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  1. #1

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    Hello from North GA

    Hello fellow hammock hangers. I figured I'd introduce myself, as I've been gone awhile and never properly said hello.

    I've been bringing my hammock gear out of storage lately, it's not much- four gathered end hammocks w/whoopies and a couple of Oware tarps- but I've seldom used any of it for many years- life has a habit of getting in the way of things, yet with my dad's passing 2 1/2 years ago, age 70, and remembering the bond and memories we made backpacking and hammocking together, I've been finding myself quickly getting back into the hobby with renewed enthusiasm while I nostalgically set up his old gear and hang in the old hammocks that we used on trips together.

    A brief Chronological history

    I was born in 86, raised in Point Loma, California. My dad was a very eccentric, loud and jovial alcoholic, never to be caught without a beer in hand, shirtless 90% of the time and wearing surf trunks, he was totally unlike the hoity-toity white collar class dads of the kids i was friends with and went to school with. He was a first-class beach bum alright- he knew how to "hobo in style", akin to what id call a "lifestyle camper."
    Wherever he might find himself in the city, he could stop at any given moment and make a meal, fix up a comfortable spot to rest in the shade, get cleaned up and be all cozy, content and self-sufficient for hours or days. It was always pretty minimalist in nature though, he never spent much money on gear, he'd either make it or find it, buy it secondhand or fashion it out of inexpensive materials etc. He was a roofer by trade in his twenties, then he went back to school and got into water treatment before I was born.

    We moved around a lot, but never far, going from about 5 different rental houses in SD county. And no exaggeration, every backyard we had quickly resembled a park campground, including heavy duty canvas walk in tents, outdoor showers, homemade pavilions, kitchen and cooking area, fire rings, picnic tables, wood chopping area, tropical plants, misters, bar and bar stools etc etc. And tarps up the wazoo! He'd always be rigging up a new tarp (the heavy blue or grey ones you find at Home Depot) in some form or fashion, amongst his many automotive surf and boat, fishing projects etc, while tinkering around building awnings, auxiliary buildings, fences, porches, decks, and fixing up little chill crannies and hangout nooks in our backyard.

    We always had at least one of those roped bridged hammocks in the yard. Him and my mom hosted lots of parties in those days. They had heaps of friends. We'd go out to eat at restaurants twice a week with 15-25 people and all of their kids, so like 30-40 people. Knowing that many people, at least one of their friends was always having a birthday it seemed. Looking back on it, I guess I had a pretty unique childhood, but i didn't know any better, so it felt normal to me. My dad was my hero.

    When he wasn't working you would likely find him at Torrey Pines state park beach. He was a runner and body builder in those days. Once setup at camp, He'd go barefoot running up the steep trails of Torrey pines state reserve while I'd stay down at camp, building fires, playing with my knives, making weapons and carving my name into the protected fragile cliffs that I wasn't suppose to touch, and keeping an eye on all of our gear of course.

    We had an awesome off-road wagon that he would push me in with his walking stick, (with a rope attached in his other hand for downhill sections)- with the wagon handle folded back so that I could sit in it and steer. We'd go several miles down the beach, loaded with all of our gear; boogie boards, snorkel gear, fishing gear, bbq, grill, charcoal, ears of corn and hot dogs to cook, Arizona ice teas, honeydews and cantaloupes. His motto was "a 12 hour day at the beach beats a 10 hour day at the beach." And "Working cramps my style."

    He had an awesome 70s Econoline van that he converted into a fully customized wooden camping cabin after he met my mom. He built in all sorts of little widgets and gadgets, outfitted it with water tanks on the roof and fuel storage for three-week outings, outdoor shower, spotlights, a tall basket style roof rack that felt like playing on top of a mobile fortress at that age. He'd tow his little fishing boat with that van down to Baja with my older brother, which was a little before my time. They'd caravan with a few work friends who were also into that kind of adventuring. my brother sure has some crazy stories from that time. I think my dad settled down a bit after my mom had me, but I do remember going on many overnighter trips to the So-Cal desert, just me and him, he'd let me wander off and explore on my own all day.

