ditch plan

Top 5 Ways Backpacking Taught Me To Ditch the Plan

I’ve been a hiker for many years. But as of summer last year, I’d never backpacked on my own, carrying everything on my own back. Hiking is just one aspect of backpacking. Just because you’ve hiked doesn’t mean you know everything you need to know to go backpacking.

So, when I decided to backpack the Colorado Trail, the mack daddy of long distance hikes in Colorado and the number one item on my bucket list, I planned like crazy. My goal was to plan so thoroughly, I would be prepared for anything that happened on the trail.

Here’s the funny thing, though. Knowing a lot about something doesn’t mean you can predict how everything will go. And sometimes planning like crazy is just a way to avoid actually doing something you really want to do. Planning my very first true backpacking trip taught me this lesson, a lesson I’m still struggling to learn. Here are the top five ways that backpacking taught me to ditch my urge to overplan and just hit the trail.

Spatter cones Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon – Exploring the Dark Places

I am an equal opportunity hiker. It’s easy to love a trail that winds through a tranquil forest, along a shimmering creek, with picturesque views of mountains every step of the way. And yet, beauty comes in many forms. Trails through strange, stark, dark places call me, too. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in south central Idaho is just such a place. The preserve includes three lava fields that were formed by volcanic eruptions from the Great Rift of Idaho 15,000 years ago. The aftermath has left a weirdly beautiful landscape with tons of volcanic features to explore.

Stack Rock Trail Boise Idaho

Stack Rock Trail – Hiking in Boise, Idaho

How did I get so lucky? I love hiking so much. And I’ve landed in Boise, Idaho, which, like Denver, Colorado, is literally just minutes from tons of hiking trails. The trails right around Boise are high desert, exposed, wide open spaces, rolling hills of grassland. Sometimes I long for the peaceful, cool, wild beauty of Colorado forests in the Rocky Mountains, with a surprise around every wooded corner or across every murmuring creek. Stack Rock Trail, leading to a granite tower high above the city of Boise, recently gave me just the lush, shaded forest fix with stunning views I so craved. Plus, there’s the fun of going off the beaten path to get up close to Stack Rock.

And, the 10-mile hike kicked my ass!

mountain view polecat loop trail

Polecat Loop Trail – Hiking in Boise, Idaho

Are there polecats in Idaho? What is a polecat, anyway? I had to Google the word, having only a vague sense that it was not in the same category as a mountain lion or a bobcat. An internet search revealed that a polecat is similar to a weasel, and despite its name, is more related to a dog than a cat. In any case, there may or may not be polecats in Idaho. But there is a place called Polecat Gulch Reserve with around 7 miles of trails that are great for hiking, mountain biking, and trail running. The trails are not too hard but have enough grade to get in a good workout. You can bring your dog, too! I hiked Polecat Loop Trail in spring and found rolling hills, great views of the city, and high desert springtime flowers.