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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.”

4. Learn how to pee outside. Don’t laugh, guys—until a woman perfects her technique, this can be an intimidating task. But once she masters the skill, it’s incredibly liberating, both in the woods and beyond.

5. Make new friends. 

“Our first evening in camp, we were greeted by a group of curious chipmunks and a marmot that devoured wildflowers by the score,” Bullard recalls. “The next morning, we discovered the fresh paw prints of coyotes that passed through our campsite to reach the lake. And on our last night, we watched two playful deer chase each other around the edge of our campsite for at least an hour.”  

6. Expand your Horizons.

Turns out there’s a vast, solitude-filled universe beyond the roads that Bullard didn’t know about. The only way to experience a spectacular, tucked-away place like Thousand Island Lake is to hike the 8.5 miles to get there.

Discover the world’s most refreshing drink. 

Refilling her bottle from the trip’s first ice-cold stream and purifying it on the spot with a SteriPEN, Bullard was almost giddy. “I thought to myself: So this is how water is supposed to taste! It was the freshest, most delicious, and satisfying beverage I’ve ever had.”

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