too much time. I have experienced getting into camp late on cold afternoons like. It is not much fun rushing to get everything set up, gather firewood, get the fire going and starting dinner. So I wanted to give us as much time as possible to enjoy the evening.

The four of us made it to the first Dutchman Creek campground around 4:10 pm after a 7 mile hike. Lawrence had fun when he took off his pack in camp, showing us his moon walk. Granted, he is no Michael Jackson, but it was funny, well at least it was to me. We quickly set up our tents, stored our gear and started gathering firewood. It is amazing how much a good fire can warm a person. Not only did our fire provide some much needed warmth, but also some great light to finish up cooking our meals that evening.

Backpacking at its Best!

Our camps site for the night, it is amazing how warm a fire can be.

Today was not only the shorted day of the year, but we also found out that there was to be a full lunar eclipse very early the next morning. It was a first for me to be camping on a lunar eclipse and I was hoping that I would be able to see this wonder. The night was clear and cold. Soon after the sun went down, the “Frost Moon” as the December full moon is called, was up. Wow, it is simply amazing to see how bright the moon can be on a clear night like this. We were able to walk around camp that evening, hang our bear bag and anything else we needed to do without the use of our head lamps. If you have never been in the outdoors on a night like this, you will never be able to appreciate how bright it was.

The moon was so bright it was had from me to go to sleep this evening. Usually I don’t have a hard time falling asleep, but I did this night. I laid there in the tent for what seemed like an eternity listening to the silence of this night. The only thing that I could hear was the soft sounds of the creek that we camped next too. No owls to sing me to sleep tonight, not even the rustling of the leaves by the wind. Sometime later I must have fallen asleep, because I remember waking up in the middle of the night, thinking the lunar eclipse was in full swing. The brightness of the night had faded as if the moon were not out. So I was sure that the eclipse was in full swing, but it was in full swing elsewhere, because here it was behind a thick blanket of cloud cover. Darn!

The next morning came quick enough. It had warmed up a few degrees because of the clouds, but it was still cold. So it was to my best interest to get up and get moving quickly. As we got moving around fixing breakfast, I began hearing and feeling something hitting me and the ground. It was sleet! Nothing new, I have had this happen before, but this was a first for Lawrence and Joe. The sleet lasted for about 10 minutes and then passed by. We didn’t get much, but it was cool to see Joe’s expression on his face as we were preparing breakfast.

This morning we had a decision to make. The day before, my son slipped on some slick leave and fell directly on his knee. He was not hurt bad, but this morning he was very sore and stiff and could hardly walk. The section of trail that we were to take this day was more rugged than we covered the day before, making this a concern for me. So after a group meeting we decided to backtrack to Big Island Creek campsite we hiked past the day before. We could day hike out of here while Joseph remained behind in camp. So that is what we did. Remember, when out in the wilderness, you have to be flexible and adjust your plans according to the circumstances that you have at the moment. When you fail to do this, problems will arise.

Finding your way on the Uwharrie Trail

Joe and Lawrence standing at the trail crossing.

So, slowly off we went making it to our new camp 2.5 miles away in just over 90 minutes. Slower that I would have liked, but the time traveled was good since we had a bum knee in the group. We quickly set up camp and off Lawrence, Joe and I went day hiking. It is amazing how much more ground you can cover when you are not lugging a 40 pound pack on your back. After about 3 hours of day hiking, we made it back to camp to find my son, stretched out on his camp map taking a nap! Teenagers!

After gathering firewood and pumping water for the evening meal, we got a fire going once again. Joseph’s knee was still stiff, but he had no problem building a nice fire with Joe. Once again we were in business with a warm glowing fire to gather around for fellowship and some dinner. There is something about sitting around a fire in the great outdoors. Something peaceful and relaxing; something that allows your mind to wonder and settle down; to simply enjoy the moment before you. Now add to the mix a few toasted marshmallows, some graham crackers and a Hersey chocolate bar (hum, I wonder what that makes). These moments simply become magical.

