Just came back from a quick overnight hang north of Hamilton Ontario with a group of hardcore winter-camping hammock forum members.
Ontario Winter Hang 2011 - Valen's Conservation Area - Feb 18-20
Well I have to start by saying I did somehow manage to squeeze two days of fun into one.
I couldn’t get off work Friday, so what should have been a two night hang, Friday and Saturday, was shortened to only one. The winds all day Friday were pretty strong, but in the middle of the night, sleeping in my comfy bed, the winds really picked up. The windows were shaking and things were flying around on my balcony and all I could think "Good God!!! There's a poor hammocker out there in this!!!" With visions of shredded tarp flapping over the frozen remains of a hammock entombed corpse, I rolled over and went back to sleep.
After a busy morning at home, I was motoring down the highway towards the hang and was a little dismayed by the low clouds, flurries and howling wind. I managed to pull into the Valen's conservation area at about 3:30 pm. I was the last to arrive but was still quite surprised to see a small cluster of tarps and hammocks strung out amongst the trees and half a dozen guys, all alive and well, standing around a roaring fire, chatting and laughing like old friends.
I quickly introduced myself and wandered off to set up my rig. With the prevailing wind out of the Northwest, I chose to set up a little way away from the group in the relative shelter of some pines. I slung my custom Hennessy and full-length 4-season DIY under quilt as low to the ground as possible and managed to stake out my DIY tarp and beaks with my D-rings in the dirt. I was "battened down" and ready for a repeat of the hurricane the area experienced the night before.
Once my rig was set, I wandered over to the fire and just had a great time meeting a solid bunch of like-minded nutters. It was good to see BrianWillan, of Bon Echo fame, again. I heard the "Legend of Deep Thought"; the story of a lonely hammocker forced to brave gale-force winds (100 kmh winds), with tarps straining and trees coming down all around. We walked over to check out stress points on his DIY Tyvek tarp and he showed me the small tree that had come down beside him in the wee hours of the morning, forcing a sensible relocation. It was clear that if he hadn't strung up a second tarp to windward to act as a windbreak, he would have lost the whole rig! But he was smiling as he said it, so all was good.
Soon the sun was drifting towards the tree line and preparation began for dinner. [o]TTer's DIY tripod and kettle graced the fire and it wasn't long before the grill was covered with kebabs, hotdogs and shrimp skewers. It was a feast, with everybody happily sharing what they had brought like some kind of family picnic.
Dusk turned to night and a bright moon, one day past full, lit the campground. We joked around for a few more hours and then decided to call it a night.
The afternoon winds had died down, so hopefully we'd get a peaceful sleep. Back at my rig I wriggled into my down sleeping bag, balled up my wool sweater as a pillow and drifted off to sleep. I woke a couple of times in the night with cool feet or face, but I just kicked my footpad back into place, flipped my sweater up over my head or snuggled into the mummy bag's generous down hood. A great night's sleep, and that was at -10C!!!
Waking around dawn, I was too cozy to move, but eventually I heard voices and forced myself to get up. I quickly packed up and ten minutes later, there was no sign I had ever been there.
The guys were all setting about packing up or making some hot drinks. The seed was planted for a spring/summer canoe hang in Algonquin and over an hour seven had turned to five, five to four, three and eventually only two of us were left. With home and family on my mind, I hopped in my car and waved goodbye to one last, very content looking hammocker by the fire, enjoying his last sips of tea and doing a last bit of packing.
A good time was had by all!!!
P.S., although I didn't take any photos, I'm counting on the shutterbugs in the group to post their best shots!!!
Sector Two is secure!!!