"I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful... because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience...." --Robert Traver
WARNING: Will discuss Rhurbarb Strawberry Pie and Livermush at random.
"A democracy is two wolves and a small lamb voting on what to have for dinner.
Freedom under a constitutional republic is a well armed lamb contesting the vote." ... B.Franklin
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While we are on the subject of stealth hanging, I figured you folks might be ready for a relatively funny stealth hanging novella….with me as the butt of each of the poor decisions. WARNING: THIS IS AN EXCEEDINGLY, EXCEEDINGLY LONG POST!!!!
A wild hare up my exhaust convinced me to make my first hike of the Summer on the A.T. starting on a Friday, sunny, no wind, temps running +90 and humidity might even have been higher (pay special attention to the heat and humidity, you will see how it becomes important later in this story). Drove to Daleville in my old clunker that does not have A.C., arrived late, and so was hiking up toward Tinker Cliffs area, right in the mid-day heat.
My normal hanging buddy (who I normally split gear/food weight with), NightEyes, was restricted to home to complete his “Honey Do” list. However, NightEyes kindly agreed to lend me his Coleman white gas stove (it weighs enough to be a small kayak anchor). Not wanting to spend time going to buy dehydrated food, I ran in and got some (as I found out post purchase, very heavy) canned goods at the local grocery store.
Now those of you who know me can attest, my hammock and camping gear are made for comfort…not for gram counting weenies. During this first summer hike I figure I was probably carrying a backpack that weighed at least 35 pounds (I know, I know, I know, less is more, Grasshopper) between books, first aid kit, water, etc. Oh, and have I mentioned that I was severely out of shape?
So now I am hiking up the incline toward the 1,800’ summit…first things I begin to notice, I am sweating like a pig, have a headache, and am having to take rest breaks every 5 minutes or so. This is definitely not fun and it is taking all of my Irish stubbornness/bullheadedness just to keep going.
Finally, at least 1 hour out from the parking lot, I get to the clearing at the first set of high tension electric wires. Thank God/god a decent breeze was blowing there and I managed to cool down/chill out some. While sitting on my dead asp resting, I sort of noticed that I was not sweating as much as when I started. Note to self: drink more water from here on out.
Upward I hiked. By the time (probably another hour or more) I get to the clearing at the second set of high tension electric wires I was exhausted, having trouble catching my breath and…wouldn’t you know it…there is no breeze. I mean not even leaves rustling. The only good news is that all of my technical gear (hat, shirt, undies, and convertible long pants) is working so well at wicking the moisture away that I can’t feel any sweat running down my body at all.
Even though I was alone with no one to witness my possible hasty retreat back to the parking lot, I refused to be a wuss and after my break trudged slowly upward to where the trail elevation begins to taper off.
In less than a half hour, I was up on the ridge, had the headache from he**, and thought I might puke, was still winded, and knew that I could not backpack much further. I was really frustrated with my inability to even begin to figure out why, what usually is a moderate hike (I can usually get from the parking lot to up past Carvin’s Cove in less than an hour and a half or so with a day pack), had become the Bataan Death March.
Having read somewhere that you can’t camp within 200 feet of the A.T. (does anybody know if this “rule” is right or wrong?), and not wanting to ruin the view/ambiance for other folks hiking the trail, I remembered what you folks on the Forum had written: “Want some extra adventure, do a stealth hang.”
Being on the ridge, the only place left to stealth hang was going to have to be somewhere downhill. As if by magic, I spotted a game trail heading toward the valley below. From the ridge, the slope of the game trail seemed very gradual with lots of well placed rhododendrons for helpful hand holds if the going got tough. With only a second’s hesitation, I was on my way down the game trail. When I got a ways down the trail, I began to notice that the leaves and moss on many parts of the trail were wet and slippery. No problem, I would be damned, even if I could…which certainly was less likely than me winning the lottery… I would not overly stress myself trying to go back up the hill’s (my perception) 40-45 degree slope!
Transiting the twisting and turning trail (now staring to notice that my hands, knees, legs, and arms were bleeding from getting stuck from some sort of thorny bush or vine…that kept cropping up just about everywhere), and not finding a single pair of trees that I could use to put up my hammock, I started to become a little apprehensive (Backpacker’s “Never-Do List”: go hiking alone; go off trail; go where you have no cell phone coverage. Bingo, I had accomplished a perfect safety “Never-Do" trifecta!) the trail finally petered out on a small narrow shelf and the only way to get nearer to the valley was by jumping down a few feet into a leaf covered natural drainage ditch.
