I hope this works….

If you don't experiment, you don't learn.

“Winter” Camping

Last weekend I went on an overnight “winter gear and skills testing” hike. We were gonna learn how to start a fire in the snow and how to melt snow to use for water…apparently there is a trick to it. It was only a mile to the campground, so if there was equipment failure or we had to bail, it wouldn’t be too hard to get back to the trailhead. There were about 15 ppl that chose to come and I was the only one that had a hammock, all the rest were in t**ts. Marmot tents mainly. Little orange mounds all over the place. We had been planning this for quite a while and were watching the weather anxiously as the weekend drew closer.

I was expecting the worst and had asked about cheap winter tarps over at the Hammock Forums page on Facebook, and got a lot of advice. I ended up buying a 10×12 ripstop nylon tarp from Ace Hardware…only about $13.00 as compared to a “real” winter tarp at $139.00. I had revamped my set-up, making a topper (mini-cover to go over the top part of the hammock to help hold in warmth) and a bigger under quilt protector/gear hammock that fit below everything to help hold in warmth and served double-duty, holding my boots and such to keep them off the ground. I “camped out” on my deck to see low my gear would take me. 18 degrees! Pretty good. I bought a thing called a “Rest-stop” which allowed you to urinate without getting out of your warm set-up. (Winter nights are Looooooooooong) I had bought hand-warmers, found a great deal on some snowshoes, bought a pair of vintage wool hunting pants off of e-bay for $20.00, bought down mittens, bought sunglasses that fit over my regular glasses….you get the idea. I was READY!

The first sign of trouble came the weekend before the hike.  I had just bought the 10×12 tarp and was perusing the inter webs when the first email from the group arrived. “I’m bringing my board shorts and sun screen…weather is supposed to be 65f degrees and windy.”  What????  But…..but…..all the cold-weather gear…..noooooooo!!!!!!!

I still ended up packing it, I just left it in the car in case of an emergency. It was a beautiful day on Saturday,  The kind of weather that spoils you for Colorado forever. Blue sky, gentle breeze, great scenery…. hardly any snow…..We trekked into the campsite around 9 am and picked out our spot. The Ranger had said it was one of the best for windy conditions. It was on the brow of a ridge-ine and in a grove of pine trees. I set up my hammock with the foot end painting west into the breeze and rigged up my regular summer tarp. My two camp-mates set up their Marmot t**ts, we ate a quick lunch, I gave a few hammock tours and then as the afternoon wore on, we went for a stroll.

I had worn my lightweight long johns and a pair of fleece-lined pants as well as a wool, long-sleeved shirt.  Soon the pants were rolled up and the sleeves were pushed up. Other ppl were a little smarter than me and had removed long johns or just worn regular summer-weight hiking pants and shirts.  We had a great time, the mica in the rocks was beautiful -shining in the sun and the air was crisp and clean.

As we walked back along the trail, the wind picked up. As we cooked our dinner – the wind picked up even more. My tarp was flapping in the wind, so I removed it. It was promising to be a clear night and the topper and under quilt protector/gear hammock would help keep me warm. One of the other campers started a roaring fire in their fire-ring and soon we were all gathered around, swapping stories, telling jokes. One of the guys had an app that let him track the ISS as it passed overhead. We all trooped out into the clearing to see it. A tiny, fast-moving orange dot that flew from the moon across the star-spangled sky. Amazing.

By now the wind was pretty fierce. It wasn’t letting up at all. I checked on my hammock, it was still there, not moving much as the wind was still coming from the west. Heading for the bathroom, I was gob-smacked. The entire city of Denver was spread out below us. A golden ocean of light. It stretched from north to the south as far as I could see. Looking up I found a silver city of stars. It was something I will never forget.

