Posts Tagged With: Camping Experiences

Hammock Overnighter

Not very often do I find a consecutive Friday night and Saturday morning where nothing is going on. I took the opportunity to go out alone and camp overnight. The weather was ideal, if you don’t care for clear skies and dry ground. This was a great opportunity to test out my new rain fly (borrowed from an old tent), and see what it is like to sleep in a hammock.

After some tactical consideration, I chose to camp in Green Canyon where I wouldn’t wake up to any surprises on my car windshield. At the parking area I surveyed the landscape and chose a direction to look for a campsite. I wasn’t feeling very ambitious, so I found a general area about a Frisbee throw from the parking area.

I stumbled onto a fire ring made of rather sharp rocks, and decided that I had gone far enough. It was about 7:00 Friday evening. After scouting the area to assure that I was the only inhabitant of the new digs, I strung my hammock and managed to get the rain fly raised and configured in record time — about 45 minutes. If my carefully coiled rope hadn’t been so well packed it might have taken longer.

The sleeping quarters looked good, almost picturesque. From the inside I had a great view of the trail so I could see who came and went. To get an idea of what it looked like just think of 4th and Main. A stop light might be appropriate on the weekends.

I knew the dark would be on me before long, so I explored the area and found a dead juniper tree. That is where I spent the next 30 minutes, gathering firewood. With an ample supply on hand I turned my attention to the fire pit. Tall grass stood all around it, making it almost invisible. Not only would the grass get in the way, but it might be hazardous. So I trimmed out a circle 2 feet larger than the fire ring, one handful at a time, using a knife to cut it. It was painstaking work, but it looked pretty neat when I finished. Soon the air was filled with the crackle of flames and the scent of juniper smoke.

Camp

Camp

The world got darker and darker, but at some point it actually lightened a shade or two, enough to see shapes clear across the canyon. It was the lights from town reflecting off the clouds. I walked out into the field to observe what I could beyond the fire glare. From there I could see the city lights lining the mouth of the canyon. Then I noticed a strange sound, barely audible. It sounded like a distant gun shot, coming from over the North mountain ridge. First a faint boom coming from one side, then an echoing report from the other side. I stood for several minutes just listening. It happened again and again, with a few moments in between. They got louder. Soon I could see dim flashes of light on the ridge. It looked like the front lines of battle on the other side or somewhere not too far. I thought about what it would be like to live someplace where every day you knew the war was just one ridge away from your home. An ominous thought, it gave me the chills.

After a while the fire died down to a nice bed of glowing coals. My excursion was such a last minute affair that I went up without any good food to roast over the fire. That was a bummer. I did pack myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I can’t imagine a bed of glowing coals improving the taste any. Since I had no food to cook and no friends to tell ghost stories to, I decided to turn in early. I don’t like ghost stories anyway.

Looking From Inside The Hammock

Looking From Inside The Hammock

I didn’t worry about the fire getting out of hand, a new volley of rain came through every 20 minutes or so. I got into my hammock filled with sleeping bag. It was so soft, and the air was so warm, that I considered just sleeping on top and not worrying about getting inside. Experience told me that it would get colder in the small hours, besides, I needed some protection from mosquitoes.

As I settled into bed and prepared to sleep, a group of guys at the parking lot gathered together and raucously shared their experiences. Who knew “salty” language could be so unsavory? Next time I do something like this I’ll go someplace not so busy.

Bedtime

Bedtime

I woke up several times during the night. I realized that a hammock is a hassle when you gotta go. I also noticed the sound of mosquitoes. They sounded like they were trying to get to me from underneath. Surprisingly (and thankfully) they never came up topside. Other than that, it was nice not having rocks and roots sticking into your back (even with foam pads). In the morning I felt like a banana. I laid there about an hour before peeling myself out of bed. I was a little stiff, and thought if I tried to straighten up I might break.

The first thing I did was check my backpack to see if it was safe and sound. It was dry, but alarmingly it was covered in bugs! A congregation of pill bugs gathered for a revival. I’ll probably be pulling pill bugs out of there for weeks. Note to self: get everything off the ground. I’m glad that I put my shoes in the hammock instead of on the ground.

Company

Company

I started the fire again, just to prove that I could after a rainy night. Once it had died down enough I got my stuff together and took off. I think I’ll need a nap.

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Categories: Adventures | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Storm Sitting

The ravine below me

The ravine below me

Looking out towards the valley.

Looking out towards the valley.

The trail was clear until it reached a ceiling of mist near the peak.

The trail was clear until it reached a ceiling of mist near the peak.

To the south the storm continued to cast shadow and gloom over the city.

To the south the storm continued to cast shadow and gloom over the city.

Me

Me

My nose

My nose

How glorious the sunshine was over the valley.

How glorious the sunshine was over the valley.

