Why do I backpack? Because you can get to some pretty amazing places that one can only reach by foot. It’s a different kind of reward when your own body (physical and mental strength) got you to your destination. Especially because you are carrying an extra 30-40 lbs on your back!. Couple this with the fact that you get to hang out with some amazing women (Girl Tribe), it will become a memory to cherrish.
Although my first backpack experience was in 1996, these yearly Girl Tribe trips started more recently – first one was in 2015. A friend of mine mentioned to me that doing a backpack trip was on her bucket list and I replied – “let’s make that happen.” That summer, I planned the first one for a group of four. We have grown to 6, which I find is the sweet spot to plan and organize a group to backpack. There are so many considerations and restrictions that go into planning and the bigger it gets, the more complex and limited your options become.
Plan for success!
Each year, I choose and plan a location that will fit all of our ability levels. We are not hard core and you don’t need to be. You can find great remote spots that don’t require a strenuous journey. Current day, my tribe ranges in age from 49-54 so I try to find something no more than 4-5 miles out = 9-10 miles RT. Because this was going to be a first time trip for them, I had to make sure it wasn’t so hard or unpleasant that they never wanted to do it again. My goal was to make sure they fell in love with the experience.
TIPS For Your First Adventure:
- Only go for one night – there are a lot of “firsts” and it can become overwhelming. Pit toilets are no fun!
- Only go 2-3 miles out/4-6 miles RT – keep it manageable for all
- Avoid a lot of elevation – the flatter the better for your first time out
- Limit group size to 6 for the following reasons;
- limits on group size for permits
- number of tents you can have on a campsite
- remote areas might only have a few campsites
- campsites are first come, fist serve
- try to start on a Thursday instead of a Friday to beat the crowds
- you might even consider 4 for first time out and grow to the limit of 6.
We are fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) and have a wide array of options available to us. I picked a location I had done a few times before with other first timers that didn’t have a limited number of campsites being we would be heading in on a Friday night – Shi Shi Beach in the Olympic National Forest.
You basically hike through the forest to the beach. It’s 2 miles each way and it’s flat. You only have to descend down to the beach at the end and then climb back out at the start upon your return. Once you have arrived and set up your tent/camp, you will have plenty of time to head down the beach south to the Point of Arches and get another 4 miles in RT without your backpack – BONUS.
This destination will end up being a 3 day and 2 night adventure due to it’s location. From the Greater Seattle area, it’s about a 6 hour day to reach your location for the evening. It requires a ferry ride and a pit stop in Port Angeles at the Wilderness Information Center (WIC) to obtain your permit and your bear canister(s). Your first night can be spent in either the town of Sekiu or Neah Bay. I’ve stayed in both and I prefer Sekiu. They have a café so you can grab dinner in the evening and breakfast the next morning before heading out. TIP: They have excellent pizza that makes for great leftovers to pack and eat as a meal the next day on the beach.
Make time to see other places
TIP: Arrive early enough in Sekiu on that first day to check in to your cabin and head back out to hike Cape Flattery before it gets too late – it’s a beauty! That means an early start that morning OR you can do on your last day after hiking out and before heading home. It’s only 1.5 RT.
If you do Cape Flattery that first day, you will need to stop in Neah Bay (home to the Makah Tribe) before you hike to purchase your Makah Recreation Pass. Otherwise, you can stop and get it in the morning as you head out to Shi Shi Trailhead. Note: You will be dropping your friends off at the trailhead, as overnighters must park about .6 miles back at a private home. That way, everyone is not having to carry and walk the extra .6 miles. They will be thankful! It’s $10 per day, CASH, for every day you will be parked there.
Always review and obey notices
You will want toreview the official OlympicNational Park Website for alerts, notices and rules for Shi Shi Beach. These are the main topics covered:
- There are campsites under the trees if it’s raining or it might rain
- The beach is basically wide open, just be sure to be above the tide line
- Beach fires are allowed, but you can ONLY use driftwood you can find on the beach
- There are three pit toilets available for use (ALWAYS USE these)
- There are two water sources (creeks) – they are near the end of the beach
- As mentioned above, you will need two permits
- One for camping at Shi Shi Beach from WIC
- One from Makah Tribe (they own the land you pass through and have to park on)
- YOU need to keep all food, garbage and hygiene items in a bear canister, which you can rent from WIC for $3.00
- ALWAYS leave no trace
On this trip, we didn’t get to see a sunset (darn) as it was cloudy. We also didn’t get to build a fire because a ban was going on at the time. But the other three times I’ve been out there, I got to experience both and the sunsets are amazing! Finding and dragging driftwood back to your camp isn’t so fun though. See below pics of both from earlier trips.
The trip was a success – no issues and they got hooked – mission accomplished! I could go on and on, but I think this is a good start and as I continue to post I’m sure I will come up with a better rhythm and more tips.
What is life but one GRAND ADVENTURE