Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Oak Openinigs Backpacking Opens Lives

"I have a problem, I never put up a tent before," confessed Darlene, age 56, on the other end of the line. I assured her that's what the weekend adventure was for -- beginners. Another caller asked, "What do we do if it rains while we are hiking?" My one word response "walk" hung in silence until this 47 year old decided she would check the weather again and call me back.
These were some of the concerns the women brought with them when we gathered Saturday morning, October 20, at Oak Openings Preserve ( to stage our two-day backpacking trip.
Eight of us, ages 12 to 57, met at the park and after a discussion about opportunities in backpacking, hostelling travel (the weekend was co-sponsored by Hostelling International,, using Metropark trails for fitness and pleasure, safety, and the weekend's itinerary, we were fitted with gear. Two hours later, our packs fully equipped with tents, sleeping bags, pads, food, mess-kit, stove, first-aid and other supplies, we excitedly hit the trail fully self-contained. A short two-day trip meant we were only carrying 25 to 30 pounds each, but we did have longer average daily distances than what most beginners would attempt, 8 to 9 miles instead of 5 to 7 miles. This allowed us to complete the entire historic 17-mile scout trail plus an additional leg to our remote camping spot.
So how did it go? The mileage went fast the first day as we talked while we walked in order to learn about our new friends. After lunch at Evergreen Lake, the kids and one of the moms were climbing trees....a good indication that there was easily enough reserve to get to camp and set-up tents before dark. After pitching the four two-man tents in the pines, we built a cook fire. Burritos packed with black beans, rice, cheese and fresh cilantro were accented by candlelight for dinner and the campfire toasted our sticky dessert perfectly, enticing us to eat
"s'more". What was most eerie.....the coyote-like call in the nearby woods, the scary story, or the noise back by the outhouse?
There was less talking on Sunday and more focus on completing mileage. We took breaks while LaRae, a naturalist, spoke about the unique features and habitat of the globally-rare Oak Openings. Lunch put hikers flat out on the grass with bare-feet perched over backpacks. But no complaints! I'm proud of you ladies!
Everyone finished in great shape with a potpourri of memorable experiences:
Emma talked her mom, Barb, into sleeping without the fly over the tent so they could view the stars; McKinzie liked the gnome-home deep in the pines; Stephanie had the strength to carry extra gear for others; Darlene slept in a tent and sleeping bag for the first time; Mary still had enough energy to attend swim practice Sunday night; LaRae enhanced everyone's experience with her knowledge of the Oak Opening Preserve; and Cheryl? Well, I had another delightful chance to see women accomplish something they had never done before, and find themselves living simply and closely with the land. Oh, by the way, can you believe one of these ladies had never roasted marshmallows over an open-fire? Ah, the simple life!
Group photo around sign (left to right):
Darlene Dunn, Barb Cubbon-Beale, Emma Beale,
Mary Ensman, Stephanie Micham,
McKinzie Smith, LaRae Sprow, Cheryl McCormick


Mary said...


Thank you for a great weekend among the pines and oaks of Oak Openings. The hike spiked with educational commentary took us through a wide variety of ecosystems; what an amazing park in our own backyard. Enjoyable also was getting to know others on the hike and of course, being outdoors for a whole weekend. Thanks for your gentle leadership and guidance and providing a way for women and girls to get outdoors and challenge themselves.


Linda Fayerweather, Editor said...

Great story! Sounds like you had a wonderful adventure and your story made me wish I was there.