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Backpacker Magazine – January 2014

Readers' Choice 2014: Dream Trips: 10 Ways Your First Backpacking Trip Will Change Your Life Forever

It took 40 years, but our winner finally got her wish.

by: Kim Phillips

Day 3 of Kelli Bullard's Dream Trip (Kim Philips)
Day 3 of Kelli Bullard's Dream Trip (Kim Philips)
Bullard (right) and Kellie Luetkahans (by Kim Phillips)
Bullard (right) and Kellie Luetkahans (by Kim Phillips)

Theme category: “My First ____”
Winner: Kelli Bullard, 54, communications director at Trinity Fellowship Church in Amarillo, TX
Guest: Her friend and hiking partner Kellie Luetkahans, 52, of Canyon, TX
Where to: Thousand Island Lake via the Pacific Crest Trail, Inyo National Forest, California, July 18 to 22, 2013
Winning pitch: Bullard had camped as a child but not since; we liked the idea of helping her rekindle the flame. “Turning 50 was a wake-up call for me. Backpacking was something I always wanted to try, and I realized that I had to make it a priority or else it was never going to happen.”
1. Feel like a kid. 

In the backcountry, there’s no pressure to “act your age.” Plunge into an ice-cold lake, lay barefoot on a soft carpet of grass, and stay up late playing card games. “It was incredibly freeing to escape the pressures of adulthood and unleash my inner child,” our winner Kelli Bullard says.

2. Live simply.

“Unplugging from phones, email, and the internet recharged my senses,” Bullard says. “For five whole days, my responsibilities were simple: put on a pack, walk, and immerse myself in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature.”

3. Find it’s never too late to learn something new. 

Bullard had long since put her hiking hobby on the back burner to focus on raising a family. But last summer, she discovered her interest never went totally cold. She read the memoir Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, who walked more than 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail without any backpacking experience. The story prompted Bullard to ask for our help to try backpacking for the first time—and the PCT. “I want to be an inspiration to other women of my generation,” she wrote in her entry. “The ones who are longing for something more and don’t know where to start.”

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