January 8/9, 2011 on the Sycamore Loop in Hoosier National Forest
This trip report is about a week overdue, but better late than never, right?
Last weekend I headed out to the Charles C Deam wilderness in the Hoosier National forest, and hiked the Sycamore Loop Trail. It was my coldest night outdoors yet. . . My thermometer ready 6.3 degrees when I got up on Sunday morning.
I had to work Saturday morning, and ended up getting to the trail head waaaay later than I wanted to. I don't much mind hiking in at dusk and setting up camp in the dark in the summer time, but I wanted to avoid it on this trip. No such luck.
Fortunately some new gear that I was using made setting up a breeze. I was using my girlfriend's Clark, and just before the trip I replaced the stock rope suspension with a set of straps and tri-glides from JRB. By far the easiest hammock set-up I've ever done. I had my hammock hung, sleeping pads and bags laid out and a fire going in my Little Bug wood burning stove (also a new piece of gear) in no time flat. I had some hot chocolate and dinner and some more hot chocolate and some more hot chocolate and crawled into the hammock at about 10:30. It was about 9 degrees according to my thermometer. I don't have an underquilt yet, so I was using 2 pads in the hammock. . . One green foam one and a Thermarest Z-Lite. On top of those, I was using 2 sleeping bags. . . One is a 20 degree Kelty and the other is a 35 degree Backsider. Just by lucky chance, the bags are sized just about perfectly for the Kelty to nest inside of the Backsider without compressing the down. They're both 3/4 zip bags and in warmer weather I can use them like top quilts, but I went ahead and zipped 'em up to make sure I wouldn't have any drafts. It was a bit awkward because one is a right hand zip and the other is left, but I managed it. I found that it was much easier to move around in the Clark to get myself situated and wiggle into the bags than it is in my HH Expedition, so despite the limitations of my gear, I didn't have any trouble getting the bags zipped up and staying centred on the pads. I also used the hot water bottle trick, and it was wonderful. I wish I had known about it on the couple of outings that I took last winter. I had to get up once at about 4 am to answer a call of nature, and I thought my teeth were gonna chatter outta my head, but aside from that I was pretty toasty all night. My feet started to get chilly not long before I got up, and that's pretty much why I got up when I did. I used my home made alcohol stove to heat water for coffee and oatmeal, and then got a fire going in the Little Bug to melt snow and boil water for more coffee and more coffee and hot chocolate and more coffee and lazed around camp for a while, and then finally got packed up and hit the trail around noon. I almost just hiked back out the way I'd come in and called it an early day, but in the end I decided to stick with my original goal and hike the whole loop. It's listed as being 6.3 miles total, but I'm not sure if that includes the section of the Axom Branch Loop that you have to follow for part of the trip, so it may be more like 7+ miles. I'm very glad that I did did the whole thing. It was truly a winter wonderland out there. There were tracks of hikers who had gone before me but aside from a couple of guys who passed by while I was still in camp, I didn't see any one else all day. I also didn't see any signs that anyone else had camped at any of the sites since the last snow fall.
I didn't have any trouble with feeling cold all day Sunday, but once I got back to the car and got on the road I really started freezing. I guess it was because I was sitting and relatively inactive after several hours of hiking. I almost never turn the heat on full blast in the car, and if I do, it's usually just for a couple of minutes, but it stayed on, and all the way up for the entire trip back to Indianapolis. Once I got home, a good hot shower finished driving the chill out of me.
Alright, I've babbled enough. Here are some pics. . .
On the hike in:
Me. . . Chilly and worried about the failing light, but still happy:
Getting the Little Bug fired up. In the background you can see my pack and some gear that I laid out on the pack cover to keep it out of the snow. . .
After getting up I tried to get a shot that showed the frost all over everything. I mostly just showed the mess of stuff I'd just dumped out on the sleeping bag tho:
A bit chilly:
A nifty panoramic shot of my camp site. The creek is on the right, behind the hammock, and the trail is on the left:
The little bug serving as a pot stand/wind block/reflector for my alcohol stove:
When I went down to the creek to get some water, I found some really cool ice crystals all over the place:
The piny woods:
The icy rocks:
Lunch time by ye olde frog pond. . . Cheese and summer sausage that I kept in my pocket to keep it from freezing solid:
Me and one of my favourite old trees:
And finally a couple of shots of the reservoir as I drove over the causeway on the drive out:
Hope you all enjoy the report and the pics!