Panthertown! AKA Backpacking 401

This was supposed to be the Spring Backpacking 101 class weekend. Due to the almost certain possibility of cold and rain, the trip was postponed for a week. However, due to the certainty of me being on call at work next weekend, I was determined to go anyway. The group leader said he would go with me, and Jacob (who is experienced in the woods but has never been to Panthertown) came with us. The rain started off and on during the drive up to North Carolina, and began in ernest about five minutes after getting out of the car in the parking area. It never stopped completely while we were awake, for the duration of the trip. DSCN1666 (Medium)


Mark and Jacob both had full body and backpack ponchos. Mark calls his “the walking blueberry”. I, on the other hand, had what was billed as a “waterproof jacket” from Target (clearance sale! $30). I would soon learn that “waterproof” means different things to different people, and Champion’s definition and mine are not the same. 

The Walking Blueberry in action.
The Walking Blueberry in action.

Mark likes to barefoot hike. I sometimes do this as well, particularly where there are lots of stream crossings and puddles. This proved very detrimental on this hike, when towards the end of day 1 I stepped on “the vine of a thousand spines” which was laying on the ground. My foot now looks to have a lengthwise perforation, much like the joining sections of a piece of toilet paper. One of a few times I screamed like a little girl on the hike. The other was when I almost set myself on fire. More on that later.

behind Schoolhouse falls
behind Schoolhouse falls

One of our first stops was schoolhouse falls. To see a front picture of it, you have to find a previous post. Check September or October 2012. It’s pretty interesting, in that you can walk behind it. By now the rain was as steady and reliable as this waterfall.

DSCN1670 (Medium)It was at this point that I began to notice that my waterproof jacket was having some issues. Namely that around the arms there were some obvious signs of seepage. I could sort of see dark spots instead of beading up. “Uh-Oh” I thought. I had no poncho or other rain gear, depending on the Champion jacket to keep the rain off.

On Little Green
On Little Green

Our next trip was a jaunt up to Little Green. This was a scary place. Little Green is pretty and open and on a slope, which usually is fine. When it’s dry. Knowing my propensity to fall at inopportune moments, the last thing I wanted to happen on my hike was to slip and plunge down the hill into the jagged rocks and tree stumps below. In fact, it was less than the last thing I wanted to happen. It wasn’t even on that list. This picture was taken from as close as I got to the edge, while eating my bagel-and-bacon sandwich. Did you know they make “Bacon Jerky” that is essentially just bacon in a sack that lasts for days? Me either. In no uncertain terms, that stuff is awesome. Getting cold and wet, I put my fleece undershirt on between my synthetic t-shirt and rain jacket.

Camp in the pines
Camp in the pines
Camp!
Camp!

Our next stop, after the trip across Panthertown valley and Granny Burrell falls, was the “official” camping area. Thankfully there is a shelter there, which, big surprise, contained no one. By this point I was “soaked through”. Deciding to “cheat” we agreed to stay inside the shelter. It has a tin roof that leaks in a few spots. The rain on the roof also made it sound like we were inside a giant popcorn machine going full blast before a double feature down at the multiplex. In a rare moment of “oh yeah!” I remembered to photograph my hammock and underquilt, ready for bed. In the far left corner are my backpack and some clothes draped over the beams. Drying my fleece shirt was relatively easy. Fleece seems to hate water, and the water gathered in the low points, so by “milking” the arms, I was able to get rid of a few cups of water. Thankfully the low was only supposed to be 45 that night, and it was still about 48…

Jacob and Mark got to cheat too, not even having to set up tents. We decided to rest and dry a little before going off again. I really needed something hot, and set up my Fancy-Feast stove. I poured in the alcohol and thought it would be a good idea to try and light it with my emergency striker and knife. I stuck a few sparks but they died before hitting the fuel. I got closer, stuck a nice big spark off, and hit the stove with my knife tip. it flipped over and caught fire in the dirt. A few well placed swear words and my cup of water extinguished the blaze. I gave up and got the matches, once the unburned alcohol evaporated. Future notes: Stand farther back. I used too much fuel like always, but it was oaky, because I huddled over the little flame and immediately felt better.

After getting warmed up and set for camp, we decided to head out to Wilderness and Frolictown falls. Cold wet shirt? Check. Wet-Blanket jacket? Check. It is quite amazing, though, how good synthetics feel, even wet. For the first couple of minutes, they were really uncomfortable. Then they became warm and damp.

