We set out from the Grubb Ridge Trailhead at roughly 5pm. It was muggy, but not unbearable. The trail was dry, mostly, with a few chunky areas made worse by horse traffic. We had a “packs off” stop at the campsite where the Loop and the Peninsula Trail split off.
There are those moments when you’re out on trail and you realize you forgot to pack something. I had two of these moments: The first was about a mile in when I realized my stove fuel was still sitting in my car. I said as much, and Salamander said, “Alchy?” “Yes” “Got you covered.” The second was at camp when I realized I forgot to pack my contact lens case. Doh!
Soap Box Moment #1:Hiking solo, in my opinion, is akin to finding one’s own inner Zen. It gives you the opportunity to look inward while having a personal experience with the natural world. It does not, however, mean you need to be anti-social. We ran into a fellow with a friendly dog at the above mentioned campsite. He was at the trailhead when we left and caught up to us. Both times, we made lighthearted mention about his dog carrying weight. Both times, the soloist failed to acknowledge our existence as more than just a painful distraction to his obviously people friendly pooch. It’s sad when people can’t let their Urban-induced guard down just an inch.
Back on trail, Salamander lead a blistering pace, which we both joked about later. We made it to the shoreline by about 7pm for our second, and brief, “packs off” rest. There was a decent amount of activity where the trail met the lake, and other campers were scrounging for firewood. We decided that we’d search for a site south of the trail, along the shoreline. Salamander was hoping to find an area that might have a feeder stream so he wouldn’t have to filter lake water. We passed by several claimed sites…including the soloist, who’s pooch came over to greet us like old pals while the soloist continued to ignore our existence. We passed another site that was decked out in all kinds of amenities, probably dropped off by the boat we saw moored near shore. We kept moving further down the beach until we were several hundred feet from the last claimed spot before we left the shoreline.
We came to a small inlet, and hiked inward a bit to find a stream, but there was none. We did, however, find the Lake’s junk drawer. There was probably enough human detritus to fill 2 or 3 semi-trailers. It was amazing and sad. The Sanford and Son archeologist in me was going crazy to search through and find those hidden ground-scores…while the environmentalist in me was crying like a little baby. I came across a bobber and we joked about finding more fishing gear or perhaps unspooling a hank of amsteel and using it as line.
We came back North from the inlet and found a couple of spots to set up. It wasn’t easy. This area seems riddled with dead trees and widow makers. We found several sites suitable for a single hanger, but only one that would support two. I doubt there’s any that would support more than that without spreading out across the whole shoreline. (Note for future group hangs: Don’t go to the shoreline…stop at the pine forest just before.)
Where we did set up, however, was gorgeous. It was on an incline, which gave us stadium seating views of the lake…though I blocked Salamander’s view a bit. As the sun began it’s slow descent into the West, we assembled our various rigs. I think Salamander’s set up took him roughly 7 mins to complete…including tarp and underquilt. Me…probably 20-30 mins. I’m still working the kinks out, but I’ll get there.
It was around 8:30 before we sat down to eat our dinners. I had the old standby, Cup ‘O Noodles and Jerky. Salamander had red beans and rice with chicken breast. Granted, I had mine cooked and mostly eaten by the time the rice was done…but, I was envious of Salamander’s feast. Salamander offered to share, but I was already done and not interested in more hot food in 80 degree heat.
As we sat and shared trail stories, we were “treated” to a cacophony of sound from our Northerly neighbors. A pair of couples had set up camp and were proceeding to chop down, what sounded like, half the forest. Disturbing, yet entertaining, we debated on how large the cabin would be. If they needed firewood, the junk drawer just to the South had ample amounts.
We waited until just after dark to turn in. I performed some astounding feats of hammock gymnastics to disrobe inside my Hennessy. The Russian judge only gave me a 7, but I got higher marks in difficulty because my clothes were still soaked in sweat.
The night brought blissful sleep…mostly. The Co-eds enjoyed a late night dip in the lake with much frolicking and merrymaking…then proceeded to chop more wood. I’m thinking they needed to build a deck for the cabin. Advil PM helped me through this brief time.
