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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Adventures in the Wilderness: Part -the third

Back at the Historic buildings, Comedy Girl is having problems with her pack. She sees us leave, but doesn’t realize we weren’t heading down the trail, but off to look at the collapsed building, so when she gets her pack together, she starts off, thinking we are ahead of her and we will stop and wait for her. When we turn around and don’t see her, we think she is the one that is ahead of us and will stop and wait for us.

You must realize that we are in the valley created by Lost Creek. Lost Creek got it’s name because it disappears under lots and lots of boulders that have fallen off the mountains above it. These boulders are HUGE and are everywhere, piled up on top of each other. Some of them must be 50-60 ft tall. Where we were, you rarely have a long view of something, because a boulder is in the way. The other thing is that creeks are noisy. We were yelling, but not hearing each other, so we missed each other. We just didn’t yell soon enough, while we were close to each other.

So Comedy Girl keeps on following this trail, that while rough, did not peter out. She follows it for about an hour. She doesn’t have a good distance sense, we only needed to go about 15-20 minutes to go the quarter mile. And this is the strange part. We never found another trail, but she did. She even found a really cool campsite, complete with fire ring on this trail. She had quite the adventure, and ended up at this campsite and wisely decided to stay there. She had everything she needed, except a water filter. (I thought she had one, but it was still in the car…I had missed giving it to her when we left) She knows I have the personal beacon and figures I would use it if anything happened.

She sets up camp, hangs her hammock, makes a signal fire…does everything right, even hanging her food in a bear hang. (Unlike me, who can’t eat dinner, but goes to bed with a bag of trail mix in case I get hungry in the night….I didn’t, so put the bag in the little gear hammock that hangs under my sleeping hammock. The mice chewed through the gear hammock and the trail mix bag and ate a half quart bag of the mix, leaving only the coconut. Yes, they can smell through plastic.)

At around midnight, she decides to go to bed, putting the fire out. The moon isn’t up yet, so she can’t see the hammock in the trees and has to use her bic lighter to find the hammock….:) She had a huge 15 inch machete knife-like blade and sets it next to her shoes. She is ready for anything.

personal opinion time: I try to be a lightweight packer, Everything I bring is as light as possible. Comedy Girl brings things I think are crazy…a down pillow, a solar shower…that huge blade…. but you know? She had everything she needed and used everything she brought. I will never bug her again. After all, she is the one that carries it, not me…. end personal opinion time.

She is in her hammock and hears shouting. It is far away and getting further, so she doesn’t try to answer. After a bit, she hears the shouting again, this time closer, so she yells back. At one in the morning they find her.

They are yelling my name so she knows I must have set off the beacon and so pretends to be me until she can explain the situation. They admire her set up and comment on the knife. They ask if she wants to hike back with them and after thinking it over, she agrees, so they help her strike camp and head out into the moonlit night. One of the guys has a GPS and says they need to be 850 higher up the mountainside. So they climb straight up…in the middle of the night…almost a thousand feet. They compliment Comedy Girl on her cardiovascular strength. They reach the main trail and head back to the car.

Two hours later, another team finds me and SpiderWeb and the beacon. We decide to hike out the next morning as it is a lot safer to walk when you can see. When we reach the trailhead, we find the car and her gear, but Comedy Girl is nowhere to be seen. Not again! We shout and she answers this time…She is up on the hill picking up trash. She comes back down with a bag full of broken glass, beer cans, and a mylar balloon. Yes, Comedy Girl has class.

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Wilderness Adventure: Part the second

My husband says I should subtitle this, “Ropes, ropes and more ropes.”

We get to the historical site around 3 and explore a bit, then decide to see the pump house where they tried to block the creek. It is only a quarter of a mile away.. There are lots of camping sites along the way, so we decide to look for one to camp at.

The youngest member of our group (whose trail name is now Spider Web) calls me over to look at a collapsed building on the other side of the creek and when we turn around, Comedy Girl is nowhere to be seen. We figure she will wait for us as we have been waiting for each other all along the hike, so set off down the trail. About 5 minutes later we haven’t caught up with her, so think maybe we missed her and stash the packs and head back to the buildings. Nope, she isn’t there, so we turn around and start back down the trail, thinking that we will see her soon. Nope. We find a place to camp, drop the backpacks and I think I will continue to hike down the trail, maybe we will see her. the trail peters out about 15 minutes later, so I turn around and talk to Spider Web and we go back to the buildings and head off on another trail that goes in the opposite direction of the first trail we were on, but there are spiderwebs on the trail so we figure she hadn’t gone that way and turn around again.

