Planning time for the annual freeze your toes off winter hangout in the Grayson highlands is once again upon you,,,, I mean US.
After last year & all the fuss it stirred up, I’m only posting a date poll this year.
The location(s) for the hang (GPS coordinates):
Wise shelter: N 36o 39.392’ W 81o 29.531’ from my Garmen Nuvi with me standing between the shelter & the fire pit. Next year I’ll get the coordinates of the privy & spring.
THE parking lot: N 36o 38.392’ W 81o 29.252’ Standing on the road between the parking lot & the camp-store.
The above coordinates may be off by a few feet, & (as you will see below) don’t exactly agree with the “Official” numbers, but this should get you there. A map can be seen at: http://www.hammockforums.net/gallery....php?i=2425&c=
The first weekend in January is Ed Spear’s annual Springer Mt new year’s hangout, so that is out, leaving:
January 7, 8, 9
January 14, 15, 16
January 21, 22, 23
January 28, 29, 30 (Which is also the dates for the New Jersey Winter Hang http://www.hammockforums.net/forum/c...=2011-1-28&c=1)
For those who have limited under insulation, some suggestions: Add a CCF or T-rest pad under you (even if you already have one, two is better). A fleece blanket hung as an underquilt can add 10 or more degrees to what you already have (I put mine between hammock & underquilt). I use a trucker’s reflective windshield cover to add 10 - 20 degrees & my small sit pad adds about 5 degrees.
For those who have limited top insulation, some suggestions: A fleece blanket between you & your top quilt or sleeping bag can add quite a few degrees of comfort. I don't care for them but some swear by using a space blanket, usually between you & your top quilt.
Note: a commercial sleeping bag rated to, lets say: 30 degrees, usually means you will SURVIVE the night at 30 degrees, NOT you will be comfortable.
All over added protection: get or make a hammock sock!
Just in case, I carry a few chemical heat packs for if I get the shivvvvvers. A pack of toe warmers will do me for a night. In fact I have been known to get too hot & have to stand outside in tee & shorts in 7 degree weather for 15 minutes, just to cool off. YMMV!
FYI, past years weather:
Year one: 6 - 14 degree nighttime temps, with 50 MPH wind gusts. Sat night freezing rain.
Year two: 20 - 25 degree nighttime temps, serious wind chill.
Year three: 6 - 14 degree nighttime temps, with 50 MPH wind gusts.
Year four: 5 – 14 degree nighttime temps, with 40 – 50 MPH gusts. 8 – 14 inches of show fell Friday night.
The differences in temps depended on where the hanger was. Cold weather camping in comfort often depends on 3 things: Location, Location, and Location!!
High calorie, high fat meal for just before going to bed.
More layers; on you, under you, over you.
Traction on your feet!
Pulk / sled for carrying extra gear.
For those who are new to this event:
I do not mean to deter you, just make you aware so you can prepare: IT WILL BE COLD! It May be VERY COLD! There WILL BE WIND; there may be A LOT OF WIND! There MAY BE SNOW, possibly A LOT OF SNOW. Most of the social activates take place around the fire in front of the shelter, there is minimal protection from the wind there. Dress accordingly!! It also MAY RAIN, It did this year, then it snowed. The ground may be rock hard, or harder.
Stay just a bit cool to stay warm. OR: Try not to sweat, it will only make you wet & COLD. Last year I had to strip to a tee shirt a few times just to cool (& dry) off after some exertion. The outside temp was around 17o.
Hanging sites abound around the shelter, so there is the opportunity to be picky, though you may have to walk a bit to get to / from the social aspect at the shelter.
There is a very nice privy there, bring your own Toilet Paper; wet wipes are useless in the weather expected.
The shelter sleeps 8, but so far the only one to sleep there did so due to a midnight suspension failure. And that is one reason we have the to do at a shelter, “Just in case”
Groundlings are welcome to join us!! So far we have had 3 tents, & a total of 4 groundlings. 3 of our groundlings are hangers in “better” weather.
On Saturday PM there is a Pot Luck cook out where everyone shares special treats, like deer bacon & homemade stew.
The rest of your meals are up to you!
Usually someone goes for a day hike or 2. There are several trails to explore, most lead to GREAT views. But leave time to get back for the potluck.
Again: The GPS coordinates for the Wise shelter are:
Mine: N 36o 39.392’ W 81o 29.531’
“Official”: 36* 39' 14.37" N 81* 29' 54.23" W
The hike in from the parking lot is about 1 mile on a mostly level logging road. On the way you cross 2 streams, & a stream / swampy area which are easy enough to cross. Every year I have made it, I have gone back to my car for something, so it’s an easy walk.
