I know, I know. A group hang + solo? However did you manage it, Str1der? I guess I'm just that good. Either that, or I scared everyone off after the first night, I'm not quite sure.
Dakotaross and I had both independently decided to reschedule solo trips for the weekend after all the storms and tornadoes. I left Atlanta around 5 and made it up to Burrell's Ford about an hour after dusk. Thankfully, I knew the section of trail between there and Ellicott Rock well, so I hiked in the dark checking every campsite with a lit campfire for my yet unmet companion.
As I rounded the corner to approach the beach site, I saw a bright red LED beckoning. I heralded my arrival and was introduced to dakotaross, a really nice guy to be sure. He had already set up his Claytor and was about to have dinner. I hurriedly set up my WBBB and Mambajamba tarp in my new snake skins (thanks Syb!). It was also the first outing using my new whoopie slings. I must say, those are keepers. We cooked dinner with our headlamps off since the full moon was bathing us with as much light as a flood lamp! Dinner was BB5's Beef Stroganoff. That one is coming with me on just about every camping from this day forward! Dakotaross and I sat around the campfire trading talk about gear, trails, and other camping experiences until we decided to turn in. I deployed my winter Incubator and 5 pound sleeping bag and drifted off to sleep.
The lows that night dropped into the lower 20s, a personal best for me! However, I had only previously used my uq in the lower 30s. Apparently, small gaps in the fit didn't matter at those temps, but they sure did in the low 20s! Twice during the first few hours, I got up and tightened my suspension. Even the second time wasn't enough as I was never completely warm, but it was enough for me to sleep thru the rest of the night. We got up at the crack of 8:30 and leisurely went through our morning routines of cooking breakfast (strawberries and cream oatmeal for me), checking out each other's setups, and just generally lollygagging. We took our time and really enjoyed the morning on the banks of the Chattooga! By the time we had packed up and hit the trail, it was after 12! We quickly hiked the rest of the way up to where the East Fork Trail runs into the CRT where we saw some strange artifacts left behind by an ancient culture. They appeared to be three sapling poles cut into 10 ft sections and lashed together like a teepee. They looked very much like the image posted about halfway down this link (http://www.hammockforums.net/forum/s...craft+chairs); however, the purpose for these structures remains unknown. Dakotaross had a family engagement, so we parted ways and he high-tailed it back to the cars.
Now being on my own, I too headed south but at a much more leisurely pace. I hit the short but steep spur to Spoonauger Falls, and ate lunch under its mist. Then, I headed back to the campground to use the privy before pushing on south from Burrell's Ford. As I passed my truck, I saw that dakotaross had left me a beer! He must have identified my vehicle from the University of South Carolina decal I had on it (I had mentioned that I was a USC grad). What a guy!
I pushed on south hoping to reach the intersection with the foothills trail, but the combination of my incredibly late start and leisurely pace meant that I didn't get that far. I further tightened the suspension on my Incubator and also deployed my DIY Triangle Thingies just be safe. With a belly full of BB5's Chili Mac, some dehydrated apple slices, and apple brandy for desert, I settled down in my hammock early to read. It was then that the true feeling of being alone sank in. A solo hang is a surreal experience, and I can't really explain how it differs from a group hang except to say that those who have done it will understand. The sky was full of stars and a dark red full moon. I didn't bother to unskin the tarp since the sky was too beautiful. I had thought that being solo for the first time would keep me awake all night, but I actually slept better that night than the previous one. I used my Whitebox alcohol stove to cook breakfast (its first outing also), packed up, and hit the trail back to the truck. Sorry, no pics since I didn't bring a camera, but maybe dakotaross will post some that he took?
What I Learned:
- I really enjoyed the solo experience, and I will definitely do it again. That being said, I think I prefer having some company, at least some of the time.
- My winter Incubator is good to at least 20 degrees, as long as I tighten the suspension far more than I had though necessary!
- It is better to boil water first and then use some for coffee while adding the oatmeal to the rest. Adding the oatmeal first means two separate boils.
- Dakotaross is a quality gent!