The un-Trip Report
NorCal hike and hang Feather Falls, California. March 31st, 2012
Me, Graffix, Meld: The Soggy Bottom Gang
I packed up my stuff Saturday morning and drove 120 miles to the Feather Falls trailhead. The last 12 miles, while my windshield wipers were on full throttle, I kept chanting "please let no one else be there yet, or let them be waiting in their cars, so we can re-evaluate this trip. please let no one else be there yet ..."
Feather Falls National Scenic Trail is entirely composed of red clay. Just think about that for a while and then add in a week of rain.
My wish was granted: Meld was at the trailhead, hanging out in his truck.
Before I could consult with him, however, I had to get my rain gear on (total downpour, rain bouncing off the pavement) so I squirmed over into the passenger seat of the Prius and got my gaiters, my chaps, my rain skirt and my baseball cap on. Then I ran around to the hatch, opened it, hopped inside and peeled my Packa off of my pack, donning that with minimal rain getting in the car.
All warmed up and unburdened by my pack, I went over to chat with Meld. We decided to wait for gRaFFiX to arrive.
gRaFFiX drove up just a few minutes later (Meld had spent the night at the trailhead campground but was packed up again and ready to hike.)
We decided to have a non-hike hang and stay at the campground. The first site to the right was OK for three hammocks. Meld had stayed there Friday night.
We set up.
I took the longest since I had not rearranged my ridgeline figure 9s after the last trip and had to scoot them down the line for the large trees and wide spacing. And because I'm a fumble fingered idiot sometimes.
I got my hammock up also, but suspected it was really too far between these trees. I didn't test it since I was still dressed in my dripping wet rain gear.
I decided that cowering under the picnic table while it hailed was not getting my tarp set up any faster. It was smaller than pea-sized so no pain and no worries.
gRaFFiX got as far as his tarp and realized that his hiking boots (he was in Vibram 5 fingers, I think) were by the recliner.
His feet were cold and getting colder.
We briefly considered trying a tarp-o-rama and overlapping the tarps. gRaFFiX's feet kept getting colder and I was not sanguine about my ability to un-set-up my stuff and then re-set-up without getting Things that Must Remain Dry wet.
And a hang without conversation is a mighty boring hang.
gRaFFiX started shivering and he and I decided to bail.
Meld, as far as I know, is still comfortably ensconced in his setup at the trailhead, reading a book on his I-whatcamacallit, and probably thinking about a hike when it stops raining so much.
So I undid the rain-clothes-dance and drove home. Imaging my irritation when there was blue sky visible once I got out of the hills. Hrmph!
Despite no actual backpacking, I did learn things from this trip. This was my first time attempting to set up in heavy rain.
What I noticed/learned/discovered:
From the feet up: my new Goretex Inov8 shoes (low boots) and my nifty home made gaiters kept my feet and shins comfortably dry.
My billowing purple rain chaps, despite being too long and wide and making me look like some kind of tacky Disney pirate, kept my lightweight Ibex tights dry and my legs cozy.
My silnylon rainskirt was probably unnecessary since there was no pack under my Packa but it caused no problems, either.
My Packa did a great job keeping me dry except when I did dumb things.
I wore a lightweight Ibex longsleeved shirt under the Packa. I spent all the time at the trailhead moving around so I never cooled off too much and that shirt was just enough.
Once I was in the car, I realized that the sleeves of my shirt were damp from the elbows to the wrists. Probably because of all the time I spend fussing with my tarp, wrists pointed to the sky like little funnels.
I had some DIY waterproof breathable overmitts with me. They kept my hands dry, but the fabric is slippery and too difficult to work in. So they came off. As long as I was moving around my bare soggy hands stayed warm enough.
The brim on the Packa is minimal, so I wore a long-brimmed ball cap under it. Kept most of the rain off my glasses, but my glasses eventually fogged up.
From the top down: I had packed my tarp on the very top of my pack (Molly Mac Pack) and used Fastex buckle (instead of ladder loc) straps so I could quickly unsnap it and start setting up. Now, mind you, my pack was in the car so that may not really count.