Breakfast this morning

Breakfast this morning

 

I saw a storm coming in as I drove home from school. It would be a shame to let a good opportunity go to waste. With the clouds starting to block out the sun, I drove up to Green Canyon on the edge of town and parked as high on the side of the mountain as possible. I got out and opened the trunk. I found a hoody and pulled it on, then I shouldered my backpack, locked the car and took off up the nearest trail.

The sky was gray and to the north loomed a dark blue thunderhead, below it the landscape disappeared behind a curtain of rain. I climbed a trail that was damp from the last downpour, but not muddy. The breeze was cool and a few drops hit me now and again. The air was fresh and fragrant with wet sagebrush, mules ear, and earth. I definitely need to go backpacking more often.

The trail led to a large boulder which was familiar to me because DJ and I had found a geocache here before. I figured this was high enough and I looked for a natural shield from the wind and rain. I took refuge just off the side of a ridge-line, just above a thicket of scraggly maple and scrub oak. On this slope I settled down and opened my pack to see what luck had afforded me. In the main compartments I found a change of clothes, mess kit, first aid kit, small survival kit, and several packages of emergency rations. The side pockets were empty, which is just as well because I can never find anything when I distribute stuff throughout the various pockets. I had expected to find at least a poncho, but I guess that got taken out in case I wouldn’t need it.

A pocket within the main compartment contained a plastic ground cloth from the previous decade, complete with duck-tape patches. Seriously, I remember using it when I was a boy scout. It wasn’t much, but after all, a tarp in the bush is worth ten ponchos at home. I pulled it out and looked it over. It was about 3 x 5, so not too big. The corners had little loops of string leftover from previous usage. These I attached to branches around me to make a canopy about three feet or so off the ground.

It was hard to sit on a slope so I put my pack under my legs and sat on it, facing away from the hill. My feet kept the bag from sliding downhill and the bag gave me a seat. This posture wasn’t exactly relaxing, but at least I didn’t have to crouch or kneel in the dirt. I chose this spot because it was the least likely to get me wet, or blown away, or struck by lightning, discomfort being the lesser of two evils.

Soon the sprinkles turned to droves of rain. My canopy flapped just a little, though the wind was strong. My strategic position was very effective in that sense. Every once and again a bunch of water would spill off one end of the tarp. My head held up the center so the water couldn’t gather there. So far so good. Then it started to hail.

The hail wasn’t much different except that where the rain would just stay where it landed, the hail liked to roll and bounce in from the uphill side. My seat was liable to create a little reservoir if this kept up. Then I noticed the increase in weight on my head. The hail stuck to the plastic and formed a slush that didn’t roll off like the rain did. No problem, I just patted the tarp every so often to keep it moving. Water shoots over the edge. Slush likes to stick around and throw water underneath the tarp. I was getting slightly soggy. I considered unhooking the tarp and using it as a poncho. That way it might keep more water out and also serve as a wind breaker. All the heat in my hands had been sucked out by the moisture and the wind.

I didn’t know how long this was going to last. As exciting as it was with lightning flashing and thunder pounding terribly, I got a little bored and started messaging DJ. It occurred to me that if something were to happen to me it might be a long time before anyone noticed I was missing, and even longer before my general location was found, let alone my body. DJ was the only one who would know what I was talking about if I had to describe my location. If he needed to, he could give rescuers my exact coordinates since I was within a few yards of a geocache.

I wasn’t too far into the boonies and still had service. I told DJ what was going down. I said that if I went missing, he would know where I was.

“Just so you know. If I turn up missing, I’m up by Green Canyon, sitting out a storm.” I said.

“If you do go missing, can I have your stuff?”

“Not unless a body is found.”

“That can be arranged.”

It’s comforting to know someone has your back.

It got so wet under the tarp that I had to put on the pack and stand up. The water certainly came off better, but even though I was well out-of-the-way, my head felt very prominent. I didn’t like that position at all.

Occasionally I looked out at the valley and finally I saw light on the other side of the watery veil. The end of the storm was near. When the rain ended it did so quite suddenly. I came out and marveled at how clear it was and how glorious the sunshine was over the valley. To the south the storm continued to cast shadow and gloom over the city. I looked up the mountain. The trail was clear until it reached a ceiling of mist near the peak. There’s nothing like a good storm to refresh one’s perspective.

Cold and clammy, I wrapped up my tarp and shimmied down the trail to my car. The purpose of doing this (besides randomness and lunacy) was to find out how I would fare in such a situation with only what I had in my pack, while still able to opt-out. I found that my tarp was OK in a pinch, but I would rather it be bigger so that I could set it up and have more than one foot square of dry ground underneath. I would set up the tarp with at least one side on the ground to block the wind better, and again, to keep more moisture out. The material is an important factor. I need something durable, yet lightweight. Maybe I can pack a large tent fly. They are much more durable than the piece I had, and I could probably find one that is twice the size and still be lighter. A bonus is that tent flies generally have elastic cords on each corner that would make set-up fast and easy.