Frolictown
Frolictown

Frolictown falls are pretty easy to get to, but there’s not much to them. With a ten foot drop or so, they aren’t that dramatic, and this is the only view possible without swimming.

Wilderness
Wilderness

Wilderness falls is a lot more picturesque, and I have a better picture on my bathroom wall. It sounds great, has a lot of different little sections, and its name is apropos. Getting to it requires a hike through a twisting turning, backwoods trail that almost seems to disappear in places.

Going up!
Going up!

Climbing back up from the view to the falls is always interesting. I’m not sure which is tougher, going down or going up. They re-routed the trail, and it was sort of like walking on a mattress. It is very spongy in places, but also muddy on the side of a hill, that you had to be careful not to slip down.

Salt Rock
Salt Rock

Salt rock provided one of the best views of the rain-covered valley. The little hump in the middle is where we ate lunch. The big hump on the right is Big Green, which we didn’t go up because of the bad weather. It’s tough in good weather, and with rain-slickened rock, we didn’t want to chance it. From Salt Rock it was back to the camping area.

Backpacking 101b.
Backpacking 101b.

Since we had some time before dark, Mark went over some of Jacob’s gear, giving suggestions. I pulled out my first aid gear as well, and we poured over what could be left at home, and what was needed. Jacob and I gathered creek water and purified it for our food. I braved the Fancy Feast stove again, and managed to cook the best batch of instant potatoes, warm MRE Lemon Pound cake, and Cafe’ Latte that I’ve yet to taste. I have to remember on future trips to take extra hot drinks. I planned on one at night and one in the morning, but because it was so cold, I wound up borrowing an extra one from Mark.

It was at this point that it was nice that we were all alone in the woods. A couple had joined us briefly (Matteo and Marilyn), but left after looking at the Great Wall, wanting to leave Panthertown all together for somewhere drier. You don’t feel creepy or weird changing in front of two other same-sex persons that you know, and walking around in your long underwear while your sodden shorts hang on the line is no big deal.

I was actually almost dark... the camera decided to try to expose this like a mid-day picture for some reason.
It was actually almost dark… the camera decided to try to expose this like a mid-day picture for some reason.

Thus began the great overnight adventure. Mark hung his bear bag, which consisted of tying his UrSack to the shelter over his head. Wanting to hang properly, I took my rope out to a tree about 100 feet away, and threw it over a branch. No, then I threw it over the branch. Then I untangled the rope, yanked the briars out of it, and tossed it over the RIGHT branch, and pulled up the food bag. Notes on this one: USE PARACORD. Yes, it’s heavier than thinner stuff. Paracord seems to tangle a lot less easy. It’s also great to grip, and doesn’t cut into your hands. My current “bear cord” will be relegated to another use.

Going to sleep is always the worse part of hiking for me. You’re tired, you’ve eaten, and it’s seven-thirty. Time for bed? What the Hell? There’s a reason they call nine o’clock “hiker midnight”. Everyone is long asleep by then. Mark told me the trick to damp clothes: Sleep in them. The human body puts off a heck of a lot of heat. So, I climbed into my hammock and promptly started shivering. After wrestling with my under quilt, which wasn’t tight enough and was letting enough of a draft to cause CBS (Cold Butt Syndrome), I finally blocked the drafts and settled down. I was still cold, so I took off my damp shorts and hung them on the ridge line over me. That seemed to sort out the problem and I fell asleep inside our popcorn popper.

When I awoke, it was DAF (Dark as forever), and I had to pee. According to my phone it was after midnight. I laid there contemplating falling asleep, wondering as always in the woods, if falling asleep knowing I had to pee would cause me to pee on myself. Giving in, I began the birthing process that is exiting the hammock. I waited for a slack period in the rain, and ran out to the closest tree. By the time I was done I was shaking terribly (you jump out of your warm bed, run out in the yard in the rain at 40 degrees and see if YOU don’t shiver). Back in the hammock, it was a few minutes before I was warm and toasty and hey wait, my clothes are much drier!

A few times during the night I woke up to the “red eyed zombie” light of Mark’s headlight. I assume he was taking care of business too. I woke up good at around 4am. Damn this sleeping at 8pm stuff. I watched some of a movie on my phone and played a few games, and rolled back over until 6. I heard Mark up, and looked through my mosquito netting to see him untying the bear sack. Giving in to the blessed morning, I ran out and untied the food bag, pulling the rope down. Yes, it was still raining.

