Why in the world would anyone backpack and camp alone in the middle of winter? Well? I asked all my friends and they said no. So, I went anyway.
I took some time off from work for a winter backpacking trip. But to be honest, just a day before, I still had no idea where I was going. I took a tip from a fellow backpacker in a facebook group who suggested the North Fork Mountain Trail in West Virginia. After a little research it was decided, this was the place to go.
One major problem with the trail is the lack of water sources. The trail is 24 miles long with only one small (and unreliable) spring at 12.5 miles. Some hikers even mentioned they couldn't find it. Luckily, I knew I could melt some snow so I'd be fine. Just to be safe I packed in 2 days worth of water which came to 5 Liters. Water is heavy. With all that water, camera gear, heavy winter stove, and a 4 season tent, I was fully loaded at 54 pounds. I'm usually around 25-28 pounds when I hit the ground for a 3 day trip. So this was going to be more than I was use to.
With the heavier weight I had to go with a bigger pack that could handle it. Picked up a used Osprey Xenith 75 which proved to be very comfortable. Handled the extra load with no problem. Now my knees were another story...
On day one the trail still had some patchy snow.
Within the first mile I already hit a few overlooks that were simply impressive.
The camera I brought with me was a Pentax K1 ii. The camera itself is pretty heavy so I just brought 1 lens, a Pentax 28-105. Not the best lens but small, light, and just sharp enough to get the job done.
Tripod for this trip was a no brainer. The Manfrotto Beefree. I have tried and tested many compact lightweight tripods for full size DSLR setups and I keep coming back to this guy. I've also tried DIY solutions and custom tripods to save weight using trekking poles too. For backpacking long distances, there is nothing better out there than the Beefree.
So why even take a tripod? For those early morning, late evening, night time shots and of course a couple selfies. It depends on your photography goals. You won't get a clean image hand holding the camera. Some guys just take small table top type tripods. That's just not versatile enough for me.
Nine miles In I set up a base camp. From here I planned to hike a 6 mile radius on day 2 then return to this same spot. I choose this location because it was very close to an amazing overlook to watch the sunset.
Back to camp....
After a couple hours I went back out to the overlook to see some stars
Day 2. The morning of day 2 produced some of my favorite images from the trip. But first, breakfast.
Time for more photos...
Time to head back to camp and melt some snow for water for the next day
Only snow left I could find ended up being around some pine trees. Water ended up tasting like burnt pine needles. Pretty gross. But it worked.
As the day went on the clouds rolled in. Wasn't going to be much of a sunset on night number 2. So I grabbed a mountain selfie!
Wind really picked up and the temps dropped. Time for another fire then off to bed.
This is what I woke up to on day 3. More snow!
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping for snow. It ended up being so foggy that any photos from the overlooks just were not going to happen. But that's ok. Time to pack up and start the 9 mile trek back to the car.
After 9 miles of fog and not much to photograph I was happy to be back at the car. Another successful backpacking trip complete!