Thursday, May 3, 2012

Backpacking provides more fun, convenience than going abroad

By Jen Jepsen, Guest Travel Columnist

It might come as a surprise to know the world’s longest hiking trail is right in our backyard — the Pacific Northwest.

Beginning in Mexico and ending in Canada, the Pacific Crest Trail spans 2,650 miles and passes through several national forests and wilderness areas along the way. Die-hard hikers attempt to bite it off in one go, taking months to traverse the entire trail, while others break it up into smaller segments and return to walk it over time.

While doing the whole trail requires intensive planning, a walk from Snoqualmie to Stevens Pass can offer a scenic, weeklong getaway that offers a taste of the trail. 

Set in the Cascade Mountain Range, the trail passes through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, which is home to several beautiful lakes and mountain views along the way.

Some particular highlights are the Kendall Katwalk, a walkway along the edge of a cliff with stunning views of the valley; Spectacle Lake, reflecting a view of Lemah Mountain; and Waptus Lake, the biggest of the region’s 700 lakes and a gorgeous camping spot.

A quick Google Image search is motivation enough to find your way onto the trail.

At roughly 75 miles, the Snoqualmie to Stevens segment takes about a week for the average hiker with a backpack. The terrain ranges from lakeside valleys to mountain trails, so be honest with yourself about how much time you’ll need in light of your own experience with overnight backpacking.

Packing for multiple day trips is little more than hiking with overnight gear, but if backpacking is new to you, check in at REI for some tips and gear that will keep you safe along the way.

For budget travelers with a taste for the outdoors, hiking is the cheapest and easiest way to experience a new place.

Your feet provide their own mode of transportation while trails are usually free and packed food is cheaper than restaurants. Backpacking brings saving money to a whole new level since carrying your lodging with you saves hotel costs.

Summer is just around the corner, which offers the perfect chance for you to try out a section of the trail as you de-stress from the school year. Who knows, you might end up liking it so much you’ll decide to add your name to the list of die-hards that have proven their mettle over the length of the entire trail.

Jen Jepsen is a senior English major at Pacific Lutheran University officially diagnosed with a bad case of wanderlust. Aside from travel and photography, her pastimes include dancing, hiking, Bananagrams and being vegetarian.