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Beginners Trip - High Cliff

This is a Beginner Level trip

Initially, participation will be limited to beginner level members only. Since our focus is on helping beginners prepare for the summer backpacking season they will have the first chance at open spots. However, if there are spots remaining approximately two weeks prior to the trip they will then be available to anyone. We have a large site and it might as well get used. (We will use Monday May 6th as the point where anyone can sign up.)

Although we will be staying at a group campsite in a state park this will be handled as much like a regular backpacking trip as possible. We will not be using the available parking at out site; our vehicles will remain at the lot where we meet. We will be doing a hike with packs that will conclude at our site. All the gear you need to be comfortable until the next day will be carried on your back! Then Sunday we will hike back to our cars.

You’ll also notice this is a very long write up. We’ve tried to include useful information in addition to the itinerary as well as some insight into how the meetup and our trips function.

Saturday May 18th

Meeting Time & Place
We’ll assemble in a parking lot nearest to the playground at 10am. This is also the parking lot that the Forest Management Trail departs from and returns to.

Gear Shakedowns
We’ll start out by doing gear shakedowns. Each of the organizers or advanced members will team up with a beginner and basically empty the contents of your backpack onto a tarp. Then we’ll go through item by item and offer helpful advice like where you should cut weight, what you have too much or not enough of. Our goal isn’t to tell you what type of shelter or brand of stove you should have but more to determine if what you have is appropriate for backpacking. As a beginner you aren’t expected to have the best gear or every item but the nature of backpacking does require you to be mostly self-sufficient. If the event of rain we’d try and find an empty shelter to conduct the shakedowns.

Here are some of the basics we’ll be looking for:
Bold Items are most important!
Shelter (Tent or Bivy)
Sleeping Bag
Sleeping Pad/Mat
Water Container
Water Filtration/Treatment
Rain Gear
Head Lamp
Trowel & Toilet Paper
Appropriate Clothing
Appropriate Boots or Shoes
Basic First Aid
Fire Making
Navigation (Map, Compass)

Some of the items on the list won’t be necessary for this trip but if you have them, bring them anyway! For example a form of water treatment or filtration won’t be necessary because we have access to well water. Another item that is not critical is a stove. There are plenty of food options that don’t require heating plus we will be having a fire so going without a stove for this trip is an option. Water filtration/treatment and stoves are two topics we hope to cover at some point during the weekend.

In general we’d like you to have all the important items so you can be self-sufficient. With that said, please don’t rush out and make a bunch of purchase just so you can complete the checklist. A HUGE part of backpacking is finding the gear that works best with your style or approach. What’s right for someone else will often times not be right for you. Do your homework, shop around, read gear reviews, ask other backpackers and look around in camp at what others are using and then ask questions.

We will have a scale to weigh your pack. There are several different ways people talk about pack weigh such as with or without food, water and fuel or do you include the weight of items carried on your body such as clothes. For our purpose it will be the weight of your pack as it goes on your back leaving the trailhead. I’d suggest a good target for a single night trip would be less than 35lbs. With good gear and smart packing it could easily be in the 25-30lb range. Going the opposite direction you might be carrying a few items more appropriate to camping and that weight might be around 40lbs but carrying that around for the day will hopefully motivate you to put your pack on a diet. Light weight gear can be very expensive so we’re not that concerned here if you tent or sleeping bag weighs an extra pound. Backpackers are constantly looking to improve the quality and reduce the weight of their gear; this isn’t something only beginners do. On this trip we’re looking more for gear that you don’t need along at all, are you carrying enough or too much food and water or why would you be carrying a couple pound D cell flashlight instead of a headlamp. Be conscious of how much of an item you carry, do you need a bottle of ibuprofen or can you take 5? Backpacking is the one place travel size bottles and portions can actually be too big.

There are basic items you’ll need on every trip and others that will change depending on location or season. There are also very different ideas as to what gear is essential. For example, when I go into the backcountry solo for 10 days I don’t expect to see another person for the entire trip, assume no one will be on that trail again for weeks or months and plan to cover 8-12 miles per day. In that mindset I look at what an ultralight backpacker carries and consider it to be dangerously unprepared. Likewise an ultalighter that sticks to well traveled trails and plans to cover 15-25 miles per day would consider my pack to be dangerously heavy. For trips with the meetup you should be self-sufficient but when you’re with a group of 5 or 10 people you don’t need to be as concerned with redundancy. If your water filter breaks you can borrow one. If you lose your lighter someone else can start the fire. With beginner and intermediate level trips we’re never that far from a road or trailhead so the amount of extra food and other provisions can also be kept to a minimum.

At some point during the weekend Melanie and I will pull everything out of our packs to show what we bring and how we approach packing for a trip. We will continue to talk about what we think is important to pack and some of our tricks for reducing weight.

