NorCal hike and hang Feather Falls, California. March 31st, 2012
Me, Graffix, Meld: The Soggy Bottom Gang
I packed up my stuff Saturday morning and drove 120 miles to the Feather Falls trailhead. The last 12 miles, while my windshield wipers were on full throttle, I kept chanting "please let no one else be there yet, or let them be waiting in their cars, so we can re-evaluate this trip. please let no one else be there yet ..."
Feather Falls National Scenic Trail is entirely composed of red clay. Just think about that for a while and then add in a week of rain.
My wish was granted: Meld was at the trailhead, hanging out in his truck.
Before I could consult with him, however, I had to get my rain gear on (total downpour, rain bouncing off the pavement) so I squirmed over into the passenger seat of the Prius and got my gaiters, my chaps, my rain skirt and my baseball cap on. Then I ran around to the hatch, opened it, hopped inside and peeled my Packa off of my pack, donning that with minimal rain getting in the car.
All warmed up and unburdened by my pack, I went over to chat with Meld. We decided to wait for gRaFFiX to arrive.
gRaFFiX drove up just a few minutes later (Meld had spent the night at the trailhead campground but was packed up again and ready to hike.)
We decided to have a non-hike hang and stay at the campground. The first site to the right was OK for three hammocks. Meld had stayed there Friday night.
We set up.
I took the longest since I had not rearranged my ridgeline figure 9s after the last trip and had to scoot them down the line for the large trees and wide spacing. And because I'm a fumble fingered idiot sometimes.
I got my hammock up also, but suspected it was really too far between these trees. I didn't test it since I was still dressed in my dripping wet rain gear.
I decided that cowering under the picnic table while it hailed was not getting my tarp set up any faster. It was smaller than pea-sized so no pain and no worries.
gRaFFiX got as far as his tarp and realized that his hiking boots (he was in Vibram 5 fingers, I think) were by the recliner.
His feet were cold and getting colder.
We briefly considered trying a tarp-o-rama and overlapping the tarps. gRaFFiX's feet kept getting colder and I was not sanguine about my ability to un-set-up my stuff and then re-set-up without getting Things that Must Remain Dry wet.
And a hang without conversation is a mighty boring hang.
gRaFFiX started shivering and he and I decided to bail.
Meld, as far as I know, is still comfortably ensconced in his setup at the trailhead, reading a book on his I-whatcamacallit, and probably thinking about a hike when it stops raining so much.
So I undid the rain-clothes-dance and drove home. Imaging my irritation when there was blue sky visible once I got out of the hills. Hrmph!
Despite no actual backpacking, I did learn things from this trip. This was my first time attempting to set up in heavy rain.
What I noticed/learned/discovered:
From the feet up: my new Goretex Inov8 shoes (low boots) and my nifty home made gaiters kept my feet and shins comfortably dry.
My billowing purple rain chaps, despite being too long and wide and making me look like some kind of tacky Disney pirate, kept my lightweight Ibex tights dry and my legs cozy.
My silnylon rainskirt was probably unnecessary since there was no pack under my Packa but it caused no problems, either.
My Packa did a great job keeping me dry except when I did dumb things.
I wore a lightweight Ibex longsleeved shirt under the Packa. I spent all the time at the trailhead moving around so I never cooled off too much and that shirt was just enough.
Once I was in the car, I realized that the sleeves of my shirt were damp from the elbows to the wrists. Probably because of all the time I spend fussing with my tarp, wrists pointed to the sky like little funnels.
I had some DIY waterproof breathable overmitts with me. They kept my hands dry, but the fabric is slippery and too difficult to work in. So they came off. As long as I was moving around my bare soggy hands stayed warm enough.
The brim on the Packa is minimal, so I wore a long-brimmed ball cap under it. Kept most of the rain off my glasses, but my glasses eventually fogged up.
From the top down: I had packed my tarp on the very top of my pack (Molly Mac Pack) and used Fastex buckle (instead of ladder loc) straps so I could quickly unsnap it and start setting up. Now, mind you, my pack was in the car so that may not really count.
I brought my large JRB 10x11 tarp. Boy, was I glad I had. I had also put two gripclip tieouts on each side. Very helpful.
I always think "Oh, this time I'll put my tarp up higher (6 feet or more) so I don't have to shamble around all bent over." Then I go and stick the edges near the ground anyway, inducing shambling.
8 stakes (6 hooks and 2 groundhogs) were just right.
The trees I chose were very large and rather farther apart then I usually use. The combo probably was too much for my tree straps, but since I didn't sleep in the hammock, I don't really care. But I do need to remember to account for tree-girth as well as spacing.
I had grabbed 1/2 of an old piece of heavy plastic (Visqueen) that our scout troop (in 1976: yeah, that old) had used under our Eureka tents. That was a lifesaver! As soon as the tarp was up, down went that piece of plastic, with my stuff piled on it. I did drip on it a little bit, but it kept my stuff off the soggy ground.
my gear list for this trip (on geargrams.com)
For Next Time:
I need to double check my tarp setup so I know the figure 9s are set up properly and in the right place relative to the ends of the line and to the ends of the tarp.
I need to work out some way of keeping my forearms dry. I'm considering some bicycling arm warmers and a short sleeved shirt. At least that way when the warmers get wet I can take them off.
I need to figure out how to keep my soggy tree straps separate from my dry hammock WITHOUT leaving the straps behind.
Yes, children, my tree straps are 120 miles away. Along with my dutchclips.
Tttttttttttthhhhhhhhhhhhhhat's all, Folks!