Around 8, the party at the campfire started winding down, we put the campfire out with dirt and some snow we found in the clearing. One of the guys walked me back to my hammock. I climbed in and settled down, or tried to. The wind was stealing any warmth I was building up, sucking it out from between my sleeping bag and the down under quilt. I wrapped my hard-shell jacket around the foot of my sleeping bag and zipped it up. The hood fit perfectly across the footbox, It worked, but I could still feel a heat drain around the middle of me. The wind was roaring by now. Gusts shook the trees and me and my hammock. There was no gentle rocking, it was more like a violent shaking. I found my fold-up foam sit-pad and put it under me….Almost, almost it worked.

Then, of course, I had to pee. Camping wisdom says to get rid of it as soon as possible, so your body doesn’t have to work to keep it warm too. Sighing, I sit up, put boots on, walk out into the wildest wind of my life, do my business and then, an idea, and I adjust the suspension on the under quilt protector, pulling it up higher in an attempt to keep the wind out. Crawling back in, I lie down to discover that the wind is no longer stealing heat. It worked. I was warm now.

Warm and comfortable and completely unable to sleep due to the noisy wind.  It was like being in the middle of a very busy freight train yard. Hours crept by. I tried to do games on my phone, but the light made me more aware of the wind shaking my topper, blowing it in towards my face as it switched directions. Then around 2, the wind stopped….It was like a switch had been thrown. Sleep at last….then the moon rose above the trees and shone down on me and woke me up again. The topper fabric let a lot of light in. Two hours later…the wind starts up again. This time it is constant. No gusts. Just blowing steady and very noisy.

Finally dawn arrives. As soon as i can, i get out of hammock only to have a gust of wind come from the side and turn my hammock into a parachute. It flips up and things start falling out of it. Things like my sleeping bag and extra clothing…. Oh noes!  I have to pee and i have to save my gear before it blows away!  Grabbing things and stuffing them into my pack, I hope I’m getting everything.  Other ppl are beginning to crawl out of tents. It takes two ppl to tear them down, one guy loses his groundcloth. He finds it wrapped around a tree about a ¼ mile away…shredded beyond saving. The wind isn’t dying down, so we bail.  We don’t even make breakfast, we just pack up as quick as we can and head back to the cars.

We find out later that the Ranger had *really* said we had the WORST spot for windy conditions……

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Sleepy Swing Hammocks…

Hammocks, hammocks, hammocks!

With the help of the friendly folk on Hammock Forums, I found out about DIY hammocks! You mean I can make my own? Why yes, yes you can.  Woot!

My first was a lovely dusty lavender 9 footer.  Hey, I had the fabric in my stash for years and there was enough of it so that there were no seams to worry about rubbing or ripping out. Then I discovered a site that sells beautiful crinkle taffeta tablecloths that were strong enough to use as hammocks.

Ain't it purdy?

Ain’t it purdy?

Then, I decided i needed to learn how to splice rope, then I decided I needed to redo all the rope on my tarp, then I decided I needed to learn some new knots…can you say Double fisherman’s Bend? Then I decided I needed a way to make my backyard hanging spot better, so the wind didn’t blow up my back, and I found a plan to make a light-weight, portable hammock stand. (Thanks to TurtleLady and OldDog) By then it was winter, so I moved inside. By now I was up to my fourth hammock.

and no, I did not watch TV in my hammock….

and no, I did not watch TV in my hammock….

Then, I convinced the maintenance man at work to drill some holes the the walls of my little  stay-over room and took out my bed and hung my hammock there.  Can you sense a trend going on?

I invited the Schwans man inside  my house (to get out of the cold) and he saw my hammock stand setup in the basement, but thought he was too heavy to try it out.  I convinced him otherwise and when he got in he wanted a hammock, so I made one for him.

notice the big smile on his face

notice the big smile on his face

I made a kid’s hammock, complete with stand for a birthday prezzie for a 2 year old.  He was too young for it, but everyone else loved it.  It was a three year old at the party that came up with the name “Sleepy Swing”

With the help of a dear friend, I thought I might go into business…maybe even write a how-to e-book.

