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Backpacker Magazine – March 2009

Stateside Adventures: Closer Than You Think

A veteran traveler discovers a world of adventure in his backyard.

by: Mark Jenkins

Illustration by Dushan Milic
Illustration by Dushan Milic

The Anti-Expedition Guide
  • Bring a map, not a guidebook.
  • Don't hire a guide; go with a friend.
  • Plan your trip no sooner than three days before departure.
  • Pack light. Bring only: cupboard food, gear you pack in 10 minutes, gas money.
  • Drive at dawn, hike until dusk.
  • Field time must be longer than windshield time.
  • Do something that hasn't been done.
  • Expect to suffer.
  • Bring whiskey.

Between chattering teeth, Duncan and I agreed that at first light we would start to descend. But that didn't happen. At sunrise, we were too rigid to move. Like birds frozen to a wire, we had to wait for the sun to warm us up before we could actually start rappelling.

By the time we reached camp, we'd been moving–if you count trembling violently–for 33 hours. The wind had flattened our tent. We crawled inside a thicket of krummholz, downed some single malt, buried ourselves in our bags, and slept like stones.

The next morning, we walked all the way out and drove all the way home. I was as whipped as if I'd just returned from Nanga Parbat. Our combined ages exceeded 100 years, so we christened the route No Climb For Old Men. Total travel cost: $50 in gas. Total expedition time: four days.

They say the greatest asset of a good mountaineer is a bad memory. And it didn't take long to forget about that bivy. Not after I spied a few more unclimbed walls, patiently waiting with the promise of punishment and triumph. Don't let the glitzy glamour of the exotic blind you to what lies in your own backyard. Study the topos, get off the trail, use your imagination. Adventure is where you find it. And don't look for me in Nepal this summer–I'll be in some forgotten corner of Wyoming.

Mark Jenkins's latest book, A Man's Life: Dispatches From Dangerous Places, won the Best Adventure Travel Book award at the 2008 Banff Book Festival.

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Reader Rating: -


Jun 06, 2012

I'm confused, I enjoyed the article (what I understood of it) but itsn't this a backpacking magazine?

Alex H.
Apr 20, 2009

This is supposed to be a story about accessible adventure, and yet it goes on to describe three utterly impossible trips for all but the most skilled and experienced rock climbers. I might get it if this were a climbing magazine, but it's not. I am getting sick of reading about these trips that require super human strength, bottomless pockets, or both. Sadly, despite advertising to the contrary, this article misses the mark.

Apr 17, 2009

I always enjoy Mark Jenkin's stories--he doesn't mind telling you both the good and the bad . . . You wish you were good (and interesting) enough to accompany him!

Apr 16, 2009

Great to read Jenkins in Backpacker again. Pampered? I don't think so . . .

the real world
Apr 16, 2009

nice buzz words you pampered, pompous jackass. We're so proud of you for not leaving the country to get an adrenaline rush...did wyoming still feel like wyoming? ass


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