Thanks, Ken. I'll throw some thoughts out and would love to hear (read) from other folks.
Over the years I've backpacked for many different reasons. When I was posted to my first assignment with the State Department in Tajikistan, I backpacked because I was surrounded by gorgeous mountains and there really wasn't anything else to do on the weekends.
When I returned to DC to spend a year learning (some) Arabic, I first started backpacking as a primary and beloved hobby with a great friend who introduced me to going light.
When the State Department next sent me to Iraq for 18 months, I sat in the desert, cooped up on a little forward operating base, dreaming about green woods and the absolute freedom of movement that comes with hitting the trail and leaving work/people/everything else at the trail head.
When I returned back to DC, something finally snapped for me and backpacking became one of the happiest things in my world. Going to work in the morning at the State Department's main building in Foggy Bottom often felt like joining the Borg and strolling mechanically to the mother ship with 6,000 other cyborgs. The works is really interesting but darn, being a federal bureaucrat in DC is a bit of a slog. Backpacking changed my personal paradigm and had me walking in with a smile, thinking about my last trip or planning my next one.
Sure, the mid-Atlantic isn't quite as wild and scenic as many other areas that many of you frequent. But I'm here for work and happy to make the most of it, hitting trails in PA, WV, and VA each month. I've ensured that I get to hike at least one full weekend a month and have religiously kept to this pattern for three years. Over this period, I've gone through new gear and explored many new trails, but most importantly I've met dozens of fellow backpackers whom I've come to befriend and admire. The community of backpackers (the UL ones often being the most committed) has made the trail and accompanying gear even more worth it.
Now I'm heading off to Latvia for a three year assignment and I'll miss my DC-area companions and terrain. Now I'm looking to Northern Europe for new adventures, new gear, and my next phase of backpacking.
This is an incredible hobby, populated my great people. My life is better in every way with backpacking as part of it.