I  made a bunch of hammocks for various people, even one for a charity event.  I was kinda obsessed.  Really? Ya think?

It  is probably best  for all concerned that I didn’t post here while all this was going on.  You would have gotten rather tired of the subject and might have wished me to move on.  You might have sent me an e-mail invite to join “Moveon.com”. You might have checked in every few weeks and thought, “She is still going on about hammocks….. She needs a new hobby.”

Well, that is they way I seem to roll.  I get slightly obsessed about something and kinda over-do it for a while.  Barefoot running, hammocks, writing poetry, riding motorcycles, making biscotti,….. Sometimes the obsession lasts years, other times it burns itself out after a few months. I like to learn new things. I like to try stuff out.  I still want to ride in a hot air balloon, but I’ve been told it is an expensive hobby.  I would need to invent a popular and useful something or have married a richer man in order to pursue it….and I know I wouldn’t be satisfied with just one ride.  I would want to own one…maybe learn how to make the basket and the burner……so yes….

Yes, this is my dirty secret.  I like to learn. I like to explore. I like to push the boundaries of my life outward and upward and I am glad I finally have the opportunity to do it…..as long as it doesn’t cost toooooooo much….cuz that would mean I would have to wait until I made enough money to buy it.  I do not like to wait. at. all.

 

PS. I will still make you a hammock if you want one.  17 vibrant colors to choose from!

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Travels of a Tripmuch, part 2

I love the Lost Creek Wilderness Area.  It is an anomaly in the Rockies.  Instead of high ridges and upthrust mountains, it is almost pastoral.  Almost.  The mountains in the area are mostly rounded off and have these strange and wonderful rock formations all over the place.  A novel (“Black Mountain” by Robert Leisure) describes the area better than I can.

“Jim, I took only a quart of whiskey to help out my breakfast coffee, but I saw whales, teakettles, cowled monks, ships and sheep, frogs, dragons, Indians, colonial squires, kings, clowns, and goblins. It seemed like a city in the sky, its ornaments both noble and grotesque, a strange, secret place where silence in those tortuous corridors and rubbled granite avenues is broken only by the monotone of a crazy river.  I call the river “crazy” because it seems to hate the sunlight.  It forms 9 separate box canyons and flows as often under the ground as above.”

Yep.  That is what it is like.  Only better.

We were only a couple of miles into the place and already had seen two formations we wanted to explore.  The next day, we decided to cross the creek and find our way up the mountainside.  Bear Boy decided to stay in camp and make up for lost sleep (darn rock), while we wandered. After crossing the creek, we followed the trail beside it for a ways, then struck off uphill. I am glad to have observant friends.  They saw the little cairns of rocks leading the way long before I did.  The ‘trail’ went straight up the mountain, and I do mean straight up.  No switchbacks, nothing, just up and up and up, scrambling over boulders and shimmying under fallen trees.

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A break on the way up to the rock formations, Harmony Arch and Finger Rock.

As we progressed up the mountain, we could see the bare granite that these formations were sitting on to our right.  I was wondering how we would get to them. It turned out the track led us up and above the formations.  We came out of the trees and wondered across the lichen-streaked granite looking for them.

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We had to go up some more before we could go down.  It was an amazing place.  Water had carved shallow channels in the granite and green and grey lichen covered everything.  Trees grew in stunted forms in cracks where dirt had accumulated and boulders just sat there and made the water go around them.

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We did make it to the formations.  We stopped and ate a bit and yelled to see if there were echoes and we could see our campsite along the creek far below us. I found out after that we had hiked almost a thousand feet straight up. It took us about 4 or 5 hours total, up and back down.  We are not power hikers…..lol

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This is the largest Arch in Colorado.

This is the largest Arch in Colorado.

Back down again, sliding, slipping and testing footing we made it.  What a lovely experience.  We saw some hummingbirds, and picked some wild rose hips to dry for later.  Made for some lovely tea this last winter.  Brought back good memories.

