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  1. #1
    K0m4's Avatar
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    Trip report: Do two one-nighters a two-nighter make?

    Part I - Discovering your Limitations

    Ok, I’ve lived here in Georgia long enough now without filing any real trip reports. I put some pics in a post about a trip we undertook in October, but that doesn’t count, and you know what – the nature here in Georgia deserves better (and to avoid any confusion – that means Georgia, the country in the South Caucasus, not the state in the US)! So here is a report of two overnighters separated by about two months – which allows for some comparative observations of nature awakening.

    (Does two one-nighters count as a two-nighter? What if they’re separated by two months – does it make a really long trip, as you can observe nature’s changes? Why are we here on this great big planet?)

    Anyway…

    I had been doing some research about possibilities to get out and about with my hammock for some time. Georgia hosts the more magnificent part of the Caucasus range, which, to be honest, makes the Alps look like foothills. Ok, that’s not honest, that’s an exaggeration, but that’s just how I express myself. However, that being a bit over the top for short excursions (which is all I have time for with my job), and also not being a mountaineer, I looked for lower-hanging fruits – better described as lower-lying forests. There are a number of national parks in the country, as well as forested areas. Most of which is wholly underdeveloped for hiking or any kind of tourism that involves getting out in nature. At least compared to what one is used to from those Alps or any country where being outdoors is a medium-to-big thing. But the flip side of the coin is that that makes it wilder too!

    Given my time budget, I one day started paying special attention to a nature reserve pretty much starting at the edge of town (that town being Tbilisi, the capital). Tbilisi National Park it’s called, and on google maps it seemed to be pretty much a big forest. Playing around with google maps and google earth, I soon discovered a very weird and intriguing formation in the hills. At least from the satellite point of view. Furthermore, I noticed that there was a main road leading up to a village at a pass to the west of it, and what looked like a network of forestry roads criss-crossing the hills, and just maybe making a fairly comfortable hike from that village to the formation possible, to have a look for myself.

    Doesn’t that look like something you’d wanna see irl?


    A long weekend came up in March, and I decided on the morning of the second day to have a go. Of course, true to my habit, I got up, tinkered, drank coffee, tinkered, had breakfast, tinkered, started packing, tinkered, and then loaded the car up and went. I was a little apprehensive at first, as one of the drivers at work upon hearing of my grand plan got eyes about as big as dinner plates and said, almost whispering “tam volki..” which is Russian for “there are wolves there…”. But putting on a brave face I convinced him (and more importantly myself) that they are more afraid of me than I am of them, so I would be fine.

    Reaching the village, I did encounter what indeed could have passed for wolves.. two dogs that were very protective of their houses found holes in the fencing and came after me.. one came within a decimetre of biting my foot until I stood my ground and made as if I was going to hit them. That was something they knew, because that made them shy away instantly… There’s a particular breed of dog here in the region – which is the size of a horse and with a vicious temper – that shepherds use to protect their herds up in the mountains. I think that one of them was at least a cross of this breed.

    After that small altercation, I went about my way following a forestry road up into the woods. This connected to an ancient road that once had had asphalt on it, which I followed for about 100 meters, before entering into the bushwhacking.. I had looked at google earth extensively, and come up with a plan that I should follow the southernmost ridge line, and this would bring me to the formation. Easy enough. Behind your desk. I started making my way through young trees, some breed of ground-growing plant that had really long vines with tiny thorns on them, and climbing the hills. Some steeper than others, but relentlessly going upwards. I had, also true to my habit, packed my backpack waaaay too heavy, because I wanted to bring all kinds of luxury items, such as meat to grill in the evening. By the end of the first hour I was already feeling exhausted..

    Alright, I might be a weakling, but isn’t that hill STEEP?


    In between the most serious bushwhacking, a game trail seemed to follow the ridge line. This was very welcome, as it somehow felt that I wasn’t the only one stupid enough to try to follow it (even though the next smartest animal would be a wolf or a fox), and it also gave some direction through the woods. Not that it would have been possible to go anywhere else though – the sides were steep!

    Easy enough to maintain direction..