Alcohol is allowed, but please practice moderation!! This is NOT a drinking party! There will be underage hikers there.
Water is readily available, but water filters freeze up pretty quickly at these temperatures so be prepared to have to thaw your filter & pump.
In past years there has been extra hanging set ups if you are ill equipped, or a groundling looking to try out hanging. And for the most part, if you need help, just ASK! That is why this hangout was started 5 years ago, so that we may learn from each other, and share our collective experiences! I will have a spare set up, but it will stay in the car till needed.
Some things you will see: January of last year (2009) there were about 40 hangers, and 40 DIFFERENT set ups. All years: Under quilts from custom made to store bought to home made. Pads that have included a trucker’s window shade. Tarps of all sizes colors & shapes. Almost as many different stoves. Clothing choices that ran from a crazy guy wearing: short sleeved tee, long sleeved tee, fleece vest, nylon vest, a kilt & panty hose (sometimes I put on a wool hat & gloves), to several wearing down quilts as parkas & a few looking nearly like the Michelin Man (at least to me). There were at least 5 Pulks (camping sleds) there in 2010.
So, come one come all!!
Some items needed / suggested for the cook out:
Sausages (Hot dogs, Bratts, Metts, etc.)
Side dishes (Cole slaw, Stew, Macaroni salad, etc.)
Condiments (relish, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, onions, etc)
Hardware (plates, knives, forks, spoons, paper towels, trash bags, etc.)
Drinks or drink mix.
Hint: If it can’t be heated (Like coleslaw) or even if it can, bring the food in a (small) insulated cooler, to help keep it from freezing.
In years past firewood was brought, but it was a strain to bring from the parking lot to the shelter, so that is up to you. Please, if you are in a quarantined area (As I am) do not bring firewood. If you don’t know if your area firewood is quarantined, don’t bring firewood. Lets be safe.
If this is your first winter camping trip, bring more of nearly everything than you think you will need; fuel, clothing, food, etc. Not to say overdo it, but as I say at the start, it will be cold & windy. Alcohol stoves DO work, so if that is what you have, bring it, we will help you make it work. In 2010 most of the wood stoves were iffy at best. If you need help, ASK!
The Wise will "sleep" about 8, & we have had 10 or so in it sitting & standing, but it is tiny compared to our group. Even if there is no gear there, plan on being outside most of the weekend.
Last year WE had about 2 large garbage bags of "stuff" but carried out at least 4 large bags (my count) & I'm sure there was other stuff I didn't know about.
I think every year we have left the area at least as good as (If not better than) we found it, and I think the tradition will continue. Just a word to the Wise, pun intended.
Notes to those new to the AT shelter system & the Wise shelter:
BRING YOUR OWN TOILET PAPER!! Treat your water. Clean up your mess.
The predominate wind direction is from the West but it can blow from any and all directions, sometimes at the (seemingly) same time.
Reminders to those new to the hangout: Be prepared for the cold, as mentioned, the weather can change drastically in minutes. Bring food, bring more food than you would for a similar summer outing. If you are even remotely thinking of doing a day hike, have a pack you can take with you for: food, water & extra items. Be sure that pack will allow you to remove / carry some of the clothing you start out with AND have a spare item for "just in case".
Next year I’m going to try sticking a chemical toe warmer to my camera & see if that keeps it from freezing up.
BE PREPARED FOR A GOOD TIME!
If you need help, ASK!
Thoughts from the 2010 hangout by those that were there:
Keeping your camera battery warm, without also keeping your camera warm is an exercise in futility. (For those of you who believe in redundancy, two cameras freeze as well as one camera.).
Leave them exposed to the cold & your batteries WILL freeze. So will your spares. An outside pocked on your parka is “exposed to the cold”.
Why is it that when some people hear the phrase “Wild Animal,” they have an irresistible urge to immediately go up to the animal and try and pet them? Yes, even horses / ponies will bite!
Bright and reflective guy lines help prevent falls/injuries.
No matter how expensive the boot, the sole will still burn if placed too close to the fire.
Never under estimate the slowest person in your hiking group….as they may be carrying all of the stuff that fell out of your pack as you sailed along the way.
Wet socks cause colder feet. Also, when it is time to bed down, putting hand warmers in each of your boots and topping them off with dry socks keeps your boots from freezing. Carry several extra pairs of socks.
