Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Millions of people in the United States like to spend their
holidays enjoying nature. They carry
everything they will need with them.
Today we tell about this popular activity called backpacking.
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high in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the state of North Carolina. It is very early in the morning. We have been walking in the mountains for
almost one week. Each night we sleep in
a small cloth shelter called a tent. We
carry the tent, sleeping bags, clothes, food and water with us in our
this morning is fresh and clear. It smells
like green trees and wild flowers. Our
surroundings are dark green. We have
been deep in the forest for many kilometers.
Little light reaches here. It is
so thick with trees we cannot see the sky.
we come to a clear area. We can see the
sky and the land around us. When we
look across to other mountains it is easy to see why they were named the Blue
Ridge Mountains. The early morning
air in the distance looks like thick smoke.
It makes the color of the mountains a deep ocean blue. This color is caused by the amount of water
in the air. It is almost like fog. When the sun rises higher, some of the water
in the air will be burned away. Then
the mountains will slowly turn dark green.
beautiful here. We can see many
kilometers down and across the valley floor.
Two deer are nearby. They are
eating grass. No hunting is permitted
here. The deer are used to seeing
people walk through this area, so they have little fear of humans. They watch us with their huge dark
eyes. For several minutes we look at
the deer and the deer look at us. Then,
the large animals lose interest and slowly move away.
stopped to eat a late morning meal. A
friend has begun to cook our food over a small fire. The smell of fresh coffee soon mixes with the smell of burning
wood. The clear mountain air and our
long walk this morning have made us extremely hungry.
We eat a
meal of eggs, fruit and bread and drink some very good coffee. After eating, we wash the equipment in hot
water and put it inside the large bags we carry on our backs. We put the fire out with water. We fill the small hole we dug for the fire
with dirt. We carefully clean the area
when we are done. When we leave, there
is nothing to show that we have been there.
We try very hard to leave the area as we found it -- the way nature made
will try to walk at least thirty kilometers.
It should not be difficult. The
path here is not steep. We will spend
two more days and nights high in the Blue Ridge Mountains. By then we will have eaten all the food we
will be time to leave the mountains. It
will be difficult to re-enter the world of cars, roads, buildings, stores,
computers, television and crowds of people.
take many things from the mountains when we leave. Memories of the great beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The joy of watching the beautiful deer early
in the morning. And an increased
respect for our natural world.
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tried to describe what it is like to travel a path up high in the Blue Ridge
Mountains. The area we visited is
called the Blue Ridge Parkway. The
United States government's National Park Service protects this beautiful area
so that the public can always enjoy it. About eighteen million people visit the
Blue Ridge Parkway each year. Most
drive there in their cars. However,
about two hundred thousand people sleep in the park for at least one
National Park Service keeps records to show how many people visit all of the
national parks. Each year about
fourteen million people sleep in America's national parks for at least one
night. About one million seven hundred thousand people visit what is called the
"backcountry." The backcountry is far
away from human activity. In some
parks, vehicles are not permitted in the backcountry.
often must walk for several days to get to the backcountry of some national
parks. People who enjoy backpacking
visit backcountry. They carry
everything they will need for a day or two or perhaps a week or more.
is a popular activity in the United States.
Many different companies produce goods and equipment for people who
enjoy living for a while in nature.
Several companies sell special foods.
Some of these foods have been produced using a method that removes the
water. This method is called
freeze-drying. These meals include
different foods such as meat, vegetables and rice or perhaps a mixture of several
water is added to the dried material to replace the missing water. This produces a meal that is ready to
eat. Backpackers use this method to
carry food for two reasons. The food is
easy to carry because it weighs a lot less without the water. And food that has been freeze-dried remains
safe to eat for a long time.
companies produce special clothing for people who enjoy backpacking. Some companies make strong shoes made for
walking and hiking. Others make small
stoves for cooking food. Other
companies make small lightweight cloth tents that campers can carry anywhere. A
few companies sell equipment that makes water safe to drink. And a number of companies make the backpacks
that campers use to carry all this equipment.
these companies tries to make the best possible product that is very
lightweight. A backpack filled with
food, water and equipment needed for a week weighs about twenty kilograms. Many experienced backpackers carry far less
and travel faster. Others take more
equipment because they want more of the comforts of home.
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state and national parks permit backpacking. In some parks you must pay a small
amount of money for each day. Others
cost nothing. Some national parks
provide hundreds of kilometers of paths or trails to follow.
Rainier National Park in the northwestern state of Washington is a good example
of a park that provides many different trails.
Some take only a day to follow.
Others can take a week or more.
oldest and perhaps the most famous backpacking trail in the United States is
called the Appalachian Trail. It begins
in the northeastern state of Maine and ends in the southern state of Georgia.
Those who follow the trail from beginning to
end will walk or hike about three thousand five hundred kilometers. Some of the Appalachian Trail is easy. Some parts of it are extremely difficult.
Myron Avery helped create the famous trail.
He also was the first man to walk the whole trail. He did it in nineteen thirty-six.
then, more than eight thousand people have hiked all of the Appalachian
Trail. Some did it all at one
time. Others did parts of the trail
each year for several years until they finished it. About three million people walk part of the trail each year.
have come from all over the world to hike the Appalachian Trail. Perhaps one of the most unusual was a woman
named Emma Gatewood from the state of Ohio.
She walked all of the trail -- three times. She was almost seventy years old the last time she completed the
Appalachian Trail is easy to follow.
Hundreds of people in many different states help keep it clear and in
good repair. Backpackers can find shelters along the trail to sleep in at
night. These too are kept and repaired
by people who love the Appalachian Trail.
told you about only three of the many areas where people can backpack in the
United States. Another famous one is
the Pacific Crest Trail. You can walk
this trail from the American border with Canada to the American border with
Mexico. It goes through the western
states of Washington, Oregon and California.
of national and state parks offer the backpacker a chance to see, hear and feel
the natural world. It is an experience
that provides a lifetime of memories.
This program was written by Paul
Thompson. It was produced by Mario
Ritter. I'm Faith Lapidus.
Steve Ember. Join us again next week
for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.