    It was very cool how the south side had no snow, and the north side plenty, with the game trail running through it like a crease in a folded paper. On the south side, spring flowers had started coming out, but at the same time it was clear that winter hadn’t quite let go yet.. and up here, apparently it could be windy too..

    Spring flowers


    Winter fruits (..?)


    The view to the side of the crease..


    About this time, it started becoming clear to me that days are short. Especially for those of us who tend to sleep in and procrastinate in the mornings.. I realised there wasn’t a chance in hell if my life depended on it that I would make it to that formation this day. The climbing had just been too challenging, together with the bushwhacking and the heavy pack. I guess not all things can be found out before a computer screen! The sun was low in the sky and I decided to look for a camp site. I found one with a decent view, and went about collecting firewood. I enjoyed the fire in the winter sunset, and when it was time to go to bed, I could see the lights of Tbilisi in the distance. Amazing how such places are right around the corner from where you live, and I was absolutely alone up there.





    I woke up to a beautiful day after a good night’s sleep. I was slow getting up though, just enjoying the view from the hammock with a cup of coffee.



    Well ok, more than a cup.. more like a whole pot.. I realised that it was winter, I was short on supplies, most importantly water, and I wasn’t taking any chances, so I decided to hike back to the car. I would have to find another day to finish the trek to that formation.

    I’ll be back..

  2. #2
    K0m4's Avatar
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    Part II – Ignoring your Limitations (because either they or you are really stupid…)

    I was undeterred by the failure to reach the formation, because what it had given me was a great night out in the forests of Georgia. Two weeks ago, I spent a three-nighter in the woods of my home country with my girlfriend, and after coming home I felt the urge for more. So on Friday I decided I would have another go at reaching that formation. I packed essentials only, but I sure wasn’t going to skimp on water. Two full 3-liter camelbaks got strapped to my backpack, bringing the weight up to 22 kg. By no means a UL endeavour, but I think it’s the lightest pack I’ve ever lugged into the woods. And contrary from last time, I only tinkered and procrastinated in the evening before leaving (huh! How’s that for a lesson learnt – only just realised it now as I am typing!), so I was already out the door at 11:30.

    Wise from the altercation with the dogs, I drove past the houses and up a ways on that road. Our vehicles are pretty off-road capable, so it ate up the ruts with ease. I stopped a few hundred meters up the road, in a place I could turn the car around and park it in the vegetation, and started walking. This time I knew what the terrain had in store in terms of elevation changes, but it being May, I also was thinking of all the young-uns that mama bear and wolf would want to protect, so I had supplied myself a can of pepper spray. I was also a bit worried how the vegetation would look well into spring- and almost summer time, particularly the vines that had caught my feet on more than one occasion last time out..

    Yeah, there’s a trail under there.. somewhere…


    Many people say they love autumn and the colours that nature breaks out into. Myself, I much prefer summer, and spring works too if it has come as far as it has here. The lush green seems to me to signify life at its peak, whereas the colours of autumn, while beautiful, are signifying that this is the end, everything’s going to sleep now, see you in however many months winter lasts (which is a lot of months where I’m from…).

    The forest is awake


    The hike started out pleasant enough, although at 25 or so degrees I hadn’t come 200 meters until I was soaked with sweat. An hour and a half later though, following much the same route as last time, the rain started coming. I chose between my softshell jacket or my rain jacket, and went for the latter as I figured I wouldn’t know how long the rain would last. Turns out, it would last for the remainder of the day.. After a while, I came to that steep hill that I had photographed in winter, and although there was no snow now, it was just as steep... I had hoped for a glamorous sunny photo of a relaxed and laid-back guy in a t-shirt, but instead it looked more like a wet dog…

    Wet guy hiking a steep hill


    I came upon a meadow where someone sometime had put a cross overlooking the valley. I remember having seen the cross from down the road when I had been driving around looking for possible trail heads and generally scouting the area. I’m not a believer, but it installed a warm feeling in me anyway. Unfortunately the fog made it impossible to see any distance, but I thought I’d have another chance tomorrow. This was true of the other meadows I came across as well – I bet with myself the view would be spectacular, but at that time there was little to be seen. When the fog was thick enough to see only about ten meters, and feel like a steam sauna to breathe, I started thinking to myself whether it was wisest to abort this hike as well. As I was following more or less frequented tracks now however (meaning a car every month or so), I decided to press on.

