Doc Austin Family Backpacking

Dick Austin - First Backpacking Trip

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My father, Dick Austin, began backpacking with his father, mother, and brother in 1946 beginning a family tradition that continues to this day. This summer (2014), for example, we went with my father and uncle (both in their 80s!) and some of the usual group of siblings and cousins. Pictured at right is my father and myself from our 2010 trip and below is a bit of the trail from the same adventure. You can hear his description of his first backpacking trip above. A transcript follows below.


Dick: The first time I backpacked? Ever? ..was with Mike and Dad and Chuck and I.

Carrie: Wow, how old were you?

Dick: How old was I? That was '46...because the deal is, as we construct it, is that Dad could not take a vacation. He wasn't on active military duty but he was a state police man. So it wasn't until after the war in '45 that he could take a vacation. So the first one was the summer of '46. So I was 13...12 or 13.

Carrie: So when you were about 13 and you went, was it a single overnight or did you go longer.

Dick: Oh, no, we...because Dad we went up...I think the first time we didn't go all the way to the Enchanted Valley...but he fished so at least one night we had fish...which I didn't appreciate very much but he thought was wonderful: to catch a steelhead.

Carrie: Right, right

Dick: But the other thing is that I think Mike made...I think she used bed sheets to make drawstring bags for the rice and the beans. And we had canned milk and raisins and sugar and...

Carrie: Did she bother bringing cinnamon?

Dick: No. Of course, we didn't have stoves. We cooked on a fire. In fact, one of the vessls was an old lard can with a bail on it. So you had to take a piece of wire that you'd hook to the piece of wood that you'd strung up. It was much more roughing it than it is today.

Carrie: Yeah! So did you eat the same thing for every meal?

Dick: Breakfast probably was usually. The bacon she took was a slab of bacon. So she cut it. Can you imagine all that grease on your hands and needing to clean it off in an icy river. Well, anyway, it was quite different.

And then, of course, that's before environmentalism. [snippet lost] So we would rip the moss and then we would start cutting down little trees. We would build a fly like thing but it was made of branches we had cut.

Carrie: So you didn't bring a single tarp for that? It was all trees?

Dick: Tarps were canvas.

Carrie: Oh, they were heavy.

Dick: Heavy.  I guarantee heavy.

Carrie: They're not the parachute fabric we have now.

Dick: That's right and you would use some tarp to lay down on top of the moss because the moss was wet and then you would put your sleeping bag on that.

Carrie: Oh right, right, so was it fun?

Dick: Fun? Ah,'s nice to be there! It's a different place. It's magical to me to be in those woods!

And, of course, we went in the summer when there wasn't rain.

Carrie: Did your parents like it?

Dick: Oh, yeah, well see they had done that kind of thing before their kids came along. When Bob, my older brother, was about six they worked in the Graves Creek Inn which no longer exists...and that's like hiking in. They hiked in once in the snow and lost the trail and had to follow a telephone line in.

Carrie: Right, yeah.

Dick: Only they didn't get there that night so they had to sleep under logs. She complained about that for a few years. And he slept like a log.

Carrie: I bet she didn't sleep you and me. Now that was roughing it!

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