From my earliest memories, I remember exploring the woods and searching for a hidden spot that was untouched by people. I loved to explore. I grew up near the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania and just North of the Ohio River near the hills of West Virginia. My town Salem, Ohio was close to both. We were in the foothills of where the terrain started to change. It was the perfect place for a young boy to grow up. I felt like Huck Finn ready for adventure. I was fortunate to grow up in a time when parents still let their kids roam and play without constant parental supervision. I made mistakes and figured out how to correct them at an early age. I had to. I usually was far enough away from home that I didn’t have the help needed. I remember carrying an old swiss army knife when I was as young as 6 or 7 years old. My Grandpa who fought in WWII gave me his and I carried it everywhere I went. It got me out of a lot of trouble and I came to rely upon on it. It was my prized possession and became my first piece of Pocket-Sized Gear that I couldn’t live without. My Grandmother who was a nurse in WWII sewed me up when I got a little too adventurous with it, but that was all apart of being a kid in those days and in most households, was expected.
As I got older, I learned the basics from my Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa. They all taught me something different and I loved learning from them and they seemed to like teaching me so I soaked it in. My Mom took me on a whitewater rafting trip to OhioPyle State Park and when we finished up with our trip down the river, we hiked and camped the remaining days. I learned valuable experiences from her. Most notably, camp prep and the importance of a good pair of hiking boots to make the experience more enjoyable.
Another time, I remember my Dad taking me on a quail hunting trip in the Arizona Desert. Who knew there were quail in the desert? Gambel’s Quail thrived there and we spent the next 4 days living off of them and enjoying God’s bounty with stir-fry. This trip gave me a deep appreciation for Conservation and the importance of respecting and protecting nature’s gift to all of us. My Dad displayed this to me throughout these 4 days and nights in the desert. He never directly told me this but by his actions and the way he handled himself in a foreign part of the country, I understood it.
Along the way, gear like my Grandpa’s swiss army knife started to amass. Some gear made repeated trips where others fell into the eternal dust bin. Conversations around the campfire included improvements on tents, sleeping bags and camp cookware. Since we usually relied on our feet as opposed to a motor to get us to our “deep in the mountain destination”; lightweight, packable, gear was key. I was always thinking about how we could reduce weight and improve quality. From these shared experiences Pike Trail was envisioned years before it was brought into existence.
The groundwork was beginning to be laid through many more hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, kayaking and general backcountry outdoor expeditions. My ideas of gear improvement started to build and take shape. When I married my wife Erin and our 3 daughters came into the world our luggage, outdoor gear, increased dramatically. Little did I know, that gear, especially lightweight gear would take on a whole new meaning of importance..!!
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