My 19-year-old daughter (interim trail name Banelet) asked me what I wanted for Father's Day, and I said I wanted her to go backpacking and hammock camping with me in the Pine Barrens. She's never backpacked and never slept in a hammock.
We started our day in Atlantic City at the Borgata casino buffet; we met her grandfather for a Father's Day meal. We didn't just wreck the buffet; we humiliated it. I ate enough to feed a third-world nation for a month. I tried my hands at craps and a little blackjack, but didn't have much luck. I stopped after a $50 donation to Borgata.
We left AC and arrived at Batsto Village around 3:30 pm. HF member SilentOrpheus (Banelet calls him SilentOrifice) was already there waiting on us. We got our permits, changed clothes, and hit the trail by 4:15 pm. We took the closed section of the Mullica River trail (bridge out) - the water was pretty high, so we had to take off our shoes and wade across. The water felt nice and cool on our tootsies.
Banelet is coming off an MCL tear a couple months ago (as am I, coincidentally), so I was concerned about her ability to hike 7.5 miles with a backpack. No worries whatsoever - she had no problems keeping up with me and SilentOrpheus, no matter what the pace. She was absolutely loving her first backbacking trip, and she was digging the Pine Barrens.
We hiked up the Mullica River trail, and took a break at Mullica River campsite. There was nobody there. We took a rest and filled up on water from the pump. New twist: they've put fire rings and grills at every campsite. They also cut down trees to make the campsites more tent-friendly - what a travesty for hammock campers.
We took the crossover to Quaker Bridge, and then hiked on to Lower Forge. The thunderstorms threatened, but we hiked between the raindrops. There was only a couple of brief showers but they felt good; nothing to cause us to break out the rain gear.
Lower Forge was also totally unoccupied - seems like Sunday is not a hiking/camping day for most in the Pine Barrens. Lower Forge campsites were also equipped with brand-new fire ring/grills.
Since Banelet had never hung in a hammock, I was kind of dreading instructing her on the nuances of hanging a tarp and hammock, whoopie slings, Dutch Flyz, Dutch Hooks, and Dutch Whoopie hooks. I showed her how to work a whoopie sling, and then did a second demonstration. My daughter cut me off and said, "You forget who you're talking to. I'm very good with my hands - you don't need to tell me twice."
And it's true. My two sons have been on several hammock camping trips and they're thick - they can't remember how a whoopie or a Tarp Flyz works. I end up having to set them up myself. Or I get SilentOrpheus to set up their hammocks and tarps. He's a better parent than me.
When I have home improvement projects around the house, I don't get my two sons to help me. I wouldn't even trust them with a power tool. I get Banelet to help me - you show her something once and it's a life skill for her. She is great with her hands.
We had some dinner - Banelet was not too keen on my Indian Curry dehydrated meal. SilentOrpheus and I started in on our post-meal giggles, singing and whistling songs and having a fine time. Everything was hunky dory until a massive spider arrived about two inches from my foot. Banelet described it as "bigger than a field mouse." It was definitely huge. Silent Orpheus insists (after Googling) that it was a wolf spider.
After the huge spider moved on, I started pointing out all the other spiders around (like the one crawling across my leg). Banelet got totally freaked out and went straight to the hammock and bugnet - she wanted nothing to do with the spiders. She loved the hammock, the HG 20* Phoenix, and the HG 20* UQ. She did not use the TQ until she woke up cold, then grabbed it and enveloped herself in downy goodness. I used my HG 0* Incubator UQ, with a fleece blanket as a top quilt. I was very comfy. Lows were around 59 degrees.
In the morning we had our coffee and oatmeal, and I took a swim in the Batsto River. We hit the trail kinda late (SilentOrpheus was looking kinda pissed at me 'cause I was slow packing up). I think I must have told him I would wake up early or something - what was I thinking? We hit the trail around 10:30 or 11, and SilentOrpheus was obviously on a mission. Usually he is dragging behind me, but he was blazing the trail, waiting impatiently for me and Banelet to catch up.
We discussed whether to take the Mullica River trail detour or fjord the Mullica River again. Banelet voted for fjording the river - she was definitely hot by then. We took off our shoes and really enjoyed the cold river water. Once we arrived at Batsto Village we got cold Dr. Peppers out of the machine.
SilentOrpheus says, according to his GPS tracker, we did the 7.98 miles in 2 hours 42 minutes, or 2.9 miles per hour. As Silent Orpheus said, "Not bad for an old cripple (me), a young cripple (Banelet), and a middle-aged cripple (SilentOrpheus)."
Banelet had a great time. She loves backpacking; she loves hammocks. She can't wait to hit the trail again. I got myself a hiking buddy! That's a great Father's Day gift.