I brought my large JRB 10x11 tarp. Boy, was I glad I had. I had also put two gripclip tieouts on each side. Very helpful.
I always think "Oh, this time I'll put my tarp up higher (6 feet or more) so I don't have to shamble around all bent over." Then I go and stick the edges near the ground anyway, inducing shambling.
8 stakes (6 hooks and 2 groundhogs) were just right.
The trees I chose were very large and rather farther apart then I usually use. The combo probably was too much for my tree straps, but since I didn't sleep in the hammock, I don't really care. But I do need to remember to account for tree-girth as well as spacing.
I had grabbed 1/2 of an old piece of heavy plastic (Visqueen) that our scout troop (in 1976: yeah, that old) had used under our Eureka tents. That was a lifesaver! As soon as the tarp was up, down went that piece of plastic, with my stuff piled on it. I did drip on it a little bit, but it kept my stuff off the soggy ground.
my gear list for this trip (on geargrams.com)
For Next Time:
I need to double check my tarp setup so I know the figure 9s are set up properly and in the right place relative to the ends of the line and to the ends of the tarp.
I need to work out some way of keeping my forearms dry. I'm considering some bicycling arm warmers and a short sleeved shirt. At least that way when the warmers get wet I can take them off.
I need to figure out how to keep my soggy tree straps separate from my dry hammock WITHOUT leaving the straps behind.
Yes, children, my tree straps are 120 miles away. Along with my dutchclips.
Tttttttttttthhhhhhhhhhhhhhat's all, Folks!
Nice report. Im playing around with a make shift Rainkilt myself...with a silnylon jacket and paclite gloves...the wet shins and feet an aquired taste Im learning....needs a solution. Thought about cyclist covers....
About your stakes....are you using the "grondhogs" on the wind side of your tarp?
Im curious about the arm warmers too. Weight etc. They seem like they could help with 3 season or summer months.
A fine and good read as I sit here dry......and craving sog!
Lessons learned and knowledge earned.
Originally Posted by Shug
That's quite a report, Liz (and Graffix). I watched the storm out my window (about 50 miles away, in the flatlands) and tried to guess whether being up in the hills would amplify the storm or provide shelter. Now I know; amplify!
It's clear and sunny at the moment but I bet that path will be a slippery mess for a couple more days.
Sorry I missed you all but I guess I'm just a 'fair-weather hanger'. Clear and cold, or warm and wet, but no cold and wet.
Hopefully Meld grabbed your tree straps for you, but mabey he washed away in a flash flood. I hope not! I have to agree with Cardo, I live in California for a reason.
Meld came through! Now we just have to figure out how to transfer them.
Originally Posted by gRaFFiX
Sometimes groundhogs will stick better than hook stakes. I'm thinking of taking 1/2 'hogs and 1/2 hooks next time. One gram diff.
Originally Posted by 2TallWv
Hooks stakes I can just sling the guy line around, 'hogs require a little more effort.
When you guys left I sat in the jeep and warmed up a bit then headed for the hammock. In spite of setting up in the rain all the stuff that I had hung on the ridge line was dry. My zPacks cuben tarp with doors worked perfectly. Kept me nice and dry. It rained that whole afternoon and didn't let up till about 6am the next morning. It got down to 39 degrees saturday night and the te-wa freeze with 2 oz of overfill kept me nice and toasty. That was about 16 hrs in the hammock and comfortable for all of it. I had a book on my iPhone so I read and listened to music. The sun was out on sunday morning so I packed up and decided to hike to the falls. A meetup group started arriving so I asked if I could join them and they said yes so I had company for the hike. The trail wasn't red clay and gooey but was well drained and very well maintained. The falls were running pretty good with all the rainfall so it was a very pleasant hike and the meet up folks were very nice and friendly. Here is a pic of my tarp and the falls. The falls are the 6 highest in California at 410 ft.
Sorry I wasn't prepared correctly to stay all day. Good to know that I ultimately made the right decision to bail though. I'm glad that it all worked out for you though, and I'm jealous that you got to day hike on Sunday.