It has been a long time since I blogged, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  I’m typing this quickly while washing some clothes and getting ready for bed, so the descriptions of the events and sites below will be short and poorly described considering the amazing weekend I just had.  Sorry for that, but deal with it.

I went backpacking over Labor Day weekend with Jessie, my friend Eric and his wife Dana.  It was an awesome time, even though the blisters on the bottom of my feet still hurt a little and my calves are sore.  Apparently I love pain.

Eric and Dana took a lot of pictures with his awesome DSLR, and Jessie and I took a few with some disposables we brought along, as I was afraid to bring my digital camera (I should’ve brought it).  Hopefully I’ll be able to post many of these pictures soon to my MySpace, Facebook, Picasa Web Albums, Flickr, etc.  Wow, I have a lot of ways to share pictures only a handful of people will actually look at.

I bought a ton of gear to bring along on this trip since this is the first backpacking trip I’ve ever been on.  I’ve been on quite a few float trips in my time, but never anything like this.  I needed much lighter equipment, so I got a new tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack, dry bags, etc.  Tallin the Super Consumer, here to save the economy!  But I can say without a doubt I won’t be one of those one-time backpackers who buys all of the equipment only to turn around and sell it on eBay or craigslist as “like new — only used once!”  I can’t wait until I get to use it all again.  Hopefully I’ll get my chance sometime in the fall so I won’t have to wait until the spring or summer.

We hiked about eight miles without backpacks around the Cades Cove area of the Smokies on Saturday morning, where we saw eight bears and a number of deer and other wildlife, as well as some buildings such as churches and homes that had local historical significance.  In the afternoon started our actual backpacking journey at the Twentymile Ranger Station with our sites set to make it to Gregory’s Bald, near the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.  We stopped multiple times to see and take pictures of some cascades and other spots on the trail, finally setting up camp after about four and a half miles.

Sunday was a grueling uphill hike to the top of Gregory’s Bald.  It was roughly another four and a half miles, but it was much steeper than anything we had done on Saturday.  I think it took us over five hours to go that far, which I chalk up to the fact that we were all carrying 20+ pounds on our backs.  My backpack weighed in closer to 35 pounds, partially because I was carrying a tent and a lot of food, not to mention 100 ounces of water when my Camelbak bladder was full.  I actually drink all 100 ounces before making it to the top that day.  A natural spring and Eric’s Katadyn Hiker water filter were lifesavers after that day’s hike had ended.

Monday we woke up early and made it all the way down another trail that took us back the Twentymile Ranger Station in a little over two hours.  Considering that it was around 7 miles, we were happy with the time we did it in.  Unfortunately, I ended up with two huge blisters on my feet during the downhill because of the way the bottoms of my feet near the heel rubbed against my socks and the bottom of the shoe.  I duct taped them before they really became a nuisance, so things could be a lot worse, although I did limp a bit for several miles.  I was almost giddy when the terrain leveled out the last few miles and I could almost walk without pain again.

All in all, this was one of the best vacations I’ve ever been on, and am looking forward to planning another trip, possibly to Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, etc.  I really don’t care where, I just want to be outside and reasonably far away from society.

Considering the chunk of money I spent recently, I should probably put this next trip off for awhile, although I don’t want to.  I’ll think about it more a month or so from now and play it by ear.