So, I had planned a trip with a bunch of highschool and college buddies of mine to the Ellicott Rock Wilderness for the weekend before Thanksgiving. The trip had been planned for two months now, but almost all of them bailed at the last minute. It ended up being just three of us, but we refused to not have a great time! Suffice it to say that the universe put our resolve to the test.
Driving up from Atlanta with one of my friends, we hit traffic inside the 285 loop, outside the 285 loop, and pretty much the entire length of I-85. Upon nearing the SC border, it became so bad that we were forced to detour. Long story short, we didn't even arrive at Burrell's Ford until 10:30pm, so we decided to be whimps and take one of the sites closest to the parking area. We hastily set up her tent and my hammock in the dark while shivering from the cold and trying to ignore our rumbling stomachs. We finally settled down and had "dinner" at the crack of midnight. This is where Bablefish5's pre-dehydrated chili-mac and my new Emberlit UL saved the day because I honestly don't think I had it in me to scrounch up firewood in the dark and cook on an open campfire.
As the temps began to fall into the low 30s, we climbed into our respective shelters and turned in. I had my winter Incubator attached to the WBBB, but I had never used it in temps this cold before. I woke up after an hour or so with CBS. Try as I might, I couldn't seem to snug up the Incubator enough. I tied knot to shorten the suspension and used my TTs which all helped but didn't quite solve my problem. This was partially the fault of my crappy sleeping bag "top quilt" that was only rated to 40 degrees and wouldn't even zip up either. One of the cancelees was supposed to bring my other friend a sleeping bag, so I let her use my good one and made do with my old crappy one. Finally, I got my sit pad out and put it between the double layers under my butt. Problem solved! I slept very well after that, even though the temps dropped into the high 20s! My thermometer registered 28 degrees which is a personal low (I know you northerners are probably having a laugh at that)!
Our third member arrived about 8:00am the next morning, just as I was getting up. We made breakfast and chilled around the Emberlit for a few hours before setting off to find the elusive Ellicott Rock. My understanding is that there are actually 3 rocks of note all close together.
1. Ellicott Rock was first surveyed by Ellicott as the NC/GA border. It sits on the SC bank and is labeled "N G."
2. Commisioners Rock was labeled as part of a survey disputing Ellicott's findings. It is labeled with a lattitude marking.
3. The official tri-state border is a dark grey mark stamped into the top of a large boulder about 20 feet into the river from the SC bank.
We found ER and the tri-state border, but CR eluded us. For those interested, you can find ER by looking for a rope that allows you to scramble down to the river bank fromn the trail. ER is just a few feet downstream. The tri-state border is best seen from up high on the trail as opposed to the river bank. Maybe someone else will post how to find CR?
Finally, we made it back to camp and fixed some of BF5's beef stroganoff. Wow! I thought his chili-mac was excellent, but this was on a whole other plane! After a long day's hiking, this was exactly what I needed. We settled down and kept a roaring fire going well into the night. We spent hours trading stories, catching up, and enjoying the serenity. That night, I used the good sleeping bag provided by my friend who had been late and slept like the dead. Even though there was a ZERO percent chance of rain predicted, we got a light but steady sprinkling that lasted several hours that night. I'm glad I decided to deploy my Mambajamba "just in case."
I didn't bring a camera, but one of my friends did, so I will try to get the "proof" posted later.
Things I learned this trip:
1. I now possess the skills and familiarity with my equipment to set up in the dark. That being said, I will strive never to be put in that position again!
2. I still have much to learn about getting the fit right on my Incubator. My previous "lows" in the mid 30s were masking a loose fit I didn't realize I had.
3. Deploy your tarp or at least set the stakes and ready it in snake skins. The mountains don't care about weather forecasts!
4. The Emberlit UL is an absolute keeper!
5. Sit pads. They're not just for footboxes.
6. I really need to finish my DIY top quilt. The enclosed footbox matters in cold weather!
7. My new Platypus 4L water filter is another keeper. Man, that thing is fast and light!
8. When cold and tired, beef stroganoff is better than filet mignon.
9. I'm not yet ready for the Mt. Rodgers Winter Hang. Not even close!
10. A "bad" trip where many things go wrong is still very enjoyable and far better than staying home. Get out there!