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: 15 Questions with… Karen Wood

    October 10, 2017

    There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes brain power that goes into planning your favorite programs, be it public, family-friendly, or custom outings. Learn about those who work inside so you can get outside.

    This week we’ll be interviewing Karen Wood, our shared Chief Financial Officer.

    Karen Wood 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?

    I grew up in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, VA. After college (at William & Mary in Williamsburg), I moved to Eugene, Oregon in the mid 80s where I started my first accounting job and became active in various environmental causes.

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    October 3, 2017

    By: Grace Groeger, Communications Intern


    I decided to hit the ground running and just dove into any program with an opening my first week with Venture Outdoors. I started scrolling through the activities calendar and saw an opening for Women on the Water (WOW), and I thought to myself, that’s the one I’m doing. I couldn’t be more excited about signing up for my first program; my friends were sick of me already for bragging about how awesome my internship is only a week in.

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  • Put-in-Bay, An Island Getaway in your Back Yard

    September 26, 2017

    By: Jacob Tumminello

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    Sunset Put In Bay

    After stepping off the ferry that took us from Sandusky to the island,

     » Read more about: Put-in-Bay, An Island Getaway in your Back Yard  »


    September 19, 2017

    Summer Tree ID

    By: Samantha Sektnan, Communications Intern

    Attending the “Summer Tree ID” program was a great way to start off being a part of the Venture Outdoors community. Taking an easy stroll in Frick Park as we learned tips and tricks to identify the trees around us was something I never imagined myself doing before joining this organization, but I am definitely glad I did it. As someone with literally had zero knowledge on how to identify trees, local ecologist Henry Schumacher – who led the trip – had a lot of work on his hands in order to teach me the basics..


  • Venturing Outdoors: How I Learned to Appreciate Nature by Working at Kayak Pittsburgh

    September 12, 2017

    By: Alexander Downing

    Since August 2014 I’ve worked as an attendant at Kayak Pittsburgh’s North Park location. This means I’m one of the smiling faces in the green shirts pushing boats into the water and handing out PFDs and paddles. It also means I get to look out on the beautiful North Park Lake for hours on end. As it turns out, that’s been the most memorable part of the job and the catalyst for a change in how I view nature.

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Kayak Pittsburgh



Our North Shore and North Park locations are open weekends only in October.

Featured Outing

Romeo and Juliet Hike
Saturday, October 28
5:00 – 10:30 PM

Calling all theater lovers! Join us for an evening of two adventures! We’ll start with a hike through Oakland and a pizza dinner from 5pm -7pm followed by a production of Romeo and Juliet presented by Pittsburgh PICT Classic Theatre. Price includes the hike, dinner and show ticket.