“The psychological part is the most important part of being a wilderness guide,” said David DiCerbo, owner and operator of Destination Backcountry Adventures, as we drove through the Catskill Mountains. “Actual outdoor skills, hard wilderness skills, don’t come into play much in most of our trips.”
Dave founded the South Slope-based company four years ago with one idea in mind: to make the beauties and wonders of wild New York more accessible to people who want to take the time to appreciate it. He offers all levels of excursions, from day hikes and holistic yoga escapes in the wilderness to multi-day backcountry expeditions.
There has been a steady increase in hiking trips, which is indicated by the popularity of guide companies like Destination Backcountry. It’s a sort of all-inclusive, yet totally immersive experience. Dave or one of his six guides provides the transportation, meals, and all the “mountain mocha” (his own high-powered trail coffee blend) that you can drink.
Their excursions, which lead you to the far reaches of the Catskills and the Adirondacks, specialize in taking eager hikers to regions like Big Indian Wilderness, a pristine not-touched-by-man kind of place.
Although he was always an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast, Dave was not always a guide. He started out in educational publishing, and when his company was bought out and his position was in flux, he saw it as the perfect opportunity to change his life.
“I realized there was a demand for people to experience the same thing that kept me sane when I was wearing a suit and tie,” he explained as we were driving to our trail. “Hiking, spending time in the wilderness kept me sane, kept prospective in my life…made me a better person all around, and I realized that, wow, there are probably other people who can really benefit from this too.”
Dave says that he understood there were probably a lot of people who wanted to get out of the city for what he describes as “48 hours of refreshment,” but just the act of finding a destination and getting there was overwhelming. So he takes care of that, but he also enriches every excursion with a categorical knowledge of the trail — from reading the tracks and, um, remnants, of the animals that have recently passed, to pointing out wild edibles.
When he’s not trekking into the remotest regions of the Catskills, he can usually be found casting his fishing line into Prospect Park Lake. To learn more about what he’s up to when he’s in the urban jungle, we asked Dave a few questions:
SSN: How long have you lived in South Slope?
DD: I’ve lived here 12 years,
What’s your favorite thing about the neighborhood?
I like the “green” character of the neighborhood. I love the fact that when I walk out my front door every morning there’s a weeping willow to great me. I like the tree-lined avenues, the massive amount of outdoor landscape space that’s within a four or five block radius of me.
What is your favorite restaurant?
I don’t eat out as much as I used to, but Bar Toto is my ‘go-to’ restaurant. I eat there with the Mayor on Wednesday night…literally on a first date I’m sitting there and the Mayor is sitting next to me…that wasn’t awkward at all.
What’s your favorite shop?
It’s crazy…I still go and buy CDs at Music Matters because I like those guys.
Another place, it’s not a store, but, I love the Prospect Park Y. I’ve been going there for over 10 years.
What is the weirdest thing you have seen in the neighborhood?
I have to think about that one. I was there in 2001 so I defiantly saw some weird stuff on 5th Ave, comin’ home late sometimes.
Can you describe South Slope in three words?
And…Does ‘Peoples Republic of Park Slope’ count for more than three words?
For more information on Destination Backcountry Adventures, visit their website or call 718-208-9878.
About the author: Jeff Bush is a professional wanderer and food enthusiast. He works for The Wall Street Journal Digital Network as a multimedia producer, and thanks to the generosity of his producers (and an insane amount of luck) he is able to travel and see things he only dreamed of as a child. Lucky for us, he lives in South Slope and wants to make videos and write for our site, too. Have any video ideas you’d like to toss his way? Contact him via email at [email protected], or by phone at 646-734-0845.