We meet a group of hikers coming in and ask if they had seen anyone, no they hadn’t, so we explain what is going on and bless their hearts, they offer to help. After they set up camp, (One guy has a hammock!) they join our search party. They jog! down the trail that had the spiderwebs across it, saying that is the trail to the pump house and we were the ones that had gone the wrong way. They are shouting her name every turn and bend and they get to the pump house and Comedy Girl isn’t there. They are troopers and follow the trail a little more until it ends in a beautiful campsite and a jumble of HUGE boulders. We head back. By now it is 3 hours since we have seen Comedy Girl and we are starting to get worried. The guys ask how far we had gone down the trail we thought she was on and said that it did kinda just wear itself out, so there was no need to check it again. I start to pray. I set up my hammock, hoping that she will appear as quickly as she had disappeared. Nope.

I have in my backpack a device that is called a Personal Beacon Locator. About three months ago, a hiking friend said I should have one with me at all times in the wilds. It was quite expensive, but well recommended, so I bought it. I had to register it and get a code. When activated it sends out a signal that within 5 minutes will contact a satellite which will forward the signal to a place in Florida and they will send out a local Search and Rescue Team. it needs a clear place to send the signal, so at 6:30, I climb a nearby high hill and activate the signal. And then I wait. and wait.. there is no way to tell if the signal got through, it just flashes a strobe light every few seconds. About 2 hours later, it was getting dark, so I head back to camp. I expected helicopters to come roaring up the valley, I expected guys to parachute in….nothing, there was no way to tell if it was working, except that strobe light.

SpiderWeb had done a good job of setting up camp. She tried to get me to eat something, but I wasn’t interested. I didn’t want to go to sleep, so I puttered around and prayed using Psalm 139. “Lo though I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy right hand guard me and even the night shall be light around thee.” That isn’t the correct quote, but it was what I remembered. I also remembered Daniel and the Lions Den, knowing that Comedy Girl would be safe from wild animals.

Around 10, I pack it in, only to think a few minutes later that I should hike out and get help as the beacon didn’t seem to be working. What I didn’t know at the time, was that help was on it’s way. The Alpine Search and Rescue team from Evergreen! had been contacted around 9 and had to drive 2 hours to get to the Wilderness Area before they started up the trail and surrounding areas in three groups. My husband had been contacted around 8 and he verified all the info. My other emergency contact was a Christian Science Practitioner who started praying immediately, even tho she didn’t know what the problem was. No-one knew the problem, they just knew that a beacon registered to me had been set off.

Strangely enough, I got this very strong urge to stay put, so I did. I was worried, but I wasn’t freaking out. I wondered if I should be more worried, but I knew she had her pack with her that had everything she needed. The biggest thing was the part that we just didn’t know what had happened to her. Did she fall? Was she hurt? We had called and called, but no answer, but we were also next to a very noisy creek. So I kept on praying.

Before we left I made a clear tarp out of heat-shrink window wrap, because I wanted to see the Perseid Meteor shower. When I finally was in my hammock, I laid back and was amazed at what I saw. The sky was clear and very bright; it was a full moon, so I didn’t see any stars, but it was so beautiful, I just relaxed a bit. I didn’t get much sleep at all, but I must have fallen asleep at some point, because I was woken up by someone shouting my name. It was 3 in the morning and the SAR team was there! They told me that Comedy Girl had been found about 2 hours ago, she was unharmed and the team that found her was walking her out. I gave my car keys to the guys that found me so she could get into the car. I hugged one guy and was crying a bit. They are all volunteers and do this because they want to help others! They left and I was finally able to sleep. We hiked out the next morning in record time (for us) and we finally got to hear her side of the story. You will too in Part the third…

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Wilderness Adventures: Part the first.

How a 4 day camping trip turned into a 3 day, which turned into an overnighter.

Comedy Girl and I had been planning this trip for almost a year. We wanted to do a 4 day trip into the Lost Creek Wilderness Area. Start at Goose Creek and hike around the area at 6 miles a day until we were done. The dates were from the 11-15 of August.

At the end of July, Comedy Girl gets an offer to open a Comedy gig in ABQ New Mexico on the 13th and 14th of August. We confer and decide to push the start day back one day and make it into a 3 day hike. No problem, we only have to walk just a tad over 7 miles a day.

Meanwhile, I decide we need another person in our group so advertise on some local hiking meet-up groups I belong to. No one is able to hike during the week. Back to square one. I am still looking for another person and find a young lady who is an experienced hiker and she is able to get the time off. I get a hammock together for her and we are ready to go.

The 10th arrives and I pick up my two companions and we head out. About a quarter mile into the hike, the trail splits (this is a loop we are hiking) and we decide to take the more difficult route at the beginning of the trip rather than the last day. We head off down a valley that has a stream which we cross….many times. About an hour later the trail takes us up out the drainage, so we eat lunch and fill up our bottles.