The next morning, Joseph was up early and ready to go. It was funny watching him give the countdown to the time we were to be on the trail. It was almost like watching a rocket lift off at Cape Canaveral. Anyway, the morning was still cold and cloudy with a chance of partly cloudy day ahead. We had an easy 4.5 miles to hike out this morning, so we know we would be on the road home before noon. I think Joseph and Joe were more interested in getting to a Subway to get “Real” food for lunch.

All in all Lawrence and Joe’s first backpacking adventure was a huge success. I have always enjoyed spending time with my son on adventures like this and with good friends. I felt that I had accomplished my mission; it seemed as if Lawrence and his son had a wonderful time. Joe even said that he would do this again. That is good news. It was also good to hear that my son had a good time despite his knee problem and his first desire to stay at home and sleep the Christmas holidays away.

If you are up for creating a memory and an adventure for you and your son or daughter, let me know. It would be a privilege to help you create such a memory for you!

Why I Enjoy Backpacking

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

I have been asked many times over the years why I enjoy backpacking so much.  Well, I am not sure there is a single answer for that question. There is both the physical and the mental challenge that in like placing myself.  Of course, there is the adventure aspect of backpacking.  Carrying everything you need for a week on your back while traversing 50+ miles of wilderness.  Not knowing from one moment to the next what is up ahead.  Maybe it is the friendships that I have developed over the years while backpacking in the wilderness with buddies of mine.  Of course, those of you who know me well understand that I really enjoy the whole outdoor experience. 
I remember several years ago backpacking in the Pecos Wilderness Areas just outside of Las Vegas, New Mexico.  My friend Wayson, his son and I were on a four day hike to Hermits Peak.  This is a 10,880 foot peak in the New Mexico Rockies.  There are many things that I will always remember about this trip, maybe because this was my first ever backpacking trip in the Rockies.  Up until that time, I had only backpacked in the southeast.  I remember how cold it got in the mornings and this was in July.  I remember the adventure of crossing the same creek 29 times on the 9 mile uphill hike the first day.  I remember the painting that God created just for me and my friends as we sat on Hermits Peak watching the sun rise on our last day.  What a breath taking view!  
This summer I took my son Joseph on his first 50+ mile backpacking trip.  What a blessing it was to be with my son his first long backpacking trip.  We even covered the same part of the Appalachian Trail that I did on my first 50 mile trip back in the summer of 1974.  So there were many story’s that I had forgotten about my first hike on the AT that I got to share with him.  Yes, he even laughs at me on some of them.  But on this trip, I began to see my son not just as a teenage boy, but as a young man.  To watch him struggle and overcome a hard 13 mile day; and be willing to do it all over again the next morning.  To see the life lessons he has learned be applied each day with the responsibility he had on the hike.   What a wonderful way to spend a week.
The funny things that happen on different backpacking tips that seems to be shared over and over again.  To buddies of mine (Jim Sowell and Don Hamlin) and I had hiked into Addis Gap Trail Shelter (Appalachian Trail) on a VERY COLD January night many years ago.  The cold was not the funny part nor was the hike that afternoon.  I seem to remember it being a really hard hike, maybe due to the extra weight we were carrying because of the extreme cold that weekend.  The funny part was as we set around the fire that night trying to warm up.  It seems that I got one of my boots so close to the fire that the sole started to pull away from my boot.  The heat from the fire has actually heated my boot up so much that the sole completely separated from the boot and fell off.  This was quite hilarious to Jim and Don, and eventually I found the humor of it.  (Since that trip, I have always carry some duct tape.)  I can just here the retelling of this story the next time Jim, Don and I get together for a trip and all the laughter we will have.  Oh, then there is the time that I got hit on the head by a falling branch as I was gather in fire wood.  I had better stop now with those stories.  I can see Jim and Don rolling on the floor in their homes laughing now. 
So why do I like backpacking so much.  These are just a few of the reasons.  If you are looking to create some memories with your family and or fiends, why not try a weekend backpacking trip, who know it could change your life.