I have just returned from a great camping/backpacking trip with the Troop to the Providence Canyon State Park in SW GA – in between Lumpkin and Eufala, AL. We arrived about 2000 local time Friday night and setup camp – the boys largely used their Eureka Timberline tents, while I and the SPL set up our Hennessy Hammocks. It rained intermittently as we set up, and stayed cloudy with spitting rain throughout the night. Temps the first night dipped into the 40’s, and the 4-season shelter worked well with the Explorer Zip and the modified US Army mummy bag that I use for a TQ. I use the Hennessy Monsoon tarp. The SPL used a CCF Wal-Mart pad and a Coleman 20* sleeping bag with the stock tarp for his Hennessy Expedition bottom entry. We spent a nice night, got up early and packed up, and headed out through the canyons. After touring the canyons, we hit the backcountry trail to make our second night’s camp. Weather was forecast to get windy and cold, and it certainly did that! High temps during the day’s hike never topped 50 according to my personal thermometer, and by 1500 were dropping. We had lunch on the trail and after a short 3.7 mile hike and a nice climb up to the top of a ridge, slightly down the back of it and up to top another, we found our camp. We passed up the first campsite atop the first ridge because although it was nicely situated, it was small and dominated by a shelter. While the shelter was someone’s Eagle project, the boys pooh-poohed the idea of setting up underneath a shelter, preferring instead to camp like “real Scouts,” a decision they might have regretted later that night. The second campsite was absolutely fantastic. Large space for setup, plenty of trees to hang from, a cairn of stones set up high to make a fire ring that was protected from the wind – all in all, a near-perfect site. Of course, it was on top of a ridge, so the wind ripped over and through the site without mercy. The boys sited their A-frame tents facing into the prevailing winds so that the vestibules could be closed against the wind and the tents would stay stable. After some though, I angled my hammock and tarp so that I was neither cross-wise to the wind nor long-wise into it, thinking that making my tarp a funnel for the wind was not the best idea. I hung the tarp nearly to the ground with the hammock right up against the tarp ridgeline. The SPL hung his hammock in a similar orientation, climbed in for a minute, then decided that he was sleeping in a tent that night since the wind cut right through everything and his stock tarp offered no protection. By that point the wind was getting icy. We cooked our dinners, (mine was Gorge Rat Hash, thanks, HawkEye!) gathered round the fire for a short bit, hung bear bags well down the trail from camp, and went to bed early. I managed to avoid CBS (a Thermarest Z-Lite pad helped) but my feet were ice-cold all night despite staying in the footbox and two pair of wool socks.
I lost my thermometer somewhere along the trail, so I don’t know how cold it got that night, but I know that all the water bottles froze almost solid, though the hydration bladder stuffed into my pack only got slushy. Breaking ice out of a Camelback bottle to melt for coffee in the morning was an interesting experience; the view from atop the ridge as the sun came up and the mist hung in the valley made up for it a thousandfold.
1) Scouts will over pack. A caveat to this; they will over pack food, snacks, and useless things. They will fail to pack warm clothes, gloves, extra socks. One scout brought 8 liter bottles of Smart Water!
2) Boots that you hiked in all day will not dry out overnight. When the temperature drops below freezing, this moisture will be VERY cold.
3) Let Gorge Rat Hash sit in the cozy for a full 15-20 minutes, NO MATTER HOW HUNGRY YOU ARE. The taste is the same, but crunchy beans and chewy meat may not be to everyone’s liking.
4) If you want to capture a boy’s excitement for the outdoors, backpacking, and hiking – a short, overnighter to a beautiful location is the best way to do it. The hike was not too long, the hill was challenging but not too high, and every single Scout was asking before we got back to Florida when we were doing a trip like this again! Not to mention, three of them wanted to know where the SPL and I got our hammocks from!!
I only wish my UQ and TQ from HammockGear had arrived in time for this trip – perhaps my toes might not have been so cold! It would have been the perfect outing for their first run! Ah well, when they do arrive, it will be sweet indeed whatever the temperature.
Hope you enjoyed the trip report; any suggestions on how to improve these will be welcome!
Ted – the OldScout.