As we eat, it starts to cloud up…..quickly. By the time we are done, patters of rain are falling. I do not like getting wet, It just complicates things when on the trail. Then one of our party members can’t find her rain gear. I lend her my pack cover, as I have a poncho covering my pack but it doesn’t quite fit, her sleeping bag is sticking out on both sides. I do not like this, but she urges us on. I make an executive decision and say that we will keep on going, but if it becomes more than a sprinkle, we are turning back.

It turns into a deluge about 10 minutes later. Thunder and lighting are flashing and booming and we are out of the valley and into Aspen meadows. Not a safe place to be. Clouds are lowering around us. It looks like a good old Washington State rainstorm, not the little sprinkles of Colorado.

I am not familiar with this trail and don’t know if there is good camping up ahead or not, so we turn around. I want to get back to the stream, as there is more cover. We find a big fir and spread out our largest tarp over some of the bottom branches and sit…..and wait….. an hour later, it starts to rain harder. There is nothing for it. We need to turn back and head for home, Everyone gets wetter, but we make it out in good time. As we drive back to the city, we make plans to meet up again the next day and at least try to stay one night. We run into hail and find out later that Hwy 24 was closed for a while. It was a big system, so I felt better about leaving.

The next morning we arrive at the trail head and head right at the fork. It is a pretty trail and the rock formations are fabulous. We can see Harmonica Arch and the Finger rock formations from the trail. Goose Creek is bigger than Hay Creek and there are oxbows, beaver dams and small ponds to look at. We run into at least 3 groups of ppl who are planning on doing the loop in 4 days. sigh. We make it to the historical site and turn off the main trail to visit. There was a company that tried for 22 years to dam Lost Creek..from 1891 to 1913, they poured tons and tons of concrete into the creek, but never succeeded. The creek always found ways to go around the concrete. We decide to hike the quarter mile down to the Pump house where all the action took place.

Part the Second continues the saga. I am falling asleep right now, so see you later.

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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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Sleeping in the Rain

Today I was rummaging through my under stairs closet looking for an old tarp to use so I could finally sleep outside in my hammock and I came across something else.  My very first tent that I bought all by myself.  It was a Sierra Designs Starlight and I loved that tent.  It started my mild obsession with tents.  It was a single-person tent, it was coffin-shaped and bright yellow and blue and easy to set up.  It had mesh screening on the roof so that you could look up and see the stars. It also had a matching yellow rain fly.  Those were the days before “low impact colors” were popular…..:)

When I worked for the YCC (Youth Conservation Corp) one summer in the 70’s, I had a long commute to work, so I bought the tent.  There was a campground near one of the areas we were working on, so I pitched my tent and me and my Alaskan Malamute stayed there for two weeks at a time.  I was a vegetarian at that time, so bought a wild food identification book and added to my diet what wild things I could find.  Once, I found one brown thing called a Pinesap that wouldn’t kill you if you ate it, so plucked it and threw it onto my soup.  I learned that just because something can be eaten, doesn’t mean it tastes good.  That was the exception to the rule tho, and I happily added Morel mushrooms to my supermarket basics.  Another time I invited my crew over for dinner and had spaghetti.  A dubious look came into their eyes as I expounded on what was in the spaghetti.  No one died – but no one ever came back for dinner.

Unfortunately, I was unable to take my dog with me to work.  Her name was Talia and being an intelligent animal, she got bored.  I had to tie her up when I was away and it must have been agonizing to be outdoors and not able to investigate all the wonderful smells.  One day, I came back from work and found that she had destroyed my beloved tent. Huge holes in the bottom and the rain fly was half ripped off.  I couldn’t sleep in it, so had to go home and take the long commute to work the rest of the week. That weekend I bought some blue ripstop nylon and began to sew. I was able to fix the rainfly with no problem, then I ran out of nylon.  Being from a camping family, we had plenty of it lying around, but most of it was scraps.  There was black, red, grey, green, white and blue.  So I did the rest of the repairs with those scraps…..and a lot of seam sealer.  My tent now looked like a patchwork quilt. I didn’t care, it was waterproof.  While I was sewing, I decided to add some extra touches.  I made little bags to go on the inside of the tent and I added a design to the door of the rainfly.

comet door

comet door

Artfully initialed bag. My initials were CED.

Artfully initialed bag. My initials were CED.

repaired floor

repaired floor

Anyway, the tent lasted for several more adventurous years.  Then I joined the Air Force and got married to a non-hiking man who is a wonderful cook.  I still managed to collect tents tho.  We did primitive car camping instead and I learned that “primitive” is a relative word….especially in relationship to cars.

Anyway. Obviously not finding a square or rectangular tarp that would work for a hammock, I bought a vinyl rainfly for 7 bucks at Sportsman’s Warehouse along with 50 feet of paracord.  I am now ready to sleep in the rain tonight.

YAY.

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