I met up with my brothers and a few friends at Black Balsam Knob on the Art Loeb Trail last weekend. I knew from having been there before to expect some pretty insane winds at night and in the mornings, so we hiked down into a somewhat sheltered grotto of evergreens and set up camp. I was the only hammocker in the group, but at least two others were interested. I pitched my tarp as low to the ground and tight as I could in case the wind picked up over night. Sure enough, the winds that struck that night were truly awesome. The tops of all the trees were bending like saplings, and I had to remind myself that my 6ft huggers barely reached around these trees! The wind was much weaker down in our grotto, but my tarp still spent much of the night pressed firmly against my hammock. I ended up deploying the bug net just to keep the tarp off my face! I was pleased though that my stakes held, and the guy lines I made from Shane's design (http://www.hammockforums.net/forum/s...ad.php?t=25052) handled the wind just fine. After a few uneasy minutes double checking everything, I relaxed and just let the wind rock me to sleep.
The next day, we decided to make a day hike over to Shining Rock. We took the Art Loeb Trail up to the summit of Black Balsam Knob where the wind was even stronger, continually gusting up to at least 80mph. We kept joking about getting blown off the mountain, but it was strong enough that I decided not to approach any of the steeper drop-offs from upwind. The ALT is rated strenuous in this section for a reason. The climbs were bad enough, but some of the descents were little more than steep rock-hopping that quickly made my knees ache. We were very thankful to reach Ivestor Gap where the trail leveled off. By this time, the winds had also died down. I had never been to Shining Rock, but it was definitely worth the hike to see it close up. On the way back, we decided to cheat and use the much easier Ivestor Gap Trail to return to Black Balsam. That evening, a brief shower popped up, but we just hunkered down under my tarp and played cards until it passed. The next morning, we packed up and said our goodbyes.
Things I learned:
1. My tarp, guylines, and stakes can handle strong, sustained winds; however, I will need to engage the pullouts if I want any space left under the tarp.
2. The Emberlit is truly a wonderful stove, but it is far better suited to heating water for 1-3 people than for 6. It did the job, but required 3 separate boils. My buddies need to get their own stoves!
3. Never underestimate the importance of site selection! I suspect the forest rangers would still be looking for me now if I had set up my hammock in a less protected spot where I would surely have been blown away by those winds.