    Do you see anything..?


    By the time I had come to the meadow with the cross, I already knew i had come further than last time. After the second and third meadows, I started wondering if I wouldn’t make it after all. I came upon a road that had been grated out of the hill side not too long ago, and was better maintained than the others. If felt good after all the bushwhacking to have a bit simpler terrain, and at that point I was so exhausted I couldn’t care less whether I was walking on a game trail, a gravel road, or a German Autobahn.. It seemed to run on the north side of the ridge, so when I got a chance I climbed up on the ridge line to see a breath taking view open up. Even with the fog. A huge meadow spread out in front of me, and I realised that this was the meadow that was above the formation.



    I was close now! I pressed on along it, and saw an old barn house; this was obviously used for summer grazing. After a while I could see some break in the green colour of the grass and realised this must be the place.

    Yes, that IS that formation.. and that IS me.. I’m not making this up!


    About now, the rain let up too, which was a welcome change of pace after some four hours of constant down pour.. I went the last little bit further, and when I came to what looked like tractor tracks going downhill, I dropped my backpack (it was reeeeally steep, don’t think I would have made it back up again with the pack) and went down. Past the meadow was a grove of trees, and through it I could see the rock colour. I went through the grove and all of a sudden it opened up. It was a weird construction of nature, a big gash in the green. I played with my thoughts about how once upon a time, thousands of years ago, a tree had fallen for whatever reason and left a rut that started building with rain and wind, growing through the millennia into this canyon. It was really cool, and one of those things you can never take a photo of that justifies it..

    Still tried though..


    I sat there for a while playing with those thoughts, and then made my way back up. The hill was steep, and I was totally devoid of any energy, so it was a good thing I’d left my pack.. I decided I was going to set up between two ancient trees I had seen where I first came up to the meadow. It was a place where probably the farmer using the meadow for grazing had set up with a table and a fire place, but the trees were about 50 meters away from that and standing exactly on the edge of the hill. It was a beautiful site, and with the clouds blowing over I even started nurturing the hope that I would see the sunset. I set up and started looking for firewood. I collected about a million little twigs, as I thought it wouldn’t be too easy to get anything going after this rain. I was still on the verge of not succeeding, but in the end, the fire brought some warming up and drying in what was now fairly cold and windy conditions. But the camp site had a view, that’s for sure..



    I decided I was simply too exhausted to grill the meat I had brought with me, and just boiled some water for the freeze-dried meal I had as a back-up. The brand is Real Turmat – a Norwegian maker, and it is astonishingly delicious for being freeze-dried. Highly recommended! After that I decided I would die if I didn’t sleep, so I turned in. I woke up to a sunny day, and generally just pleasant whereabouts. I woke up fairly early for once, so I decided to make the most of it and hike back at a good hour. But not before having had proper coffee!

    As I went on my way, I realised after the first ascent that I had forgotten my trekking pole! While it was nothing more than a small stick that I had found the first time mainly to fend off the dogs, it had become my companion. I used it when bushwhacking to beat on those vines to make sure any snakes present would know I was coming.. that was an altercation I could live without.. and it gave me balance when I stumbled around during the intense bushwhacks, as well as going up or down really steep hills (or, as the case was on the return – around them.. it’s really hard to walk on a hillside that slopes around 45 degrees…). So obviously I went back for it. I lost about a half hour, but I still started at ten and was moving in a general downhill fashion, so I didn’t worry.

    I crossed those meadows I had crossed the day before, and indeed the views were spectacular. The cross was certainly watching over its subjects from this positions.

    So THAT’s what it looked like..


    Walking along the ridge line in the woods was the most relaxing of times. When it was going more or less flat and you heard the cuckoo in the distance, the soul was in harmony. Here and there I saw little flats where an animal must have slept the night before, one of which had what looked suspiciously like grey hair from a dog-like creature… I didn’t think much of it though, I was more concerned with snakes. The undergrowth and fallen trunks were snake heaven as far as I was concerned, and I really didn’t want to be bitten by a Caucasian viper, which is fairly venomous. I continued to use my stick to hit the vines and grass to make my presence known to any legless critters. And every so often, I followed the game trails going along the ridge line.