I want to go again.  There is a trail that goes all the way around the outside edge of  the wilderness area and it supposedly takes 4 days to do it if you are not in too big of a hurry.  That is my goal this summer. Hopefully we can all get the same days off work and go for it!

 

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Travels of a Tripmuch….part one

Don’t ask how I got that nickname.

Last September, a week before the floods that devastated part of Colorado, I went back-packing with three other friends. The main purpose of the hike was to test the Hammock out in a real-life situation, rather than the back-yard simulations I had been engaging in.  We went to the Lost Creek Wilderness Area and started on the Goose Creek trail. I should let you know that I hadn’t been seriously back-packing for at least 10 years.

My equipment consisted of an ancient, external-frame backpack (Alpinelight) that was bought in the 70’s, a brand-new Jetboil cookstove, an old Polarguard 3D Sierra Designs sleeping bag, the ENO doublenest hammock and a Profly tarp that I wanted to test out, and clothes and food.  Food that I had dehydrated myself and was yummy. (That is another post) (If you are interested). The pack weighed 30ish pounds.  I weigh 120. It was heavy. I also had a new pair of trekking poles that I had bought in the kids section because they were cheaper….Kids have trekking poles nowadays?  Who knew.

One companion does Wilderness Therapy stuff with troubled teens in the Rockies. She had all her gear with her in a beat-up backpack that must have weighed 40 or 50 pounds. It sounded extremely heavy when she dumped it on the ground.  She wore sandals…..Sandals!!!!!  Whatever happened to good, strong, tough hiking boots?

One companion was loaded for bear.  Seriously.  He had the bear can (for food), the bear spray, the holster for the bear spray and a gun. He had on sensible hiking boots and his gear probably weighed in at 50-60 pounds, even after he left his tent at the car because everyone decided to sleep under a tarp that Wilderness Girl had. He had a camera that he forgot to use for the most part, but he did take a vid of us putting up the Bear hang…..lol.  What a bunch of fashionista’s we were.

The last companion is an artist, a comedian, rides her bicycle everywhere, and like me, hadn’t been back-packing in decades.  She had a conglomeration of borrowed stuff that actually was pretty efficient and lightweight.  It just looked awkward and unwieldy. She was also the only one that remembered to bring and actually use her camera.

Got to the trailhead after only getting lost once (thanks Ms. Construction Lady for the correct directions). We started hiking.  The first part of the hike was/is through the burnt remains of the Hayman Fire.  New growth aplenty, just not a lot of trees tall enough to shade the trail, so it was hot going at first. We stopped for lunch (vacuum-packed salmon mixed with shelf-stable mayo spread over a tortilla and sprinkled with dried fruit and nuts and rolled up.) at the creek and then continued on, following the creek until we found this really nice camping spot between the trail and the creek.  We set up camp.

Through the Hayman Fire burn area.

Through the Hayman Fire burn area.

My hammock and tarp were slung nicely between two old pines and over some wild roses and juniper-like prickly bushes.  The others cleared out an area of pine cones and rocks and threw down a ground cloth and put up the tarp.  Everything was nicely hidden from the trail.  Bear Boy stayed at camp, while the three ladies explored the area some more. Dinner was cooked and enjoyed, multitudes of stars came out, we stayed up late talking. Aaaaaaah.

 

Over the rose-bushes and under the pines...

Over the rose-bushes and under the pines…

Goose Creek before it turns into Lost Creek.

Goose Creek before it turns into Lost Creek.

The next morning after brekkies, the ground dwellers wanted to try the hammock.  Even tho they had removed any rock they found, there was still one under Bear Boy. Comedy Girl’s self-inflating air mattress hadn’t self-inflated, so she spent the night rather cold and was grateful for Bear Boy’s warmth next to her.  I was proud to show off my hammock.  (They all have hammocks now….).

Anyway, that is part the first.  Join us again for the rest of the trip as we climb straight up the mountain to some cool rock formations named “Harmony Arch” and “The Finger”…..

 

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