May Mountaineering Madness!
Photos available here

Four or five years ago, Brooke, Fuzzy and I went camping in New York... but we realized that we could either have an ok time in a camp site, or we could pool our money and rent a hotel room and really relax. The hotel room was air-conditioned. Last year Katya and I went camping for my birthday--one of my favorite vacations ever. We swam in Lake Superior, we cooked fake sausage and corn in the fire, &c, &c... when it came time to set up the tent, however, the flies were so bad that we could barely walk. That hotel was pretty nice, too.

Given my record of "camping", then, I was somewhat skeptical about Ben Newton's suggestion of a "May Mountaineering Madness" backpacking trip through the Kettle Moraine State Park. 14 miles over two days, three nights of camping, no water at two of the campsites... and I've been extremely busy over the last three months... starting to feel more and more burnt out.

Amazingly, however, it was an incredible success! I think this is mostly due to the people who went along. First of all, Newton organized everything, sent out emails reminding everyone, chose sub-coordinators (Transportation, Food, Supplies and Fun), talked to the rangers on the phone, made reservations four months in advance, and generally kept everything on track. In general, the policy was "Fun and no excuses". I didn't have a backpack, but one was provided. I didn't have time to shop for trail food, but Matt and Araidia went shopping for everyone, made fabulous trail mix, and cooked every night. I was too lazy to wash my own dishes, but Peter Malcolm did that, too. I'm not sure how I got off so easily, but all I had to do was hike, really.

It was also a really good combination of hard-core roughing it and modern convenience. We had a pump at the first campsite, but not at the other two, so we had to carry any water that we needed. Ben parked his car at campsite two, however, so we had five gallons of water waiting for us. We hike fourteen miles over two days, but we were never more than a mile from the road. There were no major injuries, but it would have been very easy to evacuate anyone if it had been necessary.

Fourteen miles was just enough for me to really feel it, but not enough for anyone to be too uncomfortable. Everyone finished each day more or less at the same pace, with the exception of Dan. Dan works out every day, he's about to do the NOLS Alaska trip, and he has a first-degree black belt in Aikido. He finished the first day's hike about half an hour before anyone else, dropped off his pack, and went exploring. The rest of us dropped onto our packs and panted.

We sang songs, we ate s' mores, we bonded. It was really great trip!