Just like when a glitchy vending machine pops out two bags of Sun Chips, it’s always a welcome treat to meet a fellow Philadelphian who shares our love of the outdoors. Photographer and avid adventurer Leeanne Landis resides right across the river from us in South Jersey, and we love picking her brain about accessible trails and campsites to explore around our hometown. So when we discovered she was spending a long weekend in Shenandoah, one of the few national parks in driving distance, we offered to equip her with a Base Backpack. Under one condition: Take a lot of pictures for us (especially of those Blue Ridge Mountains). In addition to snapping some stunning shots, Leeanne filled us in on where to start with Shenandoah’s 500 miles of trails and what camping gear wound up being most crucial. (Plus, we had to ask where she’s heading to next…)
You're constantly getting off the grid and exploring new places. What inspired you to go to Shenandoah National Park?
I have never been there, and going to every National Park is on my bucket list! Shenandoah is a close enough drive from Philadelphia that we could soak it up in a long weekend.
What's one thing about Shenandoah that you can't find in other parks?
Most National Parks have a main road that takes you to all the sights and main attractions. But, in Shenandoah, Skyline Drive IS the main attraction. We spent all of our first day driving the 100+ mile road stopping at the overlooks along the way (there are about 75!).
What was the most crucial stuff you packed in your Base Backpack?
This trip really tested what I could fit in my bag, and I was actually surprised! We had five people's worth of camping and camera gear in one Jeep Cherokee, so we really had to limit our bags. I ended up fitting all of my camera gear, sleeping bag & pad, and some clothes. My most crucial items were definitely warm clothes and a sleeping bag (the first night was less than 30 degrees!). I also never leave without packing my slingshot.
Wait. Why a slingshot?
Last June, my boyfriend and I planned to hike the John Muir Trail. He told me to bring something to entertain myself since we'd be hiking most of the day. I honestly knew right away what I wanted to bring — a slingshot! It's something every kid had and I didn't when I was growing up. It’s also small, light, and easy to attach to the outside of my pack. Any time we got to a nice view or stopped to eat I was shooting rocks and pine cones as far as I could. Now I can’t imagine not having it!
Tell us about your first-ever camping trip. What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
My first ever camping trip was a couple years ago for my 23rd birthday at Niagara Falls. I think we brought a single pot, a cheapo tent, and nothing to eat for breakfast. It stormed so bad that night the tent and all the blankets were soaked! I've learned to invest the money in good camping gear (especially if it's something you know you will do often).
So, where to next? Why?
My boyfriend and I have both been looking into The Wonderland trail that goes around Mount Rainier in Washington. Also, I've always been interested in Iceland — Iceland Air just started flying out of Philadelphia so that's always a possibility.
If you could live anywhere in the world for a month, where would it be?
Between Vancouver, BC or Southern California.
If you could pick any person (alive, dead, fictional, whatever) to travel with, who would it be? Why?
Probably my grandfather on my mother's side because he died two weeks before my twin sister and I were born. I don't think he ever traveled much, but I think traveling is the best way to get to know someone.
FOLLOW LEEANNE ON HER ADVENTURES@LEEANNELANDIS