Well This trip didn't turn out exactly like I had planned. ((But it turned out great anyway!) I have been looking forward to 3 things: 1. My first winter camping and the weather report expected sleet and freezing rain. 2. My first time backpacking in with a hammock. 3. Meeting the cool people from hammock forums (and hoping to pick their brains on my setup and issues with my equipment.
I had planned another NC hang the weekend before but everyone cancelled so I didn't go. I have to admit I was very disappointed. This time It seemed I was going for sure.
I brought enough gear to survive a blizzard. I had my clark 150. Hangnout's daughter's diy UQ 2/3. A Hudson river top quilt. (this was my real set up.) And as backup I brought my old rei 55 degree mini bag and my 20 year old synthetic bag that got me toasty well below freezing in tents (and weighs 5 lbs ugh but I wanted back up in case the new stuff wasn't enough). I had lots of warm layers to hike and a change to sleep in. Stove, filter, food.
Clark tarp. Old tent footprint to lay gear on, and old 6 by 8 tarp for gear since I was expecting rain.
Got to the trailhead early and grabbed my at least 40 lb pack and waited for the other hammock people. No one came..... There was a car in the lot with a sticker so i said I can find them alone! Off I went.
Well the link on the forum was accurate. It described my hike well. It was 12:30 pm and the first 2hours were generally up hill some parts quite steep. Once you are over the top of ?sharpey? mountain it was down hill until you get to a smaller trail that led down to the river.
Note... before I went in I stopped at a gas station and the guy there told me "don't stray from the trail" and "if you get lost find the river and follow it down stream and you will get to the road" The trail lost its markings and there were 3 river crossings one of them quite difficult 6 feet above the river on a fallen tree. Then the trail stopped and there was a fire pit.... a cold fire pit..... and an empty fire pit. No hammockers. I had thought I saw a camo hammock but it was such good camo it turned out to be a rhodedendrum.
I was already tired, the sleet had not come yet but was expected at 3pm and it was probably about that time. I realized I chose the wrong trail and I needed to go back to find the other people. Thoughts of just staying here the night crossed my mind but I really wanted to meet the other people from NC who told me they would be here. I also didn't feel secure enought to use my equipment for the first time, alone, for the first time, in winter weather, for the first time. On the other side of a mountain with a poorly marked trail that might be impossible to follow if it snowed or froze badly.
So back over the mountain I went. Don't forget the river crossings first. About 4:30 or so I ran into someone!
Steve the hunter was walking down the trail towards me with a rifle. Great. I asked him if he saw any backpackers...no....I asked him If I could take his picture. He said "I'm not wanted". That was very reasuring of course.
30 minutes later i arrive at the trailhead and the car with the hammock sticker is pulling out..
I met Mac (super nice guy by the way with a way cool pack and lots of insultex to lend me) who said only he and his daughters and wisen were there friday and noone showed up on saturday so they were heading out for bbq would i like to come?
I wanted to be social but I HAD to hang in the storm! It had not started yet so I had time yet. I went down the easier trail and found a nice place to hang.
I got my rig up in the dark (it was about 6:30 when I was finished and just at that moment..the rain came. I was exhausted and climbed in for a good nights sleep waking up to ice on my tarp, the trees and never needing any of the back up gear I hauled up and down the mountain twice. I had to peel off most of my extra layers with the insultex and hangout's daughters uq and did ok with just my rei 55 degree bag (and the clark weather guard which made a difference when it was pulled down to my shoulders) until the temps got below freezing and I had to add the top quilt.
What a sense of peace to be dry and warm in your hammock when its freezing/raining.
By the way I have a pedomoter (ok ok you don't have to say it) that said I took over 22000 stepts and had 7 hours of physical activity that day!
So that was my first hang in the woods and my first backpacking in the winter... sadly alone but still awesome.