As published in the (Kerrville TX) Community Journal, Oct 15, 2008 - Phil Houseal
In America, we don't consider "walking around" a sport. But hiking and backpacking are hugely popular in Europe, and there is a segment of Texans who see the trail less traveled as a highway to adventure. Anthony Coden, a native of France, wants to lead us down the path to his world of discovery, fresh air, and better fitness.
But it takes more than just putting one foot in front of the other. There are rules.
First, there is a difference between hiking and backpacking.
"When you backpack you are carrying your house," Coden said. "When hiking, you just carry your water, map, compass, and snacks. When you hike you go in and you go out; when you backpack you are staying."
In Europe, especially in Britain, land is open for public access. Coden notes that Texas has good hiking trails, but they are far apart and require some travel to reach.
"Big Bend is an amazing place," he said. "The problem with Texas is the amount of travel between locations. It's just big. Water is also a problem, because you have to carry 10 or 15 extra pounds just to have water."
Part of Coden's teaching is geared to dispelling the romance many have when it comes to backpacking. His is a no-nonsense approach. He believes in the "no trace" principal - carrying out everything you carry in. The rest of his course will address practical matters such as how to set up a campsite; making a fire (with one match!); purifying water; what food to bring; and what clothing to wear.
"Gear is very confusing," he said. "There is so much of it on the market. What does it all mean? What is the difference between wool, silk, cotton, and all the synthetics? I will dispel lot of that confusion."
And sorry, techies - no global positioning satellites for you. Coden will be teaching people to use a compass to find their way back from the wilderness.
"A GPS is a cool tool, but it will make you more stupid," he said with a laugh. "We all have an internal compass, but if we don't use it enough it becomes dull. I know it works because no one has been lost forever!"
Coden, who also teaches cooking and ping pong, prides himself on his ability to break down complex issues for the lay person. But he also has a passion for this activity.
"This class is more about people having an understanding of backpacking," he said. "It is something I love to do."
Anthony Coden starts his backpacking series on Oct 23, with classes following on Nov 1 and Nov 8. To learn more about this and hundreds of other lifelong learning classes, call 830-895-4386, or visit www.clubed.net.
Club Ed is the Community Education program of the Kerrville Independent School District. Comment online at clubedcomments.blogspot.com.