It is far better to fess up to ignorance up front, so that you can learn (hopefully, less painfully) the easier way to do almost anything having to do with hiking and hammocking in cold weather.
Anyone who still thinks that there is a “Weaker Sex” obviously has not gone to a Winter Hang.
There are many folks on HF who could knit a Volkswagen if only you gave them some knitting needles, steel wool pads,…..and a challenge.
Indians do not lust after cattle when they have venison, enough said.
Not hearing “I’m right and you’re wrong;” and/or “There is only one solution;” for an entire 3 day time period is so refreshing!
Waiting until you are fording shallow streams in low winter temperatures is NOT the time to discover that your “waterproof” boots aren’t.
Water over the top of your boots will quickly (instantly) negate any waterproofing you may have applied!
Just because folks are physically outside the main group, does not mean that they are not having a good time.
A good attitude can overcome bad/wrong gear.
Do not fail to immediately react when folks say, “Excuse me, but that’s my chair.” Better yet, bring your own chair.
Buying YakTrax versus Kahtoolas (http://www.rei.com/product/774966) is a terrible place to economize….and may also be very hazardous to your health.
Never underestimate the power of the cold.
Trail names have little or no relationship to the personality of the person bearing them.
Alcohol stoves do not fail in temps below freezing. By actual observation / use, they work well even at approximately 13 degrees.
Following footsteps in the snow can take you in directions/places you would never even begin to imagine; but not necessarily where you want to go.
In unknown terrain at night, when heavy mists/fog roll in and your visibility goes down to six feet or less, you better have taken a heading on your compass from the trailhead before you started, plus have a spare headlight handy.
When you are getting ready to leave your vehicle at the trailhead triple check that all lights and other electrical devices are turned off.
Good luck trumps having extra tickets at the raffle.
Down Booties are WONDERFUL. Get the ones that allow you to walk around in camp.
Never wait until after sundown to go to an open air privy. In the same vein, baby wipes/wet naps are completely useless once they freeze…. and you do not want to discover this important fact when you are trying to finish your privy activities.
Battery operated stuff & anything else you don't want freezing should probably live in an inside jacket or shirt pocket the whole weekend.
And they say about drying leather boots... "If it's to warm to hold your hand there, it's to warm for the leather boots. I've seen more than one pair of nice leather boots damaged, & probably more boot/shoe soles, trying to dry/warm them next to the fire.
They need to be dried slowly.
One good way to dry them might be by putting a hot water bottle inside each boot.
A small snow shovel can be a “life saver” if it snows in the backcountry. They are great for digging out snowed in tarps/tents, & later snowed in cars. The two that were there in 2010 got a real workout.
Directions from the park entrance:
When you enter the park, it's all up hill & for a good ways.
1st you will come to the check-in booth which will be un-attended this time of year.
There’s a fee for overnight parking & you'll find envelopes there to put your cash or check in. it has a tear-off to put on your mirror or dash w/ a number that matches the number on your payment envelope.
This just lets the rangers know that you paid the parking fee for that vehicle. You don't have to put the info about arrival/departure date, & destination if you don't want.
The cost is $8.00 for a two night stay (per vehicle).
As you continue up the park road you will pass the entrance to the picnic area on the right. keep going.
A little ways farther, you will turn into the paved road leading to the campground. These are easy to see because of the normal, brown park signs.
As soon as you turn onto the campground road, you will see the gravel parking area for overnight backpacking on the left, but unless you plan to hike in by a longer route, keep going on the campground road.
As you begin to enter the campground, you will see a small building (divided by a breezeway) on the right, w/ a sign that says "country store".
Straight across, on the left, is the parking area that will get you closest to the Wise shelter.
At the backside of the parking lot, you'll see a wide, multi-use trail (like a forest service road) that you'll follow by foot.
There are a couple trails that go off of that trail, but the main trail is obvious & you just stay on that.
You will cross two creeks that are usually not deep but just wide enough that they could make it a challenge to keep your feet dry... depends on the water flow & if there is snow or ice on the rocks. There is another small stream that most years you can step over. Just past this small stream the trail climbs a small hill, soon, on the left, is a farm gate & a small “road” like path, if open as during the past 2 years, follow this path up towards the AT, keep an eye open towards the right, soon you will see the Shelter. If not, when you get to the AT, go right 50’ to the shelter. If the farm gate is closed, continue about 20’ past to a “zig zag” stile, go through that & back to the farm road. There is a shorter route to the shelter from the main trail, but it is hard to describe, we will show you on the way out so that you know how next time.