The Hike
We’ll take the Red Bird Trail south and connect to the Horse/Bike Southern Trail System. We’ll go as far south within the park as we can on the Horse/Bike trail and follow it as it loops toward Lake Winnebago and then returns north. We’ll follow it back to the Horse Trailer Parking area and road walk to the group camp site. I anticipate this will be about 6.5 miles total.

During the hike we’ll be taking several breaks along the way to enjoy some of the overlooks, have some lunch and just to rest. We’ll also try to use these breaks to cover a few other topics like trail etiquette and some basic map reading.

Lunch on the trail usually consists of simple no cooking required snacks like granola bars, trail mix, dehydrated fruit, jerky, meat sticks and cheese. Other quick items are bagels or tortillas with some peanut butter or honey and maybe a candy bar or some chocolate. No shortage of options but the idea is to keep a consistent amount of energy entering your body throughout the hike to replace the large amount of energy you’re burning. These breaks are also a good time to catch up on hydration.

For this hike we’ll stick pretty close and hike as a group which isn’t necessarily customary. We have a wide variety of hiking speeds and most of the time the group gets stretched out into small groups and individuals. Because of this it is important that everyone knows the route that will be taken and has a map. For any trip, if you’re not clear about the route it’s your responsibility to speak up! There are times we think we’ve covered these details enough either in the write-up or before we hit the trail and maybe we haven’t. Maybe we talked about the route while you were in your tent of off filtering water. If ever you are not clear, please speak up! The organizer and for that matter other members will be glad to help you. One last word of advice is that if you wait until you’re not sure where you are before you look at a map, it’s too late. Follow your progress on the map as you go!

Camping at the Group Camp Site
Noticeably difference from the backpacking trails and the backcountry will be the pit toilets and well water. No need to reinvent the wheel, they’re available and we’ll use them. Being early in the camping season we may be able to scavenge some firewood but to be safe we’ll also provide some.

Once at camp, often the first thing people do is drop the pack and take a short break, have a snack and hydrate. Then it’s on to selecting a location to set up your tent.  (Each Participant will be responsible for carrying and setting up their own shelter.)

Here are a few things to consider when picking a spot for your tent:

Look Down
• Level and without rocks and roots is a good start. Often spots aren’t as level as they look. A good way to know if you’ll be comfortable is lay out your ground fly and lay down.
• Choose a low impact spot; avoid setting up on vegetation if possible.
• Remove sticks, small rocks and pine cones now before you set up your tent.
• Avoid low spots where water may puddle or run.
Look up!!!
• Be aware of dead trees and limbs and leaning or lodged trees! 
Look Around
• Spread out, there are places where the available spots or the size of the site can be limiting but in general it’s nice to have a little room to move without tripping over guy lines from the next tent.
• Be aware of the fire ring if there is one. Sparks from a fire have the potential to burn holes in you tent!
• Be aware of trails and common areas where people will be walking. Guy lines and tent stakes are a huge trip hazard especially after dark.

With shelter taken care of the next considerations are food and water. For both it is always a good idea to carry a little more than you anticipate using. When we get to camp one of the chores people usually like to take care of right away is making water. For us it will be as simple as going to the well.

Evening Meal & Campfire
The evening meal is a big part of backpacking. (Each participant will be responsible for their own food and the means to prepare it as well as packing out any waste or packaging from their meal.) It’s important to refuel your body, to replace energy you burned and make sure you have it in reserve for the next day. It’s also a time to relax and socialize. Meals on the trail should be light weight, simple to make, easy to clean up and provide plenty of energy. A good place for beginners to start is freeze dried meals since they’re very light, usually only involve boiling water and by eating them out of the foil bag, cleanup is super simple. As you advance assembling and making your own meals can be a great option. By making your meals you can tailor them to your taste and well as appropriate portions. It can also be a much more economical approach.

Most of our trips involve a campfire and the fire ring tends to be the social center of camp even when there is no fire. However there are times a fire isn’t appropriate because of fire danger and in places where fire is prohibited such as high elevations, unestablished camp sites and naturally sensitive areas.

Following the evening meal we’ll hang our food or at minimum demonstrate food hanging. To hang food you need a bag and at least 50-60 feet of rope. Most of us bring some type of thin nylon bag to pack and hang food in but a stuff sack form a sleeping bag works as well. The bag needs some type of closure and some type of loop to tie a rope to or hand the bag form a bear pole where they’re available. For rope I recommend 550 parachute cord. It has a high strength to weight ratio, has smaller inner strands that can be used for other purposes and is inexpensive. (I have a variety of colors available in anyone would like to purchase some; let me know and I’ll bring it along)

Alcohol on Backpacking Trips
May of us choose to enjoy an adult beverage as we relax around the campfire. I’m only speaking for myself (Randall) here but I think for the most part the other organizers and trip leaders take a similar approach to alcohol on trips. Moderation is important after all we’re here to backpack and not party. If you’re able to indulge responsibly and continue to conduct yourself in a safe and non-disruptive manner and it doesn’t negatively affect your performance the next day, there isn’t an issue. Use of alcohol itself isn’t a reason for removal from the group but over indulgence and some of the related behavior can be.