Whatever limited reserves I had at the top of the game trail nearing depletion, and according to my altimeter having already traveled +400’ down toward the valley, I figured that the ditch had to quickly lead to an area where I could hang. So, after throwing my trekking poles into the ditch AWAY from where I was going to have to jump down () 4 feet or so, (see, I followed at least one safety rule, so I am not a complete noob) off the ledge heading down toward the ditch. Surprise, Surprise! When my feet reached the visual “floor” of the ditch it turned out that the apparent floor was actually one foot of very cold water over slippery rocks at the bottom topped with 2-3’ feet of wet leaves on the top.
I plummeted into the ditch all of the way to my lower chest (I can hear you snickering! WalksInDark is only 5-5” tall, “he could probably do the same thing if he fell into an oversized Big Gulp cup.). After the initial shock faded some, I realized I could not get out of the ditch the way I got in. The banks were too tall for me to climb out, and due both to the height of the leaves and the slippery dirt/rocks in the cold water, I couldn’t get enough traction to even move.
Hmmmmmmmmmmm I thought, “did my sometimes failure to follow safety rules designed for "normies” finally catch up with me?
While catching my breath and trying to determine my next course of action, in spite of the fact that my mind did not seem to be working very clearly or well, I pondered: lay down and sacrifice myself to the animals of the forest; start blowing my safety whistle (even though sound does not travel very well in an enclosed below ground place encircled by sound-absorbing bushes and brambles…and going up hill to boot); pray (I must be honest here, I did not dwell on this option for very long. Believing as I do that God…big G or little g….has a really twisted sense of humor---You don’t believe it? Who else would have put the human female's entertainment center right below a leaky waste disposal pipe--- and he/she surely does not take kindly to those who use his/her name in vain. To put it another way, I was absolutely sure I was SOL as far miracles were concerned.); start a signal fire…LET'S JUST WAIT A FEW MORE MINUTES TO EVALUATE THAT LAST IDEA….if I do the signal fire then I would personally be committed to and consumed by the flames that are supposed to help someone find me; or just relax, calm down, and wait for the right solution to enter my very hot, thick, and confused Irish head.
Just about the time that my feet were going numb and I was sure that I could feel insects and worms coming out of the wet leaves and onto my private parts, I remembered how survivalists always tell you how to get out of quicksand: don’t fight it or struggle---easy for them to say when you are the person in the quicksand---, J U S T bend over and support as much of your weight as possible with your arms and chest; then slowly swim/crawl along the surface until you get on solid ground. Just like in the death defying adventure shows, I was able to pull myself over to my trekking poles and use them to help propel me over the wet ground/rocks, sodden leaves, and down the ditch. For the next 1,000’ or so of the ditch descent, I got to experience all sorts of natural obstacles (blown down trees, stream going under ground and then popping up someplace else further past the natural screen of trees, hidden holes and foot/leg traps, bushes, vines, and brambles, mosquito’s/biting flies…I think you have the general idea by now.
Finally I ended up down in the valley looking at a large grove of some of the tallest and biggest trees I have ever seen in Virginia. On the positive side, the tree’s canopies did provide great protection from the sun; on the negative side, the same tree to tree canopies kept any smaller trees from taking root and growing---not a good thing if you are trying to hang a hammock with the factory standard short tree huggers.
As a rather strong Summer thunder/rain/wind storm started I found two medium sized trees at the edge of the grove ---ship! there went my sun protection--- and hastily got my hammock and fly belayed. After a several hour, restless, wet nap, it dawned on me that my mental-midget-functioning brain and poor backpacking performance ---even worse than normal, even for me---were certainly caused by two not uncommon maladies whose obvious (at least in hindsight) symptoms I could not, at the time they were happening, put together or interpret.
What’s your best guess?
[B]I am pretty sure that I was suffering from heat exhaustion as well as decreasing brain/body oxygen saturation levels. Oxygen deprivation was, no doubt, caused by a slowly developing, increasingly severe, asthma attack.[B] (I have adult onset chronic asthma which, for nearly 20 years, has been well controlled by daily asthma meds. I have never before, or since, had an asthma attack that was not preceeded by early onset warning symptoms. Nor have I had an attack which progressed so slowly that early and intermediate signs of shortness of breath were not readily apparent.).
During my maiden stealth hang:
I managed to lose my $1,700 hearing aid through the bottom slit of my Hennessey hammock (As you may or may not know, hearing aids are not covered by ANY health or other insurance. The full cost …and they are darned expensive… of a new or replacement hearing aid comes entirely out of your own pocket).
