Outdoors at Southern: Backpacking

young man with large backpack on trail

What are you doing this summer?

I’m from California, really close to Yosemite. This summer I am going back and doing the John Muir Trail, which is a 220-mile backpacking trip. That’s my biggest trip, but I’m hoping to do a few smaller backpacking trips leading up to that. The John Muir Trail is going to be the biggest one I’ve ever done.

Why the John Muir Trail?

The John Muir Trail is a pretty big deal as far as backpackers are concerned. It’s one of the really big ones. It’s not like the crazy Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail, but it’s pretty long, so it takes extra preparation. It’s also very beautiful. I’ve done portions of it, and it’s a really beautiful place. It’s in Yosemite and it goes through part of the Sierras.

Growing up in Yosemite I had heard about it but I never knew what it was until I got into backpacking. Then I was like, wow, I really want to go do that. It seems like a milestone. Not to mention that my brother is coming with me. It’s his last summer before he goes to dental school, so it’s our last chance to go do something and bond over it together.

What is your favorite moment of a backpacking trip?

I love the feeling when you get to the top of the climb or to the viewpoint, the goal you’ve been seeking. I think it’s really cool that a lot of these places you can’t really reach any other way. So I feel really cool, like I just made it to this spot where only people who are willing to live out of a pack and walk miles on end are able to see. And I think that’s a really cool thing.

That being said, it’s also the whole experience. Every step you take, you look around you and see something different. You’re always in a different area or a different landscape, and seeing how things change as you keep walking.

How long have you been backpacking?

Since the beginning of freshman year, last year.

How did you get interested in backpacking?

A group of friends wanted to go, and I’ve always loved the outdoors. I like hiking. So when a group said, let’s go backpacking, I didn’t have any of the stuff. I just had a really small backpack. I threw what I could in there, went, and it was a blast! I wanted to keep it going.

Do you do any backpacking around Southern? Where are your favorite places?

I have done a bit. I don’t remember too many names. I know one I’ve done is the Fiery Gizzard Trail, just north of here. There are good trails in Georgia, Alabama, and in Tennessee, too. A lot of the stuff I’ve done here is just with other friends. So they’ll say, let’s go here, and I say, cool. I’m going backpacking, so I don’t care where it is.

What is your favorite brand of outdoor products?

Right now I’m actually wearing a lot of Marmot, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s my favorite. My backpack is a Gregory. I like it. Honestly, I don’t have a specific brand that I like, I’m just particular about which features I want. I find things with that feature, then compare brand to brand online.


For more ideas on where to backpack around Southern, check out this list.

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Mason Clark and Suny Cardenas-Gomez Story by Mason Clark and Suny Cardenas-Gomez Published: Last Edited:

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