North Harford students bikepack their way across the eastern coast

AUBREY WILLIAMS, Reporter

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A group of North Harford Students bikepacking through the Chesapeake and Ohio canal trail (Photo Cred: Richie Tabeling)

While some students will be spending their Christmas break snuggled up by the fire with hot chocolate and presents, a small group of North Harford boys would rather endure the cold for a 150 mile bikepacking trip in the Great Allegheny Passage.

      Bikepacking is camping over several days while biking, according to senior James Houck.  According to Houck, participants in the sport generally “carry 80 percent of the weight on their bike and 20 [percent] on their back.” Often this is done by fitting bags on the frame of a bike.  

   Seniors Brayden Shue, Richie Tabeling, Charlie Niles, and Houck are all preparing themselves for what they expect to be a lot harder trip then they have previously endured, especially because of the winter season.

    When preparing for these trips Shue explains that “there’s a lot of packing and a lot of research, like days and days of research and you need to have the right equipment and a lot of spare stuff.”  Tabeling further explains that “It’s different every time, every trip you pack different things and it changes from trip to trip”.

    Preparation for a trip like this varies depending on the season during which they are traveling and where they are going according to Houck.   Most of the equipment they need they get from REI, an outdoor gear store that Niles explains as “a hiking/backpacking/adventure store.”

    Shue and Tabeling first got into bikepacking one summer as a random idea.  “We started in Minnesota when we went on vacation together and we kept on going after that trying to do bigger stuff.” Niles first got into backpacking because of Shue and Tabeling “Brayden and Richie called me and said, ‘Hey you want to go backpacking’ and I said ‘sure’ that was about it, I was not into it at all before that.”  As for how Houck developed an interest in this sport, he said, “Richie invited me on a trip and that was that!”

    This isn’t the first trip these boys have gone on.  Niles recalls “Richie and I did Shenandoah trip a few weeks ago and did a backpacking trip through there, that was cool, then we did a 200 miles bikepacking trip.” Shue and Tabeling have a long list of all the places they have gone.“We’ve done Minnesota, we did C&O Canal, one in Pennsylvania called the ghost town trail, and backpacking trip in Shenandoah, Smoky Mountains, Appalachian Trail, all of its on the East coast.”

     Of the trips they have taken, Houck says he liked the C&O Canal Trail trip best.  “We rode 200 miles total and each day we road 50 miles.  It sounds like a lot, but it wasn’t so bad,” said the outdoorsman.  However, if money were no object and time wasn’t an issue, Houck says Iceland is his destination of choice “because everything in it is crazy beautiful.”  

      The young men are still planning and looking forward to other trips in the future according to Tabeling. “We are going to do more [bikepacking] in Pennsylvania. Also, we have some planned for the midwest and west coast this summer.”

    While these boys seem to be going on longer and harder trips every month, their parents weren’t always the biggest fans of their hobby. “They were really scared at first when we started out with a really small backpacking trip and they were scared about that,” said Tabeling, “But as we started increasing lengths and times we were out there by ourselves they became comfortable because they realized we were responsible enough to handle time by ourselves and handle hard situations.”

           Niles’ parents are just glad that he’s “outside and doing stuff” and Shue explains,“Our parents are pretty lenient about that stuff too so that helps. Some parents at the idea of it would deny it but we were given a chance and we proved ourselves.” Similarly, Houck said his parents are supportive because he’s always be interested in the outdoors but had never really “embraced that until recently.”

    If interested in keeping up with these boys’ bikepacking trips, Tabeling always documents his adventures on his Instagram: richietphoto.

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North Harford students bikepack their way across the eastern coast