Blake and Dave at Gossamer Gear were fortunate enough to recently attend one of Andrew Skurka’s hiking courses. Along as co-guide was Alan Dixon, co-founder of Backpacking Light and author of a blog entitled Adventure Alan. The trip was in the Pisgah National Forest and it was an amazing learning experience.
Our trip began with a meet up in a parking picnic area close to the park’s entrance. Here, our group of 8, shook hands, exchanged names, and emptied our packs in separate spots. We met our leaders. Before we shoved off, Skurka and Dixon examined the contents of our packs in order to rid us of any unneeded, extra weight. For weeks the members of our group have been going back and forth on Skurka’s various Google Docs groups, posting questions about gear, as well as our final pack contents and each item’s weight. We were all carrying more than we needed and no one was in need of something we didn’t have. Skurka and Dixon explained the contents of their packs and showed everyone how to best fit all our gear back into our backpacks. After being doled out our meals for the next few days we thoughtfully reorganized our packs and ventured to the trail.
The goal of the clinic was to gain intermediate level camping and hiking skills and examining various gear which included sleep systems, shelters, and cook kits. The trip is more learning oriented rather than accumulating miles. Every few hours there would be a stop with some teaching by our leaders about water collection, foot care, the best method for sewing tears, or making sure we were indeed hiking the path we believed we had been. Orienting our maps and examining contour lines in anticipation of the trail ahead was a regular focal point that every person in our group got to work on. We even did some off trail hiking to further hone our ability to use our map and compass in relation to our environment. We also examined various water sources and how trust worthy their cleanliness was and how to start fires with alcohol, Esbit, and even a candy bar wrapper (try that one out, it’ll impress you). It was a great experience and a great deal of information was gone over before we got back. We had a great group of people and Skurka and Dixon dynamically work wonders together as instructors. We learned more in three days than three years of doing it on our own, face to face, hands on with the Adventurer of the Year is pretty tough to beat.
After the course, Blake and Dave headed back out to the Shining Rock Wilderness Area to practice their new skills. We both whole-heartedly recommend this area of the world for a great backpacking adventure.