    Actually, I did get to go on one 2-week-long trip in Baja with some friends and a handful of 1 week-long trips in Anza Borrego desert and Ocotillo Wells, with friends and family. So car camping and day camping has been a integral part of my upbringing from the get go..

    At age 13, he moved our family to a rural north Georgia farm in '99. I was amazed at the freedom and the vast wilderness spaces here, compared to the city of San Diego. I spent the free time of my teenage years in the 'back forty', there was probably only 100 acres back there, but it felt like a whole new world to me, my own private little research area to practice all the bushcraft skills I'd read about on forums such as these.. I'd go out and make shelters, fire, sketch maps of the terrain and creeks around the property, bushwhacking and learning the lay of the land and getting to know the trees and plants of the forest.

    By my late teens I had acquired an array of old timey style backpacking gear, more bushcrafty-oriented in nature for sure,; canvas packs, wool blankets, leather, granfors bruks axes, swedish scandigrind knives etc., and over the years I developed a great comfort and confidence in trekking and sleeping in the woods, although I was never more than a few miles from our farm house.

    Somewhere along the line, I learned what modern backpacking was, probably on backpacking light. I subscribed to Backpacker magazine, which back then was actually worth reading because it had great articles and few ads. I would read each issue cover to cover and eagerly await the next month's issue to arrive. I particularly liked the trip reports that writers would publish from various national parks and all mainstream, grand attractions around the country. The backpacking reports from Zion national park stood out to me the most.

    By my early twenties I had put together a kit of more modern and lighter weight gear and everything that I thought I would need for a 'proper' 2 or 3 night backpacking trip, as described in the magazine articles. My kit at this time was a small Osprey day pack barely big enough to hold my gear and food for 1 night, a Snow Peak stove and titanium cook kit, marmot rain gear, thermarest air pads, leki Makalu trekking poles etc.

    When my dad's older Brother, who still lived in San Diego at the time, mentioned that he wanted to make a cross country road trip out to visit us in GA, I jumped on the opportunity to ask him if i could fly out to meet him and then drive back to GA together, maybe taking a few extra days to checkout some national parks in the southwest, hint hint.
    He's always enjoyed camping and nerding out on gearstuffs too, but he's more of a glamping style camper, and on this particular trip he was more concerned about getting back to Georgia as quickly as possible which meant mostly staying in motels- so I didn't get to do that backpacking trip in Zion, which is probably a good thing because I likely would have failed miserably with my current gear and skillset at the time, but I am grateful he took the time for us to at least day-hike the big 5: zion, bryce, capitol reef, canyonlands and arches, and we did awesome car camps at zion and arches campgrounds.. it was fun using my oware tarps etc and getting to test my cooking setup, rain gear etc on longer trips further away from home. That road trip was my first good taste of the southwest, and I liked it.

    My backpacking aspirations fell onto the back burner for the next couple of years. I still used a lot of my gear for day camps and car camping, picnics with family etc. i guess life just got in the way again and I lost my lust for backpacking. At that time, hadn't yet put in the research to know of any backpacking trails in my area- like ones that I would later discover- the Foothills Trail and Bartram Trail. I must've thought backpacking had to be in a national park or a state park, maybe because thats how the magazines would feature them.
    I'd heard mention of the Appalachian trail a few times in my life, but with my limited knowledge, the AT sounded like such a mystical, far off and unreachable place for the common hiker, a high and rugged trail that only the most well seasoned and experienced athletes set foot on, or so I mistakenly thought.

    First Backpacking Trip

    I can't remember exactly what got me into trying again, probably reading up on forums like whiteblaze and hammockforums gave me the drive and confidence to try again at my first backpacking trip.
    I was always hesitant about figuring out the logistics of a multi day trip, it seemed overwhelming planning out milage, water sources, routes, campsite, pickups and drop off times a d locations etc.. not to mention being far from home and all by myself. So I finally convinced my dad to go on a short backpacking overnighter with me.

