It's that time of year when thoughts turn to upcoming adventures. After a season of parties, potlucks and ugly sweater contests, winter's long nights are now conducive to dreaming, scheming and planning a new year of adventures. It’s a time of anticipation, hopes and dreams and as I write this, I have five guidebooks sitting on my coffee table. I’ve been leafing through each of them to put together my wish list. So what’s on my plate for 2016?
W Trek, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
This is a dream come true for me and has been keeping me up at night with excitement. Next month my girlfriend and I will be heading to one of the most iconic regions of South America for several days of backpacking. 34 miles past Glacier Grey, Cuernos del Paine and the Torres del Paine. We’ve been spending our evenings brushing up on Spanish with the language app Duolingo and finalizing travel and lodging plans. A trip report and pictures will be coming soon.
John Muir Trail, California
A few years ago, two friends and I set out on a long road trip through northern California and the Pacific Northwest. For several days we hiked and camped in Yosemite National Park and all of us fell in love with the area around Toulumne Meadows and the section of the John Muir Trail that runs through it. Since that trip I have been itching to get back there. As soon as we get back from Chile we will be sending in our paperwork to secure permits for a full John Muir Trail trip.
Hoagie, the intrepid trail dog, fully supports our hiking plans. Image: Kat Andrew
Backpacking one weekend in each month
This year I have set a goal for myself to go backpacking at least once each calendar month with my intrepid trail dog, Hoagie. In addition to the Chile trip in February and the John Muir Trail in August/September this will include returning to the Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia where I was snowed out of a backpacking trip a few years ago in a Halloween storm. This is the only trip I have ever had to cut short due to weather, so redemption is due. In April I will be leading a backpacking trip past beaver dams and old growth trees in the Laurel Fork area of the beautiful George Washington National Forest. I’m also planning a return trip to Shenandoah National Park to spend another great weekend with my parents.
Cold water + bare skin = happy hiker. Image: Kat Andrew
Starting the Dirty Thursday Trail Crew
Starting next week I will be leading a new trail crew called the Dirty Thursday crew. We will be doing trail maintenance and new trail construction throughout the Roanoke area every other Thursday afternoon, followed by camaraderie at a local brewery or pub. No experience is necessary, so if you are in the area and want to get dirty, come on out.
I love reading, planning and dreaming about trips, big and small. It’s part of the fun of the whole experience. But I also want to hear about your trips. What do you have on your plate for 2016? Use the comment section below to tell me about your plans.
Matt Allenbaugh is a backpacker, cyclist, climber, fly fisherman, race director, outdoor educator and freelance writer living in the Blue Ridge. He’s working off his chocolate covered cookie dough physique on the trails. Find pics from his travels on Instagram @mattallenbaugh