I have driven over ten thousand miles in the last two years to hike and camp in beautiful places across the US. The car spent days sitting at trailheads, baking in the sun, soaking in the rain, and consuming money (when it was a rental) and gas the rest of the time. A car does have many advantages but it is not low impact or traveling light. It felt like my base weight was sixteen pounds plus another three thousand for the car; it left me wanting for a better way. Could I backcountry hike and backpack around the US with literally just the pack on my back?
The short answer is yes, you can, at least to a few places. That is where my journey started. I wanted a low cost/impact trip that could meet the following goals:
- Public transit only, with a focus on the train (Amtrak)
- USA Rail Pass $500 (30 Day or 10 segments)
- National Forests, not National Parks as I prefer dispersed camping
- Free or minimal charge for a campsite ($5-$15)
- Limit transit travel to a maximum of one day at a time
- Under $1000 for the entire month
- Minimal hotels
- Visit some friends and family
With that criteria I took at the Amtrak Trip Planner Map and the US National Forest Map to see where there is potentially interesting overlap. I will go through the logistics of where and how and discuss the trips 'around' the hiking in future posts.