More level ground would be ideal, but it is hard to find level ground that isn’t likely to get struck by lightning or flooded by run-off. Still, I think I could manage to find a better spot to set up camp. If I had to stay the night I would have been in trouble, not only because sleep would be impossible, but moving once the storm had started would be fruitless. Everywhere else would now be soaked, plus there is the danger of traveling under such conditions.

Gloves would make the experience much more comfortable. I had them, but I didn’t want to get them soaked. Waterproof gloves, that’s the way to go. Or maybe I could just apply a coat of wax or sealant to the leather. Along those lines; after a rain, the grass and bushes are covered in water. Walking through them is like wading through a river. Waterproof pants or even gators would be handy to keep your pants and shoes drier. Extra socks are a must anyway, but keeping your shoes relatively dry would make a change of socks worth it.

After everything else, it would be great to have some kind of diversion. I would have liked to have a book, or a notepad with me. It’s possible there won’t be service in the emergency situation, hence the need for a pack in the first place. I guess I have games on my phone, but I would rather save the batteries for more crucial purposes.

The storm sit, wasn’t a bad experience, but a few modifications could make future occasions more comfortable, and leave me in better shape to continue.

 

Categories: Adventures | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My Trip to Montana, 2013

My trip to Montana to go camping with Melissa. She had invited some friends to visit her and go camping a Glacier National Park. The only one to take her up on the invitation was a guy. Since she couldn’t have him living in her apartment for a week, much less go camping alone with him, she called me up and asked if I would join them. Always ready to do anything for my blood relations, I accepted the task of going camping. We lived pretty close so it was convenient for her friend Dority and I to drive up there together and split the cost of traveling the 600 miles to Whitefish, Montana.
I packed up my little Honda and found Dority’s house in the adjacent town. We exchanged pleasantries and decided to take my vehicle since it got better gas mileage, though I’m sure the gas mileage suffered while loaded down with so much stuff. Luckily we didn’t have to haul any food up there. On the way we got to know each other. After the first couple of hours we knew more than enough about each other and put on a book on tape. We went through a few books over the course of the trip. He also brought his camera and we made a couple of detours along the way to catch the scenery.
For lunch we found a little cafe that had been recommended by Dority’s father. It was a little old school-house that had been converted into a cafe, with the school-house decor preserved. The menu was written on a chalkboard, and the walls were covered in vintage school supplies and educational posters. Most of the customers wore cowboy hats and collared shirts. The food was decent.
Once we made it into Montana I began to see things I had never seen before. Casinos were as abundant as restaurants. I don’t remember what else there was. Perhaps looking at pictures will remind me later.
We got to Kalispell and met Melissa at Wal-Mart since we needed to shop for food and neither of us knew how to get to Melissa’s apartment. Melissa had a menu planned somewhat and we made a few adjustments as we went through the store. Finally we got to her apartment and got settled down. Oh ya, we stopped for some ice-cream as well. That night we cooked and ate and talked and played cards until finally going to bed. The sun goes down at least an hour later than it does at home. It felt weird to see it still kind of light around 10:00.
The next morning we loaded up our stuff into Melissa’s jeep and took off for Glacier. We took a while getting to our campsite cause we were sightseeing and picking up some things like fishing licenses and such. I bought a nice fly reel and a knife. What kind of heretic would go camping without a knife!?
We checked in at the ranger’s booth and found our campsite. Each camping spot is numbered and we thought we found ours, but we needed to back up to see the post with the number on it. I looked behind us just in time to see the tree we backed into. The tree wasn’t harmed at all, but it took out a light cover on Melissa’s nice new jeep. Luckily That was the worst thing that happened throughout our trip. Except it did rain a lot.
There were lots of places to see and Melissa wanted to show all of them to us. We drove around most of the day and took a couple of hikes. We happened to run into Uncle Jud, Aunt Ledah and Natalie up there and we took a stroll with them. I was excited to do some fishing but we got skunked most places. I think we did actually catch one or two near the end of the trip, but obviously not anything worth telling.
Melissa and Dority talked a bunch, so I had a few chances to wander off a bit on my own to fish or look at the scenery. The first morning in camp I left the other two sleeping and found a trail leading to the lake. The sunrise was amazing. The air was a bit cold but the sun shining on you made it perfect. The lake was calm and clear. You could see fish in the deep water where it changed from clear to green and then blue. After sitting there on the shore for a while I began to explore again. I stumbled on an old stone foundation, ruined and mossy. It was pretty small, probably a one room cabin or shed. Soon I went back to the shore and tried to skip rocks. There were lots of pebbles but not many good skipping rocks. One rock was some type of sandstone. I used my knife to scrape a relief image of a tree. Later when I returned to camp I stowed the rock in the Jeep and forgot about it.

Categories: Adventures | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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