My first hang last weekend on lake Wateree and all the talk about the upstate SC hang had me salivating to climb into my hammock and sleep outdoors one more time so when my buddy John asked me what I wanted to do this weekend I showed him the pictures in Swampfox's post and away we went.
John is my Army Buddy and in much better shape than I am and is fond of pointing out how old and broken I am. We will retire within weeks of each other and plan to thru hike the AT as our retirement party. He's determined to use a sleeping pad and bivy sack for the trip and doesn't take mr seriously with my hammock but hadn't camped with me since I've had my HH.
So anyway, ground work laid, now to the trip. We arrived at the parking area around 1700 (5pm) and were amazed by how many cars were already there. We're thinking no way are we going to find a good spot but we've driven three hours so we'll make the best of it. As we're unloading two trout fishermen start talking to us, they are super friendly and we enjoy our conversation with them - one had completed the AT in 2000 and was excited that we we're using this trip to tweak our gear.
After leaving the parking area we headed down the trail, this was a beautiful hike, leaves are just starting to show color, temperature was perfect and even though the parking lot was jammed we didn't see a soul until we was a half mile in. Here we encountered a young couple, also very pleasant and they were helpful in telling us some good spots to camp. The young lady was curious about the window shade strapped to the outside of my pack and asked what is was for "to keep my car cool" I explained, after she looked at me like an idiot I also explained about it's uses in hammock camping - "oh, a hammock camper" she said, as if that explained any number of strange habits.
They were hiking without packs so they soon outpaced us, though we did catch them again later. Once more in our solitude we marveled at the beauty around us and the surprising few campers we passed. I loved the way the camp sites are spread out and isolated. Our plan was to make it to the bridge and find a space but just before we got there we spotted a beautiful spot in a low area off to the side of the trail with a great fire ring laid out and decided since it was getting on in the evening this would be a great spot to camp.
We grounded our gear and started gathering firewood, this is where you could tell how popular it is to camp here, the woods were nearly picked clean. John stepped through some underbrush on a side path and found the most perfect camping spot I have ever seen and as I was cutting through to see it I spotted the top of a pine that had recently fallen, it was like a sign so we moved our gear over and set up camp.
John was amazed at how quick I had my HH up and ready, not much more time that it took him with his bivy. We soon had a good fire going and enjoyed a great meal - I fixed couscous in my jetboil and cooked up a foil packed tuna steak, John made Mac and cheese and smoked sausage, we washed it all down with some red stripe to finish a perfect evening.
The next morning found spry young John stiff and sore while broken old Don was fresh and relaxed, I believe I heard John mumble something about having to try one of those hammocks!
If any of you out there are on the bubble about making the upstate SC hang make any excuse you have to, cancel plans, abandon chores, take sick time, whatever just be there, you will not regret it!