    I cant remember which was first but we did two trips, one was an 8 mile thru hike of the panther creek trail in Georgia, each with our respective two man tents, the other was a maybe a 5 mile out and back on a section of the Bartram Trail in Georgia, probably near Warwoman Dell, and on this trip we took our grand trunk hammocks w/ whoopie slings.
    In the middle of summer, the heat, humidity and bugs kicked our asses..but we were out there, persevered and had a great time.

    I got more comfortable with plotting out routes and itineraries, but having such a difficult time hiking just 3 or 4 miles on the last hikes, I figured that was about all a man could hike in a day. So for my first solo backpacking trip, I chose a loop hike using the Foothills trail , planning to hike about 5 miles a day for two and a half days.

    On my first day I started at lunchtime and hiked the whole 16 miles I had planned, back to where my dad planned to pick me up two days later. I remember hanging my hammock that evening, just off the trail in a little thicket on a steep hillside. No flat tent spot needed for this hiker. I felt very accomplished and independent, and boy was I astounded at how much ground a person can cover just by simply walking all day, it blew my mind. I learned that it really just boils down to hours spent walking. With this new knowledge of my body's potential, I quickly sought out and planned more hikes of longer and longer distances.

    Going into the fall of that year, and over the winter season of 2013, I thru hike the Foothills trail twice, and on one of which I added about 30 miles to it's original 77, section-thru-hike the FHT 6 more times, did one full thru hike of the Bartram trail, a dozen more section hikes on the Bartram equaling a couple more thru hikes of it, and completed the Georgia and north Carolina portions of the AT as far as the NOC at least a half dozen times that winter.

    I read up more on these online forums and tuned my gear a little bit more after each trip. In that first year of backpacking I was using a GoLite jam 50 pack, my Oware 10x12 and grand trunk ultralight hammock with a closed cell pad. I slept through many 20 degree nights comfortably. I learned how to insulate myself in the hammock to keep my feet and shoulders warm. I loved the openness vs a tent, being able to stand up in a rain storm, and both myself and my gear staying drier in a downpour. Awesome air flow vs a tent.

    Having felt like I'd slayed and conquered the Appalachians, or rather embraced their greatness and walked with them as one, i was ready to seek out new vistas that could only be found out west. I also wanted to hike a longer trail that what I had done , about 110 miles was my longest hike in one go up to this point. The AT would be too big of a jump in milage and take too long to hike. Something around 500 miles, I thought would be perfect to see if I was even capable of a multi week or multi month hike. Browsing online, I discovered the Colorado trail. It looked like a perfect length, 485 miles, well marked and short enough to easily plan the logistics in time for the summer hiking season.

    When my dad mentioned that he was planning a solo motorcycle trip that summer (2014) to the Sturgis rally in south Dakota, I asked if I could tag along as far as Colorado, with the plan being he'd drop me off in Denver, I'd hike the 500 mile Colorado trail, and if he didn't mind doing some extra solo camping of his own for a few more weeks, he could pick me up in Durango a month later when I finished. He obliged. We spent the next month doing day trip shakedowns with all of our gear on his bike.

    Keeping within my shoe string budget, I switched around some of my gear kit, changed out the GoLite 50L for a larger ULA catalyst, which id later trade in for the ohm 2.0 when I got back to ga. But the biggest change to my gear for this trip was switching from hammocking to tenting, because much of the CT is above treeline. I researched online and ordered a Henry Shires Tarp Tent, the one man Notch. So specifically went from hammocking to tenting just for this particular trip, but the hammocks definitely all came along and got used a ton.

    One hang that stands out is when we broke down at an abandoned gas station in Arkansas and spent two days there. We hung between the old vintage gas pumps and built a makeshift shower stall in between old buildings, the local sheriff came by to check on us and offer help, nope we said , just waiting til Monday for a store to open up to buy the bike part we needed. He was totally cool with us hoboing it there in grand dirtbag fashion.