The sun came slowly to our Western facing camp site. It was definitely a lazy morning, but I was mostly awake by 8am. Neither of us fully committed to activity until around 9am or so. We sat down to break our fast and Salamander went against his better judgment and did not cook pancakes. Instead he ate left overs and graciously offered up some pre-cooked bacon, while I boiled up some water for my oatmeal. I like breakfast on trail much more than dinner or lunch…not sure why. Having that extra bit of bacon was awesome.
In a bit of vindication and stress relief, Salamander decided that one of the nearby dead trees needed to come down. And our Co-Ed neighbors needed to hear it. His kukri made all too short work of the deadwood. (I need to get one of those.)
Afterward, Salamander needed to filter lake water and I decided to pack up my gear explosion. I didn’t realize until I was mostly done that I had become programmed by my habits as a ground dweller to wakeup-packup-getout. This epiphany came to me as I was getting ready to pack down my hammock. As I reached for my suspension, Salamander calls over, “You may want to wait on that. It may be a little while.” I look over and he’s lounging in his hammock taking in the view. So, I stopped and did the same thing. I need to do that more often.
We finally packed up the rest of our things and discussed our outbound options. We were camped at the base of a slight ridgeline. The various maps we were using suggested that we were not far from the trail. A short climb up a hill and some bushwacking would shave off about a mile, so we went that route. It was just as short as we imagined and with no bushwacking at all…which, in hindsight, made my donning of gaiters pointless. We came over the ridge and found a familiar pine forest where the trail passed through.
Once on the trail, the time passed quickly. We saw more hikers on our way out, than coming in, and all were cordial.
Soap Box Moment #2:The trail itself was well maintained, for the most part, but the condition of the established campsites were abysmal. I’ve been coming to the Deam on and off over the last decade and I’ve never seen as much left behind garbage as I saw on this trip. Soda cans every 100 or so yards. Names carved into trees. Each of the campsites at the lake had some pile of crap. One looked like two large, well larger than my 12x12, plastic tarps wadded up and left behind. Another we found bullets…not spent shells, but actual live ammunition. Our last rest stop before the trailhead had a medium sized cooler and a pair of panties. Horrible. I can understand the odd wrapper or busted gear…things can get away from you in a breeze or if you snag on a branch. What we saw was ridiculous. We need to bring back the crying Indian from the 70’s.
We got back to the car with relative ease and speed. I had a hankering for a McDonald’s Sweet Tea and Salamander was looking forward to a Chocolate milkshake…so, we had motive to make the car with certain amount of haste.
-I need to convert my Hennessy suspension to Whoopie slings and purchase a set of Elephant Trunks. Salamander had his set up was up and swinging in no time with little or no adjustments.
-I need to get a fuel bottle from Brasslite.com That was pretty slick.
-Permethrin. When someone asks you if you want bug spray, you say yes…even though you haven’t “felt” any bites, doesn’t mean they’re not there. (67 by my last count, but I also stopped counting.)
-Never make plans on having a sweet tea in Bloomington…after standing in line for 20 mins, waiting for food for another 10, you’ll find they’re out of Sweet Tea at the “self-serve” beverage station. Which makes the sign stating: “Parking is for dine in customers only. 30 min time limit” all the more funny. It also makes passing the other two or three fast food places who also carry sweet tea all the more frustrating.
-There really is an app for that. Check out the links on the "Day" headers.
Overall, it was a great trip. I’d never hiked with Salamander, and I can say with all honesty, he was a great companion. He even graced our campsite with two brief musical interludes. Missed you out there, Jerry!
My Set up:
Salamander42's set up:
Product Placement #1 (Double Dutch):
Product Placement #2 (Bloomgorge Elephant Trunks):
Day Two, View of the Lake (sort of):
Lounge Mode Engaged:
Obligatory POV shot:
The red eyed turtle was not impressed:
I beat Salamander to the punch on posting the report, but his pictures are probably better than mine.