Sunday, January 22, 2017

Overnight Gear Test

Since we upgraded our sleep and shelter system, I have been chomping at the bit to get out in the woods and see how it feels.  We decided that last weekend would be good, as the temperatures were going to stay in the 40's for a couple of days.  Rain was in the forecast, but weather never interferes with our plans.  In fact, a couple rainy days were perfect to test our gear (and ourselves) to possible wet conditions.  We were also bringing Ginger our Golden Doodle (now trail named Mama Bear).  She loves to come out with us when we head out, so we thought it would be good to bring her for our short hikes. 

Mama Bear and LoGear heading down the misty trail

The original plan was to drive to old Rt 40 at the Old South Mountain Inn, hike into Rocky Run shelter, overnight, then hike back to the car, drive to the Rt 70 overpass parking and hike to Pogo Campground for a second night.  Plan B would be put into effect on Saturday after an unexpected challenge. 

LoGear works a night shift, so she usually doesn't arise until after Noon.  She had Fridays and Saturdays off.  We had everything ready to go and got on the road at around 1240 on Friday.  The drive was a little over an hour and after a quick stop for lunch at McDs, we were at the A.T. Parking lot next to the Inn and on the trail around 1400.  

The weather was damp.  Scattered showers had been coming through for a while and even though we didn't get rained on, everything was a little drippy.  We arrived at the shelter after the quick, easy 2.1 mile hike at 1455 and set up camp.

LoGear wanted to test her new sleeping pad along with her new quilts, so she set up in the empty shelter.  The plan was for Mama Bear to sleep with her.  We brought a couple of blankets for her.
LoGear's set up

I wanted to see how my new under quilt and top quilt worked in my new hammock, so I set up right outside the shelter where Mama Bear could see me.  She likes to know we are safe.  

EarthTone's hammock set up

It was still pretty early in the day, so we puttered around the shelter area, getting water and gathering wood.  The temps were in the low 40s, but felt comfortable with a puffy on.  

Darkness comes early in the winter so we ate dinner as darkness settled in the holler.  Even after a nice fire, we were contemplating heading to the quilts at around 1830 and we did just that.  

Here is my notes from Friday:
Moonsday, 30 Afteryule:Left home around 12:40ish. Parked at South Mountain Inn. Hiked about 2 miles to Rocky Run Shelter. Arrived at 14:55. Set up hammock, gathered wood, fed Ginger. Made a fire and dinner as it got dark early. Went to hammock around 1830. Lisa is in shelter with Ginger. It's about 40 degrees with rain off and on all day. Nothing while we were hiking and only a few minutes when we were up on the hill top checking out the camping area. There is a breeze, but the woods are calm and quiet. Ahh, winter in the woods. I can feel some cold on my back, but it isn't too bad. The setup probably needs adjusting. This is why we are out here. To test the new gear and learn how to use it.

 I went to my hammock and read for a while and then tried to get some sleep.  My sleeping was sporadic and not very fitful.  I don't think I had my under quilt set up exactly right and from time to time I would feel cold under me.  I also need to get used to the top quilt.  It isn't like a sleeping bag where you can zip yourself in and virtually eliminate most drafts, but acts more like a blanket.  It sure does feel warm though, but I will need to adjust to how it works.  I hung out in the hammock until I was ready to start the next day which was around 0530.  11 hours in the hammock.  Nice.

Mama Bear seemed to have a restless night.  She wasn't content to just sleep next to LoGear, but had to patrol the area and check on me every so often.  She seemed just as content sleeping in the shelter, under my tarp or in the middle of the blue blaze trail coming into camp.  In the morning we christened her Mamma Bear as she seemed to be protecting and watching over her "babies" all night.  

I got up in the darkness and just took it easy.  I knew it would be a while until LoGear rolled out as I could tell she was up a lot during the night checking on Mama Bear who was checking on me.  She also needs a couple of days to adjust to a different sleeping schedule, where she can get up along with the sun.  But the sun wasn't going to be seen all day.

I started the day with a couple cups of coffee with some Carnation Instant Breakfast stirred in.  Next we went down to the spring to fill up the bottles.  There was a super dense fog.  We were in the midst of the cloud so to speak.

Next I gathered some wood for a morning fire.  Everything was damp to wet, but my nice fire starters never let me down.  I ate breakfast and started breaking down my camp.  I know my tarp was going to be packed up wet because nothing was drying in this damp, drippy weather.  
Mama Bear enjoying the foggy morning

The woods woke up, but the quite remained.  It was super peaceful and I glorified in being outside and enjoying the day as it was given. Eventually LoGear had enough of laying in the shelter and came out for breakfast.

Here is my Saturday morning notes:

Treesday, 01 Solmath: Slept kind of cold. Up around 0530. Made coffee, got water, collected damp wood, ate bfast, etc. 38 degrees with fog and dripping trees. The metal shelter roof is like a drum beat for every drop. I need to figure out my under quilt. I'm not sure I have it set up right. We headed out of camp at 1048.
Just before we left, we met two hikers coming in.  We chatted a bit.  They had just come in from where we had parked for the night.  They went up on the ridge to set up as we headed back down the blue blaze to the trail.

We hiked back out in the foggy morning, passing about seven others coming in, stopping at the Dahlgren campground for a bit to use the porta potty.  This site is really nice in the warmer seasons, as it has showers and running water.  

We were quickly back at our truck.  Yesterday we had been the only vehicle in the lot, but there were already four or five vehicles parked there now.  I was a little surprised that so many other were coming out on this dreary day, but I guess there are a lot of others who are like me and don't let weather be a factor in whether or not they go out.  This would be an omen of things to come.

We headed to the next parking lot.  A pretty large lot on Rt 40 just before it passes over Rt 70.  I followed the GPS instead of going a somewhat longer, but straighter route which turned out to be a twisty, windy series of back roads that I feared would upset Mama Bear's stomach.  

She used to get car sick when she was young, but had pretty much outgrown it for the most part.  We were asking for trouble by risking it.

When we arrived at the parking lot, it was completely full.  Even the overflow area had a car in every slot.  This sucked pretty much.  We decided that we had learned a good deal from our one night out and would schedule more as we can.  It was time to end this adventure and head home.  

Mama Bear was acting thirsty and LoGear gave her a little bit of water.  Just as we pulled away to head to McDs again, she covered my middle console with some nice dog puke.  

After a clean up we were on our way.  This was not the first time she has done this, but last time I was able to catch most of it in her bowl.  Oh well, next time we will get out of the vehicle and let her drink, then let her stomach settle.  

We had packed basically our whole kit for this test that we will be bringing on our Hike along with some extra stuff for the dog and our packs weighed in at 28 and 29 pounds.  My pack felt good on my back and LoGear said she felt good too.  

Some Lessons Learned:
1.  Learn the proper way to set up that underquilt
2.  Adjust to using a quilt instead of a bag
3.  I will be bringing my crocks.  The DIY "sandals" I had made were OK for slipping them on for a quick walk to piss, but I just like having the crocks, so I will take on the extra 12 oz or so.  
4.  Mama Bear doesn't sleep well when we are separated in the night. 
5.  Don't give Mama Bear water inside the vehicle any more.

I look forward to our next gear test.  

EarthTone and LoGear (and Mama Bear)

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