    Another time we broke down at Mammoth springs state park , it had no overnight camping , yet the ranger let us camp there til morning to call a tow truck. We had the entire facilities to ourselves , the ranger left the bathrooms unlocked for us, we hung our solar shower in there and had a good evening walking around the premises, the huge spring lakes under the full moon light was beautiful and extra special as the park was ordinarily reserved for day use only.

    On our way up to Denver We buried food caches at a few locations so I wouldn't have to hitchhike into town on my hike to Durango.. And after he went to Sturgis, he came back and met me at a couple of trail towns and we camped together while i resupplied, then he'd ride ahead to the next town and camp out with the locals for several days until he got my call for his shuttle service. Some of the other thru hikers in the hostels wished they had a personal resupply shuttle. I certainly did have it made not having to hitchhike, it was too easy.

    I remember one dude I came across when I got to Spring Creek pass, a remote 10k road crossing well known as a difficult hitch. He said he was thru hiking too and had been there two full days trying to get a ride into town. I felt bad for him but good for me, as I strolled past and dug up my 5 day resupply cache, and merrily continued my hike without going into town.

    My dad loved hearing my stories from the trail between towns, and he had just as many if not more compelling and exciting stories from his many wild encounters with crazy and colorful people in his explorations between and in and around trail towns.

    After my thru hike, before headed back east we did another three week long motorcycle loop through AZ,NM,UT,CO.
    All in all we ended up riding 8,000 miles together around the southwest, Rockies and back to Georgia, equalling 80 days on the road. We cowboy camped behind abandoned gas stations, old churches, random parking lots, rolled his bike into picnic pavilions and stealth camped at picnic areas etc. for 78 of those 80 days, only staying in a motel/cabin twice. We stayed at a few campgrounds, but most of the time it was like wild west camping out in the open next to your horse, just off the side of the road.
    Man what a trip.

    We knew he could handle it though because the year prior to our trip, he made a similar bike trip of about 6 weeks out to Sturgis by himself, just camping under post office porches, etc. and puttering around exploring towns and meeting people etc. He certainly was different kind of fellow.

    At 64 and very overweight, he said our trip was the best thing for him, he lost thirty lbs on our 2014 trip. He was great at roughing it because it didn't take much for him to be content. A hot cup of coffee and a comfortable spot to sit while he built his fire/prepped his grill is about all it took to put a smile on his face.

    When at campgrounds , other campers would comment with astoundment, when after seeing us ride in on a single motorcycle, they'd come by later and see our site after we'd set up, and couldn't believe how much gear we had stored on that bike. Two tents, two tarps, four hammocks , hibachi grill , stools, yoga mats, etc. It must've looked like a small village.

    And after a few weeks on the road, we mastered packing everything up with seamless perfection.. We never had to say a word to one another when it came time to pack up.
    Everything would just get smaller and more condensed Into less and less bags, everything slowly getting closer and closer to the bike.

    Once everything was strapped down, id have to climb on first without tipping over the bike. It was like climbing into a giant recliner because there was so much gear and duffle bags surrounding me.
    The final piece of luggage was always my personal Jansport backpack, which had to ride on the top of my leg. I would have him hand it to me after I'd sat down and got settled in. He handed that pack to me every single time we'd get ready to head towards our next destination. It was always the final step before he'd saddle up.

    I distinctly remember the last time he would ever need to hand me that pack, it was when we stopped to get gas and stretch our legs one last time, as our Georgia homestead was now just a few miles down the road.
    He'd handed me that pack in so many different places and after so many different experiences.
    I knew this would be the last time.
    I said something like, " Well, Dad, I guess this is the last time you'll be handing me my pack ." I don't remember what he said, but We smiled at each other, and we knew, we could feel it in our hearts the extent of what wed been through together, and how satisfied and accomplished we both felt.

