Backpacking seasons come and go. DC UL Backpacking should know. It’s been around for 11 great years. Though I founded the original version of the group as — essentially — a personal backpacking crew for me to ring lead in 2009, it has grown beyond my wildest dreams. I bestowed a name, an ultralight orientation, and a few entrenched trip norms that endure to this day. I did not, however, enshrine a structure that would survive the test of time and change of command. Others did — with aplomb. DC UL turns over a new page in this new year, thanks to their efforts.
I departed abruptly as organizer in July 2011 to, well, focus on a personal backpacking crew. (Then in 2012 I went overseas for three years for work.) That crazy moment prompted the first DC UL transfer of power to Ryan Shauers. Transfer of power is a kind way of putting it. I mic dropped and Ryan scooped it up and began to sing. He continued on as organizer for a spell, and eventually left the DC area and handed over to Michael Martin. I’m not sure exactly how that process went down, but I’m sure it was more efficient than my departure.
Michael ushered in what, to me, seemed like a golden era of DC UL Backpacking. Michael created a set of membership ranks and trip rankings to allow for a diverse set of easy — “Low Mileage” — to hard — “Veteran Member” — trips in which newbie and vetted DC UL members alike sign up and participate at the right level. He also literally wrote the book on backpacking in the Mid-Atlantic. I can’t say enough about the “Veteran Members” of DC UL Backpacking. To a person, it’s a gifted, capable, fun, and responsible crew. I look forward to my backpacking trips with them every month.
At some point, Michael handed the organizer reins over to Jen Adach. Jen not only took DC UL up another notch with trips, social media presence, and major event planning, she brought DC UL into a new epoch touching on diversity and activism in addition to backpacking alone. She also masterfully guided the group through the onslaught and mitigation of COVID-19.
When 2021 rolled around, Jen decided it was time for yet another transfer of power. DC UL’s fifth organizer, Karan Girdhani, has just recently slipped into his new role, rocking and ready to go. I internally brimmed with pride. DC UL Backpacking really did show its strength by turning over periodically to new leadership. Part of this strength, as I noted above, comes from its key members. Few have been more active and important to the group than Karan. I’ve adored my adventures with him over the years. Karan will oversee DC UL’s emergence into the post-COVID era (eventually/hopefully!) and encourage a new flock of members to join the DC UL family. I’ll depart soon for another overseas assignment but I look forward to staying in close touch with the group to join — or lead — a trip here and there.
Cheers to 11 more years of DC UL Backpacking. And good luck, Karan!
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