The 2013 Mt Rogers Hangout planning forum:
Well, it’s that time again, the SEVENTH annual Mt Rogers Winter hangout to be held at the Grayson Highlands State park group campground on January 18 – 20. 2013. The oldest Cold Weather campout for Hammocks!
SO: LET THE PLANNING BEGIN!!! WOO HOO!!!!!
Now we can get to the important stuff like FOOD & Raffle stuff. There is also the option of day hikes & what to do if you get there early, like on Thursday the 17th.
Last year (2011) to do any serious hiking required snowshoes, so that is something to consider. HOWEVER, 2011 was the first time snowshoes were seriously needed due to the depth of the snow, especially when it was in drifts.
AND, this year (2012), “warm” weather & a pretty constant rain.
Before we get too far in, let me remind all that this is NOT a hammocker only event! Tents are welcome, as are any other “Groundlings”. In fact, I can safely say, if someone wants to build (& sleep in?) an Igloo; that would be GREAT & enthusiastically viewed by all attendees. (This is a subtle hint by me. Well, as close to subtle as I get.) So far we have had several tents at the MRHO over the past 6 years & they were welcomed heartily. OK, so we pointed & laughed at them a few times, doesn’t mean they weren’t welcome.
Food: On Saturday (starting at around Noon or just after) is the “Pot luck dinner” where everyone brings that special food item to share around the campfire. 2012 there was Darby’s wonderful Chili, & Jim’s “Jimbalaya” Plus more food then I can remember over a year later. All I know is; I ate a LOT! The rest of the time your food is up to you.
Many of us go to the Log House restaurant a few miles from the park on Sunday for Breakfast/Lunch. More info to follow.
Raffle prizes: Every year just after the Potluck dinner, there is a gear Raffle for the attendees. Donations are accepted, preferably something new(ish) & nice. Hammock related items are usually the focus, & cold weather camping gear is always appreciated. Many use newly won quilts, or clothing that night!! DIY stuff is also encouraged; in 2010 I got a great set of Whoopie slings from Headchange4U that he made (Thanks Jason!). Tickets for the Raffle are $10.00 each & the proceeds go toward: rental of the Group campsite & shelter, rental of a “Porta Privy” from Jobsite Johnny with the leftover funds going to (donated) support Hammock Forums, White Blaze & the ATC. So dig deep for the chance to win big & support a great group of organizations.
Camping: We are at the group campground and amphitheater. During NORMAL times of the year, that would mean we have to stay IN the Group area ONLY! But as we are the only ones here during the winter (“Crazy enough to camp in this weather”) we can pretty much spread out as much as we want to. We have been asked to please stay (camping wise) E of the amphitheater & S of the Road / parking lot. There are AMPLE trees in the area & minimal ground cover to worry about. There is parking for (by my estimation) about 30 cars at the Group Campground, & so far we have never filled those spaces.
ALCOHOL consumption: is not allowed in the park. Sorry! And, the Rangers are INVITED to the potluck. 2 attended in 2011, so drink at your own risk.
Day hikes: OH MY! There are so many trails in the area. Later I (or someone else) can post a map of the area. A few words of advice if you go on a hike: It is WINTER, and we are in the mountains. That means the weather can change VERY VERY QUICKLY!!! So, take a friend or 3, warm clothing & at least a lunch. An INSULATED water bottle is also important, &/or keep one inside your coat. Cell phone coverage in & around Grayson highlands is spotty at best, so DO NOT COUNT ON YOUR CELL PHONE IN AN EMERGENCY!!
After Event: On Sunday, many go to the Log House Restaurant about a 30 minute drive from the park for Breakfast / Brunch. Go Left out of the Park entrance. This year I plan on calling them on Monday before to warn that we are coming, so if we could get a rough count by then, that would be great!
General information on the hangout: It will be cold, it may be VERY cold!! It will be windy, it may be VERY windy! It may snow, & it may snow A LOT!!! It may also rain, yes even at below freezing temps!! In those conditions, the rain freezes as soon as it touches almost anything, even you. And, as mentioned above, it RAINED a lot in 2012, so no matter what the weather people say, bring rain gear!