    As the end of one particular steep descent, I felt a pinch on my belly.. I rubbed it hard, and there was something in there. I looked down my shirt, and I realised I had been bitten! After all my concerns about wolves, snakes, and bears (and dogs!), it turns out I was bitten by.. wait for it… an ANT! Call the emergency services!!! Somehow this ant had nestled its way into my soaking wet t-shirt, and sorry to say but I probably had rubbed the poor bugger to death when scratching..

    I was nearing the end, and decided that at least today I could have a picture of a guy in a t-shirt.. and although it wasn’t raining, he was still pretty wet.. About half an hour before I got to the car, I slurped up the last drops in my camelbaks.

    (almost) as wet as hiking in..


    So why was I so tired? Why did I sweat so much? Well, for one it was hot. Second, I was carrying a lot of stuff, third, it was pretty steep… but probably mostly because I’m simply not in good enough shape! Those of you who are into hiking in mountains as a general thing – how do you DO it?? My hike was about 12 km, and while the elevation gain according to my gps was something like 700m, that doesn’t sound like anything extraordinary? Or? (help with my ego here guys!)

    It really doesn’t look that hard on the computer screen, does it..?


    Anyway, in those two days I explored the woods of Tbilisi National Park, and greatly enjoyed myself! And I realised I think life is all a long big journey, so whether it’s a one-nighter or two-nighter becomes an academic question in any case!

    So there you are, a trip report from the South Caucasus – a first on Hammockforums? Thanks for reading!

  3. #3

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    Nice report. Great pics! Sounds like experience well gained. All your questions are the reason I spend so much time researching and experimenting with my UL kit. That, and walking 2 miles every morning, more when I get the chance
    The meaning of Life is to live it

  4. #4
    Senior Member Floridahanger's Avatar
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    I will read the report later(after work) to due your report justice. Meanwhile, Great pics there.
    Enjoy and have fun with your family, before they have fun without you

    My fantastic Photographer wife: http://www.capturedhearts-photography.com

  5. #5
    MAD777's Avatar
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    Wow! Fantastic! I wanted to be there with you. Thank you for taking the time to write such an entertaining report!
    Mike
    "Life is a Project!"

  6. #6
    ofuros's Avatar
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    Think you answered your own question KOm4....
    Heat, rain, hilly terrain, dense habitat, overloaded, out of shape, mind state...will all take their toll.
    All the same it was an enjoyable 12kms.
    I would have chosen those two large ancient trees to hang between too, a little exposed
    to the local winds...but great morning views !
    Mountain views are good for the soul....& getting to them is good for my waistline.

    https://ofuros.exposure.co/

  7. #7
    lijn's Avatar
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    Great trip report. Love your style.
    And it looks like you had a good time too. If you keep hiking like this on a regular basis, I bet you're back in shape in no time!
    Still getting the hang of it

  8. #8
    K0m4's Avatar
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    Thanks all for your kind comments, glad you enjoyed it!

    You're all correct, walking/hiking would put me in shape for walking/hiking. More reasons to get out there! :-) And yes, the site was (more than) slightly exposed to the winds - I was a little concerned about it when the wind picked up in the evening (winds here in Tbilisi can be absolutely horrid - at least once a month my balcony door gets blown up...), but they died out towards 2300 so it was all good. And with that view, I just took a chance, pitched the tarp low, and enjoyed it in the morning!

  9. #9
    Rain Man's Avatar
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    Great report and pics. Nice to read about backpacking in Georgia! Interesting that worry about big animals (wolves) came to naught, while it was, as always, the small ones (the ant) that actually bite! LOL Interesting too to read that Georgia has a venomous snake. I did not know that.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Rain Man

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    "You can stand tall without standing on someone. You can be a victor without having victims." --Harriet Woods
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  10. #10
    Traverson's Avatar
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    Good report. It's nice to hear about and see different places.

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