Spent the rest of Friday and half of Saturday cooped up in my hammock killing mosquitoes (who got under my no-seeum net when I was struggling to put up my hammock and fly in high wind/rain conditions), chaffing and getting heat rash (TMI) due to sleeping in high heat and humidity, and recovering from the two illnesses which started during Friday’s backpack up the A.T.
Found out that it is almost a waste of time to try to open canned goods with a small pocket knife. It also helps make you feel slightly better about canned good opening failures when you are both very tired as well as slightly nauseous.
Discovered that jettisoning the A.T. version of the Grand Canyon ditch plus not following the erratic game trail route, and as a “Better Option” deciding to climb back up +1,400’ of a (my perception) 40-45 degree slope by slithering/abrading/bleeding on my hands/elbows/knees/belly frequently holding on for dear life as well as repeatedly falling short distances back down the slope, having to push or pull my 31 pound large backpack through numerous tree/plant/bush/vine obstacles (Looking down from the top of the ridge at the very pretty dense Rhododendrons I never thought about how their branches might point out and angle down the slope as to create an almost impenetrable branch palisade). Well, take it from me, they do.) takes three or times as long as going down took and should really be a “Once-In-A-Lifetime” adventure.
My Take Aways:
Follow the backpacking safety rules, stupid!
Build up your stamina and endurance B E F O R E it gets really hot and humid.
Drink water liberally before, during, and after your hike. In warm to hot weather, if you are: thirsty; lose your appetite; not sweating freely; not urinating, and/or your urine is very dark in color; you experience fatique or weakness; get chills or head rushes; immediately stop all physical activity, seek shelter from the sun, rest by sitting or lying down, and continue to hydrate until you are able to sweat, urinate and/or your urine lightens noticeably in color. Unfortunately, a full listing of dehydration and/or heat exhaustion symptoms, is way beyond the scope of this posting. However, I strongly recommend that you educate yourselves more fully on these, sometimes fatal, conditions.
Be aware and respond quickly to any significant changes in your physical and/or intellectual functioning.
Never fill your pack with more weight than you can comfortably carry/push/shove, for multiple hours, up a steep slope.
Have 2Q’s wife sew the bottom slit of the Hennessey shut, and while you are at it, get one or several of the spectacular mods that make hanging so much more enjoyable.
Lastly, ...and somewhat tongue-in-check... always volunteer someone else to “Check Out” potential stealth hang locations…you, not necessarily the person you volunteered to act as pathfinder, might be very glad you did.
Last edited by WalksInDark; 03-06-2010 at 00:11.
if uphill to watch, then that watching will attract attention as people can feel when being watched. also if uphill the less camo UQs, TQs, packs will attract more attention, even moving around under your tarp cooking breakfast will attract attention.
I say go downhill and stay under your tarp.
Actually, I think most don't really pay attention even if they do see someone camping off trail - except maybe rangers - as long as you can 100ft off trail.
interesting how this question got such a response. I am thinking the ability to make camp anywhere with trees attracts people to hammocking more than I thought.
I'm a northern Minnesota boy but I spent 9 years living in Tidewater Virginia. I could hardly move outdoors in the heat and humidity, let alone hike up a mountain....doubt I would have gotten as far as you even if I was carrying a day pack...
(alias ProfessorHammock on youtube)
The part about the drainage ditch gave me flashback of when I was 12 or so. I was into the woods off a small suburban road over some leaves and stepped into a drainage ditch. I sunk what felt like nearly 3 feet into heavy clay/mud that stunk to high-heck and couldn't get out for the life of me! I was really freaked out!! I did eventually get out - ONE SHOE SHORT and covered in stink. not fun.While we are on the subject of stealth hanging, I figured you folks might be ready for a relatively funny stealth hanging novella….with me as the butt of each of the poor decisions. WARNING: THIS IS AN EXCEEDINGLY, EXCEEDINGLY LONG POST!!!!
Sorry to hear about your missing electronics - and glad you made it.
Owner of Self
Wow. I thought I had subscribed to this post and apparently I hadn't. The response has been quite intriguing.
I am not a shelter runner. I prefer to say hello to people at shelters and spend my nights alone so I "stealth" camp. Mice infested shelters full of snoring hikers is not my idea of enjoying nature. Call me a prude. Shelters are good for getting water and weather reports.
So far the consensus is that you go uphill, as I often do when terrain doesn't dictate otherwise, which I find to be compatible with my thinking. Obviously terrain dictates all.
As for women in restaurants. It is a well known fact that a gentleman should never seat a women in a restaurant where she cannot see the dining room. If you face her towards a wall her experience is less than ideal. So, if you hope to woo your date take the seat that faces the wall guys or pay the price of getting the cold shoulder on her front porch.
Keep em coming!