If you have ANY questions about cold weather camping, feel free to ask them now or at the hangout. If you have ever wanted to try winter camping but, like me were afraid to try, this is the time to do it: we are in a relatively safe area, with quite a few very experienced Cold Weather hangers so help & advice is readily at hand. I will likely repeat this several times before the actual event, but please remember: IF YOU NEED HELP, ASK SOMEONE!! IF YOU GET TOO COLD AT NIGHT, WAKE SOMEONE UP FOR HELP!! Do NOT “tough it out” Hypothermia is a bad thing!! Also, the cars are close so can be a good place to warm up if you need it, if you rode with someone, be sure to know where they are camped & go ask for the car keys. IF I get to go, I will be camped quite a ways down the hill almost directly in line with the end of the road*, approximately due South & about 100 yards. I will NOT mind if you wake me up because you are cold!!! *At end of road, turn 90 deg Right, follow the creek bed along the left bank, large gray tarp, oriented N/S.
Regarding car keys, bring a spare set or 2 & put them somewhere on you &/or your car just in case you get locked out with the keys inside your car.
If you are unsure that your insulation is set up properly, ask one of the “Old timers” for a pointer or two. This saved my trip during the first MRHO (Thanks Pan!) & can save yours!! Good insulation, installed / used poorly can mean a cold night.
Chemical hot packs can make a BIG difference!
You may have heard this phrase used a lot regarding real estate: “Location, Location, Location!” in Winter / Cold Weather camping it is CRITICAL. As mentioned above, “In some locations it got down to –2 degrees.” In other areas, within as little as 50’, it was up to 5 degrees warmer (Even allowing for differences in thermometers, pretty remarkable). Also, orientation of your tarp ACROSS the prevailing wind direction means a warmer night. Generally wind direction is from the West, but there are times when it will seem to be coming from all points of the compass at the same time. Not kidding! As mentioned above, it can get quite windy so be prepared to stake your tarp as much as you can, now is not the time to skimp on ANYTHING!!
As the hangout is at the group camping area, we are close to the park road, which means you can bring extra anything (Food, insulation, etc.) to make life a bit easier. In fact, in 2011 there were 2 Coleman multi burner stoves, which made it nice for fixing some of the larger food items like chili & Jimbalaya. I suspect that some will bring firewood, if you do, please be sure it is not from a quarantined area (Emerald Ash Borer, Balsam Woolly Algid, etc). If you don’t know, find out before you bring possibly contaminated wood to the area. Thank you! For example, I would not be bringing firewood as my area is infested with the Emerald Ash Borer. Another note about fire: No matter how much you paid for which ever piece of gear, if you set it too close to the fire it will melt or burn if it’s made of the correct stuff. With the fire we had in 2011, stuff (like water bottles & shoes) sitting on the wall, 2’ to 3’ from frank fire, melted. Yea, it was a big fire.
Another “It bears saying more than once!” Now is not the time to skimp on ANYTHING!!
Thursday: I plan on hiking to the Wise Shelter for the night.
Friday: IF I go to the Wise shelter Thursday & am feeling “Frisky” I may attempt a hike to the Scales & back. This is one of my favorite hikes in the area.
Now for the “Bad stuff!”
Remember a few things about food at a winter campout. It will freeze! Cooking times are MUCH longer! It will freeze once you cook it! Water is harder to come by, & it will freeze once you have it! High fat food means fuel for the furnace, this campout is NOT the time to be on a low fat diet. That being said, even Olive oil will freeze when the warmest the weekend gets is 20f. No, keeping it in your car will not keep anything from freezing, sorry. In 2011 it got to negative 2 in some areas, this means whatever freezes will freeze VERY solid.
EVERYTHING is harder to do in the cold. It is harder to move due to the amount of clothing worn AND due to the cold. Doing fine motor skills is hard with gloves on, & even harder without in sub freezing weather. Going to the toilet, even in a nice enclosed port-a-privy is, at best, an adventure. Along those lines: hand sanitizer will freeze, & baby wipes become useless in short order. I overcame that in 2011 by keeping both in an inside pocket. But at 17 degrees F or colder, you better use them as soon as you get them out or,,, well: BURR! Snow is pretty, but very hard to walk on / through without snowshoes. Even the stuff that is compressed on the trails to & from various “events” at the campground it will take more energy than walking those same area during warmer weather. A ¼ mile walk to the privy can feel like a ½ mile hike or more if the snow is really deep & the park service couldn’t plow the road.
WATER FREEZES AT 32 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT (Or 0 C) At below 0 F, it freezes VERY quickly! So do try to keep your water warm & insulated. A pocket or pouch INSIDE your coat to hold your water bottle can be a good idea. And outside pocket will not keep your water bottle from freezing.
So, anyway, a great time is always had; good food, good company, “bad” weather, you know, “Fun!”