    For me the Colorado trail was amazing, coming from Georgia the vastness and variety of grand views was shocking, totally new and different from what I'd known on the east coast.

    Coming home to the primeval forests of North Carolina I felt a new appreciation for these old Appalachian mountains, while not as vast and epic as the Rockies , it's definitely a unique and special place in its own way, and I did a celebratory 80 mile loop using the Bartram and Appalachian trails as soon as we got back.

    Shortly after that I moved back to San Diego and that's a whole other story, but it was there in a hiking club that i met my then to be wife, and in 2015, after barely getting to know each other on a couple of dates, that we set out on a 60 day road trip in the southwest together, with the intent of finding jobs when we got back to Georgia near my family's home. I figured if we could get along living that close together in such rough conditions for two months, we'd make a great team in any situation.

    When planning our cross country itinerary, that main Zion hike that Id fantasized about hiking as teenager was first on my list. So yeah, I finally got to do my dream hike, with my dream sweetie! I think that was two or three nights. It was an epic first date! Beyond beautiful landscape out there. Then we did another 1-2 nighter in the kolob canyons of Zion.
    We also did the Bryce Canyon thru hike, 5 days under the rim trail. I feel like we did another several nighter hike in some national park but now I can't remember.

    Anyway, Today we're still back in Georgia, and still backpacking a much as we can in the beautiful blue ridge escarpment and blue wall of western NC and SC, which is less than two hours away from us, while holding down 9-5 day jobs.

    I've used the hammocks a few times here and there over the years , mostly for car camping, or I'll bring a GTUL when backpacking just as a comfortable place to sit and lay down in camp, but never slept in them since 2014, as I've stuck with TarpTents since I've been with my wife.

    We got a TT squall 2 that we've been using since around 2017. We were backpacking on 2-3 day trips in SC/NC twice a month for several years, then slowed down a lot the past few years, but things are quickly picking back up on the backpacking front for us, as we just purchased a zpacks triplex zip for an upcoming weeklong hike in the San Juans on the CDT/CT. Wish I could take hammocks on this one but we will be between 12-13k the entire hike.

    I've been a ground dweller for 7+ years, and I often forget that fundamentally all of my backpacking started as a hammock hanger.
    And like I mentioned earlier , I'm getting back into hammocks and updating my hammock gear. She's actually mentioned wanting to start dabbling in hammock camping for herself, I could let her try sleeping in my WBBB on an overnighter, so that could lead to some fun new experiences and gear purchases. It's been a lot of fun catching up on how all the cottage gear has evolved the last decade.

    So there you have it, my hiking and camping background in a nutshell.

    If you made it this far, I'd be happy to answer any questions you have about my backpacking journey.


    One last note-

    If my dad was here he would be very grateful and appreciative for all the people on this forum who've helped us and who help others gain the knowledge to learn how to do all this stuff and all the niche gear and cottage industry doodads that i would have only found out about on forums like this.
    Whenever id buy a new piece of gear, a hammock doodad or gadget etc, he'd often say " Get me one of those too!". He enjoyed playing and tinkering with his gear too, but I think he got the most enjoyment out of it when we'd do it together.

    On his behalf, I thank you from both of us.

    Happy Hangin' in the Happy Hunting Grounds.

    Shawn

    78_031_original.jpg

  2. #2
    Senior Member sidneyhornblower's Avatar
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    One of the best "introducing myself" posts I've ever read on here. That one deserves wider publication. Kudos.

  3. #3

    Join Date
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    What a background! Sounds like you got a solid foundation in adventuring. I'm sure you miss him, but making new memories is one way to honor him.

    Charlotte

  4. #4
    Senior Member alt.thomas's Avatar
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    Feb 2016
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    You have won the best introduction Iíve ever read. Welcome.

  5. #5
    New Member
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    Wow. Just wow. Thanks for taking the time to write all of this. Some great memories with your dad indeed. Very happy for you and loved reading this.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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