hiking and gear testing in FDR state park, Pine Mountain GA
Pine Mountain Trip Report for Saturday 3/3/12 - Sunday 3/4/12
Trail Hiked: Saturday: Trail Head to White Candle Trail to Old Sawmill Campsite ( RED ) 5 miles
Sunday: Wolf Den Loop from Old Sawmill Campsite to Trail Head (GREEN) 2.5 miles
Weather: Saturday Mostly Cloudy/ Light rain in the morning to cool windy conditions in the evening H 70º/ L 46º
Sunday: Clear and breezy H 67º / L 40º
Pack Weight: Fully loaded with food and water 25lbs
The White Candle trail started nice a smooth to Odie Overlook. After the overlook the trail becomes rocky and a bit uneven in spots. As you approach Rocky Point you can see the damage caused by the tornado that came through last year. It is quite a sight to behold as you can see the path the tornado took through the area. The trail has been cleared of most fallen trees. There are a few locations where the trees couldn't be completely cut and they have been notched appropriately for easy passage. There are a few uphills along the way, but nothing to strenuous. The trail at this point starts to become a bit more rocky. Once you reach the Hogback Mountain the trail dips back down to the stream which you follow around to the campsite.
The Old Sawmill Campsite is just uphill from the stream, which runs clear and cold through this part of the park and makes for a very suitable water source. The campsite is filled with old growth hardwood trees and very few pines. The campsite was very clean as the only trash I found as an errant cigarette butt that had been left by the fire ring. There are several main camping areas with nice fire rings constructed from the natural stone. I'm glad I wasn't in a tent at this sight though, as the sites follow the contour of the mountain and there is not a flat spot to be found. Most of the camping area is rocky as well.
The Wolf Den Loop from the campsite starts you back at the stream where you find the first of 5 crossings. Even after the rains with the stream a bit high, there are plenty of rocks to help with the crossings. Even though this section is shorter, the terrain is a bit more challenging. After following the creek and a few crossings, the path begins to ascend and fall several times. There are a few tight squeezes through some rocks and trees growing by the trail. Half way through down the trail you approach an actual wolf den and then back down to pass by three small, beautiful waterfalls. Through this section, you will find a few more stream crossings. After the recent rains the trail was a bit muddy in places making the natural rock steps in the trail a bit slick. From there it's back up and into the deadfall from the path of the tornado and still just as stirring as the damage on the White Candle Trail. From there the trail begins to smooth and widen out, which makes a nice easy stroll back to the trail head.
On this trip I took my newest gear designs out for a test. The Hammock i used on this trip was made of 1.5oz/yard ripstop nylon with side stretch cords on the foot end. The hammock is 64" wide and 10' in length, and hangs at 8' in length with ridge line set at 95" for adequate sag. Suspension for my hammock was provided by 2 six foot lengths of webbing with a toggle on each end. 6' whoopee slings attach at the hammock end and are set around the toggle to create great adjustability. I really enjoyed sleeping in this hammock and will base all future designs on this hammock.
The tarp I took is my recently completed " OXSHED" it measures in with a 13' ridge line and 10' overall width. The built in doors worked well to close up the tarp to prevent wind and rain from getting in. The two side pull outs work very well to keep the center of the tarp pulled away from the hammock. The tarp is quite spacious on the inside, with enough room to stand to change clothes or get some privacy. The next time I use this tarp in windy conditions I will make sure to pitch it lower to the ground to help prevent wind from blowing under and across the hammock bottom. Overall I am happy with the performance of the tarp out in the field.
To keep warm I took a Sierra Designs 20º down sleeping bag. The mummy design of the bag wasn't too tight and the hood worked very well to keep my head warm as the temperature started to drop. For insulation from the cold air on the bottom of the hammock I used a blue closed cell foam pad inside the sleeping bag. It worked well until I got a bit too warm and began to sweat a bit. The CCF pad is not breathable and as the wind kept blowing I did get a bit cool as the temperatures keep dropping in the early mooring hours. It was comfortable enough, but having to get it stuffed in the sleeping bag, and the condensation issue is enough to make me get serious about making an underquilt to go under the hammock to insulate from the cold air underneath. It should help with the weight that is carried, warmth, breathability, and comfort.
The pack I used on this trip was an external frame Jansport pack that I have had since I was about 15. It is still in good shape and has plenty of room for storage. It would seem that even though I adjusted the pack to fit the best I could, I was still unable to get the pack to fit properly. After the first 2 miles it was already becoming uncomfortable, as the pack is too narrow for me now. A new pack will be arriving at my house in the very near future.
For cooking purposes the alcohol stove and wind screen worked great for boiling water to rehydrate meals in a reflective pouch to get the most out of the hot water. I enjoyed the dehydrated meals I had prepared, chill lime shrimp and noodles for lunch and crustless turkey pot pie for dinner. Breakfast and Coffee the next morning was instant grits with pepper jack cheese and sausage for a little added flavor. The pre-made dehydrated meal in freezer bags, also have the benefit of no dishes to do when your done eating and very little trash to pack out.
I had recently purchased some new rain gear and this was the perfect weekend to test it. The Dri Ducks Ultralight rain suit worked great. It is very light as the name implies, kept me and my fleece pull over nice and dry, and was still breathable. I was a bit amazed that a $15 rain suit could perform this well. The durability may or may not be an issue in the long run, the stitching is of decent quality and the zipper only has one stitch line holding on. I wouldn't want to bushwhack in it as thorns or errant branches would likely tear the material but on groomed trail and around camp it was great.
Conclusions and Thoughts
This was a great hike that I shared with a good friend that is preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2013. Even though this was a relatively short hike with only moderate terrain it was a good place to start. This was the first of many more shakedown hikes to come this season. We learned a lot about the new gear we were testing and what it's limitations are and the best way to set up and tear down camp as efficiently as possible. Though I have been in the gym and have lost 35lbs in the past 3 months, my cardio is not quite where it needs to be. The long uphills took their toll on me more than I would have liked. My heart rate settled within 25-30 seconds of rest, but I will have to change up my cardio routine to include higher heart rate cardio sessions to help. I learned that I don't ever really want to use a CCF pad again if I don't have to. Also when packing out trash next time, I will make sure I double bag it so it doesn't leak down the back of my pack next time..