Cold weather tips N hints:
Stay slightly cool to stay warm. If you get too warm you will sweat, if you sweat you are getting wet, if you get wet you will get cold. I have been known to get overheated at just about every cold weather hang out so have stripped to just tee shirt & pants (or kilt) just to cool off & not get wet.
Eat high calorie / high fat foods. Eat more than you would in temperate weather doing the same activities. Bear in mind that even just standing around the campfire talking you are burning a LOT of calories just to stay warm, regardless of your insulation.
A high calorie snack just before bed can help you stay warm at night. And a snack during the night (Perhaps after a trip to answer the “call of nature”) can help you stay warmer longer.
A few chemical heat packs kept handy can warm you up if you get too cold. HINT: Do not use BEFORE you get cold, they may get you too hot, thereby causing you to sweat & (as above) get colder. Also you can put a hot water bottle in your hammock with you, for more info on this go to http://www.hammockforums.net/forum/s...ead.php?t=6313
During the hangout, drink a lot of water! Dehydration can lead to an increased risk of hypothermia. Drinking warmed water (Coffee, Hot chocolate, hot Gatorade, etc.) can reduce the cooling effect of drinking cold water. And, much of the water available at the hangout is very near freezing temp. Personal note: As a rule, I do not get cold, ever, but at the 2011 hangout I did, after doing an AAR when I got home, I figured out that I simply had not drank enough. At least that is all I could figure out I did wrong.
Alcohol use will dilate your peripheral blood vessels (the ones in your skin) making you FEEL warmer, HOWEVER, this will cause you to cool off much faster, with the side effect of reduced sensation due to alcohol use that will not let you notice you are in trouble.
IF someone looks disoriented (much like over indulgence of alcohol) they may be in the mid to late stages of Hypothermia & need help NOW! They need to be warmed up quickly & without delay!
IF someone comes to you & says “I think you are getting hypothermia! Let me help you!” listen to them. If it is true & you are hypothermic, you will NOT know it!
IF you see someone that may be in hypothermia, get him or her to someplace warm. They may fight you, so be gentle yet firm. Once they warm up they will thank you!!
If Anyone starts taking off clothing AND are incoherent, they are in DEEP trouble & it is now time for the group to get them to a warm place.
If he is coherent & taking off clothing, leave Doctari alone. Because once again he stupidly got overheated & is close to HYPER-thermia. Yes, even if it’s well below freezing. Happens every year, so why should this one be any different?
IF you feel you are in trouble, regardless of the time of day, GET HELP! If you are shivering & can’t stop, regardless of the time of day, GET HELP! If you suddenly stop shivering, regardless of the time of day, GET HELP!
If someone wakes you up for Help, regardless of the time of day, GIVE / GET them help!!
At the average temperatures we have had over the years at Mt Rogers, Hypothermia can progress very rapidly. If you think someone is approaching hypothermia NOW is the time to act. In 2011 the temps at least got close to ZERO, that is not the time or temperature to wait to see if they get better on their own.
In 2012 it Rained, a LOT, prime hypothermia weather.
THIS BEARS REPEATING: IF SOMEONE OFFERS YOU HELP, ACCEPT IT!! IF SOMEONE NEEDS HELP, GIVE IT!!
If you have extra insulation for your sleep system, bring it with you. You don’t have to use it, but have it ready to deploy.
Contrary to what you may think, ventilation is CRITICAL to keeping warm. So do not fully seal your tarp or tent. If you have a hammock sock or similar (like a BBO or a full coverage 1X), leave it open for ventilation! Even fabric that is breathable (Like bug netting) can get sealed by your breath freezing on it, causing you to get “snowed on” & chilled Or even cut off the air flow.
Also, keeping your Top Quilt dry can be a bit, , , , challenging, especially by your head (Mouth n nose) from breathing on it. See Shug’s videos on how he reduces that with a small piece of fleece strategically placed.
Your camera may freeze / quit working. Your back up camera may also freeze. At times I could get about 5 quick pictures or about 15 - 20 ssssssseconds of video before mine said “ENOUGH” & shut down in 2011. Then other times it would work for 30 minutes or more. YPYM, YTYC*. And, if it rains, a waterproof covering or camera is a boon.
If it snows, or if it MAY snow: do not stake your tarp all the way to the ground. Leave a gap at least ½ the distance from the ground of the expected snowfall depth. If you do not do this the weight of the snow may well collapse your tarp around you. Leaving this “Gap” will allow the snow to fall off of your tarp. Also bear in mind that snowfall predictions from the weather service are for lowland areas, the snowfall up in Grayson highlands may be 2 – 4 times higher. A snow shovel will help you to dig out if you miss guess the gap.