My First Backpacking Trip with Venture Outdoors

By: Joshua Tenenbaum

My backpacking trip to Raccoon State Park was a remarkable experience that I won’t soon forget. Going to the outfitter to select backpacking and camping gear and having the opportunity to use it on the trail was very gratifying. I had a ton of fun packing my bag, trying to distribute weight evenly in my pack, and organizing all my gear and food in the pack (although, it took me multiple tries to get everything to fit).

Early in the morning, we dusted off our gear and headed out to experience the beauty of Raccoon Creek State Park. We reviewed some backpacking basics (safety, gear checklist, and leave-no-trace ethics) and Trip Leader Orville Steinenger led us on a loop hike and tent camping overnight. We covered seven miles the first day over moderate terrain with stops at historic landmarks within the park including the Doak’s family farm. We learned that Robert Doak was born in Ireland in the mid 18th century. He immigrated to Pennsylvania with his three brothers in 1767 and enlisted in the military. Robert served as a soldier and fought in the battles of Germantown and Brandywine among many others. He was one of the soldiers camped at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777 and suffered from cold and lack of proper food and clothing. Soon after, Robert married Sarah McKribben and together they had 10 children. They built a log cabin home and established a farm located on the very land that we were standing on. Just being there gave me a great sense of historic relevance and admiration for the beautiful area. The farm sat on a wide, gorgeous meadow with a stream and rock quarry not two miles from the farmland.


Afterwards, when we returned from our journey back to camp, we built a campfire, ate dinner, relaxed, and then told stories. When we got to the campsite I set up my new tent,

unfolded my sleeping pad, and unrolled my fleece sleeping bag. I knew I would be in for a night of comfort, a home away from home. Afterwards, I set up my camping stove and helped build a bonfire so that we could cook our dinners before heading off on a short evening hike. There was a guy in our group who had trouble cooking his food, so I helped him by showing him how to use my camping skillet and arranging the logs and coals so that the food would cook efficiently and evenly over the campfire. He was very grateful for the lesson and ended up sharing his food with me. On the second day, we backpacked 13 miles to the park office, stopping for lunch along the way and completing the loop in the evening ending at Frankfort Springs.

This trip has truly helped me enhance skills in program leadership, responsibility on the trail, being group sweep, and improving my outdoor backpacking skills. Trip Leader Orville Steinenger shared his knowledge of edible weeds and flowers along the way. During the second day of the backpacking trip, I walked through what I believed to be a patch of poison ivy; Orville had mentioned that jewelweed was a wonderful remedy for poison ivy. I chewed up a fistful of jewelweed leaves and applied them to my calf. Within a half hour the poison ivy’s effects were gone and a cooling sensation remained where my skin had felt raised and itchy. Later in the same day I walked through a patch of stinging nettle, but much like the jewelweed remedy, Orville had told us that applying chewed plantain leaves relieved insect stings. I followed his advice and used the leaves where the stinging nettle had touched my leg; shortly thereafter the stinging sensation was gone. I couldn’t believe it.

I was also placed as the group sweep for the entire trip. Initially disappointed with these orders (due to my quick hiking pace), I was to remain at the back of the group ensuring safety for any stragglers. This was a difficult but rewarding lesson in trail responsibility, motivating the group, and patience. I ended up spending much of the time with an older woman who was

lagging a bit behind the main group. My pace had to be her pace and that was a lesson in patience in and of itself.

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  • Getting To Know Our Staff: 12 Questions with Ian Brown

    December 12, 2017

    There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into planning your favorite outdoor adventures! Our staff questionnaire series allows you to learn about those who work inside to get you outside.This week we’ve interviewed Ian Brown, our new Program Director.

    1. Briefly tell us about your background: where did you grow up, where did you go to school, and what brought you to Venture Outdoors? 

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     » Read more about: Getting To Know Our Staff: 12 Questions with Ian Brown  »

  • Expanding Your “Nature Zone”

    December 5, 2017

    By: Amy Camp
    Increasing your comfort levels in the great outdoors

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    Just beyond the comfort zone is another, larger circle – the “learning zone.” And beyond that is the “danger zone.” (And who wants to go there?

     » Read more about: Expanding Your “Nature Zone”  »

  • Behind the Scenes: Meet Grace

    November 28, 2017

    This week we’re happy to introduce another valuable member of our intern team, Grace Groeger! Grace is a senior at Slippery Rock University majoring in Public Relations.

    Grace Groeger1. What are you currently up to outside of Venture Outdoors? 

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    2. What brought you to Venture Outdoors? 

    I came across Venture Outdoors just trolling through Indeed one day.

     » Read more about: Behind the Scenes: Meet Grace  »

  • In The Spirit of Thanksgiving

    November 21, 2017


    If you follow us on social media, you know that we’ve been participating in a #30DaysOfGratitude challenge. Every day for the last 21 days, we’ve posted about something or someone that we’re grateful for. What we’ve learned over these three weeks is that we would need an #InfiniteDaysOfGratitude challenge to showcase all that Venture Outdoors is thankful for.

    In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we’re continuing with our #30DaysOfGratitude by sharing what the Venture Outdoors staff is grateful for today.


    Sherry and Granddaughter


    “I’m thankful for this little baby doll right here.

     » Read more about: In The Spirit of Thanksgiving  »

  • Lakeside and Treetops

    November 14, 2017

    By: Chrissy Ludwikowski

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    Thanks to Venture Outdoors and Kayak Pittsburgh, my family has adopted a love for everything that the outdoors has to offer,

     » Read more about: Lakeside and Treetops  »

Kayak Pittsburgh

Sunset Paddle

Thank you for another great season!
We’ll see you on the water in 2018!


Featured Outing

Friday Night Lights Hike

Friday Night Lights
Friday, December 15
6:30 – 8:30 PM

Join us for a 2-hour hike offering different vantage points of our City’s spectacular skyline. We’ll take in the city-scape while hiking at a moderate pace along sidewalks, up staircases and over bridges.