Monday, September 22, 2008

Recent Camping Trip

Welcome to entry number 2, as our THREE BLOG NIGHT continues! A couple of weeks ago, Michelle finished up the rain fly for her hammock. I may or may not have mentioned that she purchased a camping hammock kit from Speer Hammocks and had been working on it as time allowed for a few weeks. Well, when she finally finished it, she was naturally exuberant and eager to try the whole rig out! I was excited for her, as I always am when she pulls something like this off; The from scratch construction of a camping hammock, or any of the amazing garments she has put together with her self-taught sewing skills. (More on this in the next blog) So, we started tentatively planning our quick camping trip to Lake Vesuvius. Michelle in her new self-built Speer hammock, and me in my $25 Wenzel 2-person tent. As the date approached, we began to realize something. This would be a true test of Michelle's hammock, and of my tent. The forecast grew increasingly bleak. Before long, the day we had planned to camp was showing 70% chance of storms and the days on either side were nearly as wet. We were, however, determined. The day came, and we were both excited about our trip. I visited my pharmacies in the Huntington area so that at the end of the day I ended up close to Dick's sporting goods. I met Michelle there and we looked around for anything we might need. Finally we decided we needed a lantern and picked up an inexpensive little Coleman two-wick propane job, and that's it. We decided to eat what we could find at home, and already had a dehydrated chili-macaroni meal from Mountain House. Their food is always pretty tasty! So far, the skies were clear and all looked well. We thought we might dodge the weather bullet. That was not to be, but we were fortunate that the weather held off until some time later. Attempting to get to the camp site and set up before nightfall, we hurried home, and quickly packed a bag of food, and our camping gear using our frame packs to carry everything. I think we managed to throw everything together and get out to the site with about 30-45 minutes before darkness descended. Now here we are. I pitched my tent fairly quickly, using a blue tarp for a ground cloth as well as another one for a rain fly. My Wenzel is somewhat resistant to light moisture, but I wasn't taking any chances due to the forecast. Michelle's set up took a little longer than mine, being that it was the first time either of us had set up a hammock. At this point, I wish I had taken some pictures to show you, lest you have an image in your mind of a standard, backyard hammock. You know, a mesh thing with wooden spreaders at either end and the like. This hammock is a sophisticated piece of gear. Rip-stop nylon bottom, high quality mosquito net upper, and a silicon impregnated nylon fly, all weighing in the neighborhood of 2.5 pounds and packing to roughly the size of a football. Did I mention I payed $25 for my Wenzel 2-person tent? Yeah, we're getting to that. So, Michelle finished pitching, and I got to work on dinner. We didn't bother with a fire, choosing instead to just use a stove to heat the water for our chili-mac. I used a marvelous little folding camp stove and Esbit tablets. See it here. I think I'm going to take this stove on the AT next spring, after its admirable performance. Super light and easy to use, this baby was perfect for a quick boil, and left no ash, or anything. Just a little sticky residue on my cookpot. Having finished her setup, Michelle joined me and we had a nice dinner! Chili-mac, water and apples. The rest of the evening was taken up with conversation and relaxation. We had a nice time just hanging out in the quiet and the darkness, with only the glow of our newly acquired Coleman lantern. Eventually though, the clouds did roll in, and it began to look a little like it might rain. We went to my tent and chatted a little more, and finally we decided it was time to turn in. I helped Michelle get to her hammock with the lantern, and when she was cozily dangling between a pair of sturdy maples, I retired to my tent and turned off the lamp. Then the rain started. The night was what I technically refer to as, "A Dumper". It rained steady and hard most of the night. No wind or anything. Just straight down. Fortunately I was able to stay mostly under my tarp rain fly. I stayed reasonably dry most of the night. Eventually though, a $25 Wenzel will give up and just soak you. So as the night wore on, I did sleep, and fairly well, but I slept with my toes in the water. I was pitched with the foot of the tent slightly downhill, which I think saved me from getting really, really soggy all over. I hoped that Michelle was faring better, and managed a decent night of sleep, so, I passed the test, whether my $25 Wenzel did or not. The next morning I lay there, watching small rivulets of water stream past me on either side of my foam pad, and squishing my toes in the water at the foot of the tent, when I hear from a few feet away, "Are you awake?" "Yup!" I said. "How'd you do?" "Good! I stayed dry and cozy! You?" "Me? Uh....yeah, same here! *squish, squish, squish* Doin' Great!" Anyway, in short, Michelle's hammock was a fantastic success! She has made an excellent piece of camping gear and it was well worth the effort involved in my opinion. She will have to work on some of the peculiarities of hammock camping, but they are things that can be overcome with some practice. I am tent shopping. :) -Jon

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