It's been February since I've been able to actually get out and camp. February! It's surprising, and a testament to my general good nature (or just being old) that the lack of woods-time had gone on this long without creating an international incident. Long before we were married, I had warned my wife about my decompression time in the woods. While I can't blame her solely this time for the long lapse in camping trips, sometime "life happens" and dry spells like this sometimes occur... The important thing is that the camping drought has ended!
A friend and co-worker (same guy, wears two hats) asked me Thursday if I'd like to go hiking with his son and himself over the weekend. Would I? Would I ever! His son is in college and getting ready to head back for classes in about a week, and before son exits home, they get out an do a backpacking trip. Two years ago I was fortunate to accompany them on a similar pre-college backwoods soiree.
Nice enough guys, they even asked me if I knew of a good place to go. "Come one guys, this is Ordin you're talking to, of course I know a place... Sand Lake Falls."
The hike out there, is just the right distance for a couple of middle aged desk jockeys and college kid working on about 4 hours sleep. The first three miles went easy, minimal bugs, tolerable uphills, wide trails, and comfortable temps. Then the last mile, oh that mile... See, I grew up in South Florida, so hiking in swamps and water is something that I know. My feet have probably had more wet miles on them than any frog alive... But, i haven't lived in FL for about a dozen years now and my wet feet have really started to get accustomed to being dry. That last mile was nothing but wet, and muddy.
When we finally got out of the swamp the trail lead right up to the Sand Lake Falls lean-to. It had been three years (according to the lean-to log book) since I'd last been there. The memories of that first trip were still fresh, even in my old-man-ish brain. The lean-to is set back from the falls about 100 feet or so, just at the right distance so that they're heard, but not too close that conversation is impossible.
Some friends that knew the area a little better told me about a good swimming hole near there. Armed with a towels, Dr. Bronners soap, and bodies in badly need of having the stink knocked off of them, we headed off. Talk about a swimming hole. This is the mother of all swimming holes. At the risk of revealing my age, I kept telling my friend that I half expected Brooke Shields to come swimming across the swimming hole, just like in the move Blue Lagoon (you younger guys should see it, it's really worth it!). That swimming hole is worth every step of the hike out there!
Firewood was easy to gather up. Even though it was all softwood, we had more than enough to make some decent coals to roast bratwursts on, and provide some light to drink some beers by after dinner. No wicked raging infernos time, like I usually rustle up, but a heck of good summer-sized fire. Some dancing light, some pops and cracks, and a little something to putz around with every 15 minutes or so when another small log had to be tossed in. Perfect.
Earlier in the year I had my HH Exped modified by 2QZQ with a zipper mod and this was actually the very first time I was able to actually get it out and use it in-situ. Man, I love that mod. Crawling in to my HH the old way was such a PIA, especially after a couple "big boy sodas" sitting at the fire after dinner. It' something I wished I'd have had done years ago!
There's only one problem with the new zipper mod, and I can't blame 2QZQ for it. After having a few of those previously mentioned "big boy sodas", and a walnut sized bladder, getting up in the middle of the nightfor a bio-break is a necessity. Being a bit lazy, I'm thinking, "Why even get up? That zipper is in the right place, right?!" All one really has to to do is roll over on their side and open the zipper in the middle some, and bingo, the living is easy... Until you wake up in the morning and find the heel depression in your flip-flops filled with pee... Yeah, even I laughed about that one. (Note to self, move flip-flops 6". Any direction.)
Sleep was easy, as it always is in the woods. Remember my word, decompression. Getting out is, even if only temporarily, a way to let the pressure out of the container, have a sausage or two, a couple beers by the fire, and sleep like a baby. With my hammock well withing ear shod of the falls, I couldn't even hear myself snoring.
The hike out was no less wet. As a matter of fact it was even more wet, as the sky was send some drops from on high to make sure that the upper halves of our bodies weren't jealous of how wet our feet were. It mattered not. We got out, saw some cool places, swam in a new swimming hole, chewed the fat at a good campfire, and spent time as friends, being friends.