Something to keep in mind: (From The Fox Cities Backpackers Meetup Rules and Policies Document)
Removal from the group for cause:
There are only a couple of ways a person may otherwise be removed from the group
1. If a member conducts themselves in an unsafe manner putting themselves and/or other members at risk of harm. To do so willfully is cause for immediate removal. To do with, without intent, on more than one occasion, after being duly warned, is cause for immediate removal.
2. If a member conducts themselves in a way that is disruptive to the group. In these cases, the leadership team must vote unanimously to remove the member.

Remaining hydrated on some trips can be a challenge in itself and alcohol increases the risk of dehydration. Cold weather and alcohol can also be a dangerous combination. Alcohol does not warm the body! It is a depressant and reduces circulation and may mask the symptoms of frost bite. You’ll also notice that as trip difficulty increases alcohol consumption decreases.

Other Topics We Would Like to Cover
We’ll cover these in much greater detail time permitting.

Practice “Leave No Trace” principles.
We will be discussing the subject further during the trip as it ties into many different aspects of backpacking. These principles should be followed in order to leave the environment intact for others to enjoy long after us.

• Plan Ahead and Prepare
• Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
• Dispose of Waste Properly
• Leave What You Find
• Minimize Campfire Impacts
• Respect Wildlife
• Be Considerate of Other Visitors

First Aid & Injury Prevention
When heading out in the backcountry always be prepared for the worst. Injuries can occur and we will help you recognize a few symptoms as well as treatment and prevention.

• How to recognize dehydration and preventing it.
• Prevent and treat blisters.
• Hypothermia
• Heatstroke

Safety & Essential Items
We’ll have some suggestions on essential safety items that should be part of every ones gear such as a whistle. There are also some versatile items like super glue and duct tape that can be used for everything from wound and blister treatment to gear repair.

Sunday May 19th

Everyone will prepare their own breakfast. We may try to sneak in a last topic or two and answer questions. Then we’ll break camp and pack our backpacks. Finally we’ll hike back out to our vehicles.

Most of our trips involve some transit time to and from our destination. Something to consider is packing a change of clothes and shoes to be left in the vehicle. That way if all your clothes are wet, stinky, dirty or all of the above, you have something to change into for a more comfortable ride home.

Included in our trip descriptions is a disclosure of fees. In cases such as this where a site is reserved and paid for ahead of time a payment is required in order to RSVP. On trips where there is no site or permit fee and the only fee is the $5/night meetup fee, prepayment isn’t required and may be collected upon sign-up or by the organizer during the trip.

Your trip fee of $10 includes the following:
Site in Group Campsite, 1 night -- $40.00*
Reserve America Reservation Fee -- $9.70*
Meetup Fee ($5/night – 1 night) -- $5.00**
Firewood (3 units at $5/unit) -- $15.00*

* These group fees are divided among participants.
** These are individual fees paid by each person.

Here’s how the trip fee is calculated. The total of the group fees is $64.70. We make a best guess at how many participants we expect, having room for 20 people doesn’t necessarily mean we will have that many. My estimate is that we’ll have 15 people including 2 trip organizers. The organizers for the trip aren’t required to pay since they put a great deal of time into organizing the event and will likely incur some miscellaneous fees. This leaves our estimate with 13 paying participants. The $64.40 is divided between the 13 people leaving $4.98 per person rounded up to $5.00. Then the $5 per person per night meetup fee is added to that since it is an individual fee. The total is $10.00 per person. If we can’t scavenge any firewood we may need to take up a collection for a couple more bundles.

Sometimes we point out things that aren’t being included such as a permit which will need to obtain by the individual. There are also cost we don’t usually mention that aren’t covered by the trip fee. Examples of these include transportation fees such as fuel cost or meals to and from the destination.

In the trip descriptions we often include links to maps, destinations/locations and anything else related to the trip.

High Cliff State Park Map

Fox Cities Backpackers Meetup -Advice for gear selection and trip preparation

This link is an example of a file that has been saved to our meetup pages. It can be accessed directly using the “More” drop-down menu and clicking on “Files.”

REI Gear Checklist

Other Resources
If you’d like more information on backpacking gear I’d suggest doing a web search on “backpacking gear” or “backpacking checklist.” REI is also a good source for checklists and backpacking information.

If you have any questions feel free to contact Melanie or Randall through the meetup site. Even better post a question or comment in the discussion section of this page. We’d appreciate your input! Let us know what you’d like to learn about and what topics you’d most like to cover.

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  • Patrick G.

    I had a great time with some great people! Look forward to other events. Thanks to the organizers!

    1 · May 19, 2013

  • Nikki

    Was a great experience and can't wait for beginner #2! Great leaders and awesome people!

    2 · May 19, 2013

    • Melanie

      Thanks for joining us! :)

      May 19, 2013

  • Matt W.

    Thank you to Randall and Melanie for another excellent trip!

    3 · May 19, 2013

  • Beau B.

    Learned a lot and had lots of fun!! Great meeting all the new faces!

    1 · May 19, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry, Something came up and I won't be able to go tomorrow. Hope you guys have a good time!

    May 17, 2013

  • Brian L.

    I'm sorry. I was looking forward to going, but I found out at the last minutes that I have to work. Even though I consider myself a little higher than a beginner level, I was still looking to learn something on this trip. I've backpacked in Nova Scotia, Utah, and Isle Royale National Park. I've learned the hard way from some of my mistakes lol.

    May 17, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I am interested in meeting and hanging out during the day on the 18th, due to other planned events, will not be able to spend the night. Wondering if that is ok...

    May 16, 2013

  • Ryan

    I'm going to have to back out of this one. I need to get a kitchen renovation mostly done before June, so I really need this weekend. Another time - I'm not exactly a beginner in any case, but was hoping to learn a lot from the pros :)

    May 13, 2013

    • Melanie

      No worries, hope your kitchen gets done! :)

      May 13, 2013

  • Nikki

    Can someone email me a contact phone number? I am coming from 4 hours away (La Crosse,WI) and just in case something happens on my journey I would like to contact someone so they are not waiting for me? Much appreciated and looking forward to this very much!

    May 13, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Awesome idea for those novice, like me. However the date is conflicting. Perhaps a fall date could work. (I'm not too keen on summer hikes)

    May 2, 2013

    • Melanie

      Depending on the availability of our organizers, we may be able to have another beginners trip in the fall.

      May 12, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Sounds great!

      May 13, 2013

  • Beau B.

    I'm in! No carpooling for me this time as it's 5 minutes from my place :)

    1 · May 12, 2013

    • Beau B.

      I'm listening. What kinda pie???

      May 12, 2013

    • Melanie

      It's pie, does it really matter? Haha :)

      May 12, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I'd love to come, and the idea and location is perfect, however I have to work and wont be able to make it this time. A rotating workweek schedule can be annoying to work around, but I hope to make it to another beginner trip to High Cliff this year.

    May 11, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Awesome event and great details listed. I told some members of our Madison Group about this in case anyone is interested in joining you guys.

    2 · April 3, 2013

    • Melanie

      Thank you Regina!

      April 3, 2013

  • Ryan

    sounds like a wealth of knowledge - thanks for offering to share!!!

    2 · April 3, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Fun! For the true beginners, would it be possible for there to be a list of recommended gear posted?

    March 22, 2013

    • Melanie

      Hey Britney, Here's the gear list : http://files.meetup.c...­

      We will be giving more information on the subject during the trip.

      March 27, 2013

    • Randall

      I'd also suggest doing an internet search for "backpacking gear list" or "backpacking checklist"

      REI also has a checklist and information of backpacking topics here -­

      March 29, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hi All,

    I came along to the beginners winter trip a couple months ago. My 13 year old son and I are planning a trip up Pike's Peak in June. We would like to use this trip as a tune up and gear check. Are there any rules or objections to a child joining this trip with me? Do I need to create a membership for him? I am not worried about his hiking skills; most likely will run laps around me:)

    I had a great time on the winter overnight for my first "tenting in the snow" experience. Can't wait to get out again.

    Thanks. Greg

    March 29, 2013

    • Randall

      We require everyone to sign up for the trips they attend themselves and not as someone elses +1. We do this so that all participants have at some point read and agreed to meetup.coms terms of service which provides our meetup and it's organizers with a layer of liability protection. has an 18+ age requirement so by default our trips don't allow children/kids.

      I'm sure that's not the answer you were looking for since it does exclude your son from our meetups. You're still welcome to attend the beginners event. I'd also suggest using the resources of the group in an unofficial manner. By that I mean you're welcome to contact any of the organizers or advanced members to try and coordinate a hike or gear shakedown outside of the meetup which your son could participate in.

      March 29, 2013

  • carla

    I am a beginner also and would like a list and 'rules of the road'. Thanks.

    March 22, 2013

    • Melanie

      We will discuss of all that during the trip. Bring the necessary items to camp overnight. You can refer to the gear list above. As far as meals, you will be responsible to bring your own. If you have any questions regarding that ask away! :)

      March 27, 2013

  • Sean

    There is a gear list in the "files" section of this site. Not sure if the direct link will work, but I'll give it a try anyway...

    March 22, 2013

    • Melanie

      Thank you Sean!

      March 22, 2013

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