After borrowing a little fuel (I carried enough for three burns – since one went all over the ground I had to use some of his. Next time I bring enough for a week in the woods – with a starving friend) I cooked my grits, made Cappuccino and heated my other bagel (blackberry jelly, woo hoo! Thanks Cracker Barrel). Mark was laying in his bag waiting on his food to cool, and Jacob was just getting up good. After cleaning up I retreated to my tent for more warmth. And yes, my clothes were completely dry by now. Very cool.

Cooking in bed...
Cooking in bed…

After packing up, we headed to Warden’s Falls. We never could get through the dense Rhodos all the way to the falls. the rain really picked up, and there was a burst of thunder in the distance. Deciding to call it a day, we headed for the car, over a mile, with about a quarter inch of rain to go. Overall we did about the same mileage as the regular BP101 route, ten miles, with close to 2300 feet of ups (if not more, I GPS recorded the day trips, but not the trip to Wilderness falls and Salt Rock).

I took some more video this time… You can really hear the rain on the shelter roof while my Cat Stove is burning. Check it out on YouTube. They “shake corrected” it, so it is a bit wonky in places. Sometimes I think that makes it worse. They also seemed to “crop in” on it, cutting off a lot of my video. I’m not too happy with their conversion system…

I didn’t get much of day 2. It was raining so bad, I didn’t want to wreck the camera. Overall the trip was okay. I could deal with my shorts getting damp, but the torso was uncomfortable. A poncho would have saved my bacon, or even a waterproof coat. I’m going to treat mine with NikWax and give it a good testing under the sprinkler, and then maybe still have a “backup” poncho for future trips. The synthetic fleece shirt was a big help. Even though water was RUNNING out of my sleeves as we approached the car (literally, when I pointed my arms at the ground, water would stream out) the shirt was warm. Not having enough fuel and hot drink mixes was an oversight, but that’s what learning is all about. Hot water by itself would have even been okay.

Mark said he was glad he cancelled the 101 trip. I concur, having been a “backpacking newb”, it would have been a VERY rough introduction to the sport. Of course, the worse part of all this is that my house looks like the storeroom at REI. I have damp gear draped over every available surface, piles of things to go in different places, stuff to clean, stuff to reassemble, and re-supplies to do. Oh, and the thirteen spines to dig out of my foot, left over from the “vine of a thousand spikes”. Thus the title above, This was way more than 101 – this was advanced stuff. Backpacking 401, maybe?

The Tax Man Cometh

I received this letter today:

Screen Shot 2013-04-23 at 8.28.56 PMI found it quite silly for a number of reasons. First, and I know I’m going to get stoned for this (wait – I know it’s close to 4/20, but I mean the kind of stoned where they throw rocks at you, not the kind of stoned where mentally deficient types put things into their bodies to hide their mental deficiencies from themselves), but we should be paying sales taxes when we buy stuff online. I, as much as anyone, have enjoyed the sales tax holiday online for years. That doesn’t mean it’s right, any more than installing “you tube downloader” on firefox and using it to collect music and TV shows. Not that I’m going to quit, but that doesn’t make it right. Our states depend on that revenue. When you are driving down bumpy roads, when you don’t ever see a cop around when you need one, when your kid’s school is falling apart, and you wish they would fix all that, that’s part of where sales tax comes in.

When we all cheat, and order stuff online and don’t pay the tax, our states get shitted out of a lot of money. Sure some of that money is going to put marble floors in the warden’s office, and some will pay for the governor to fly to Argentina to get some trim, but hey, some will make it into roads and schools eventually.

No, I’m not going to bring up small businesses. Yes, they’ve been getting screwed, but they have been getting screwed by BIG businesses for a while any way. Wal-Mart, Lowes, and Target have all but swallowed up the mom and pop stores. I remember when VCRs first became popular. Every dinky little convenience store had video rental clubs. Then Blockbuster and that ilk came in and wiped them out, and charged us more. Then, in a twist I would never guess, Red-box came around and let people rent movies out of a vending machine, and Blockbuster got what it deserved. So, small businesses make way for big businesses, and better big businesses wipe out the less efficient ones. I think Wal-Mart is safe, though, what other business lets people shop in their pajamas?

The “Marketplace fairness act” is supposedly there to help small businesses. It forces businesses to collect sales tax on internet sales. But here’s the kicker”

It exempts small online businesses with less than fifty employees and a million dollars in annual sales. How is that “fair”? I know a lot of small businesses that likely do less than a million dollars in sales, and THEY have to pay sales taxes. So, we see what it really is about. Congress wants their states to get a piece of the pie, without making it TOO tough on cottage vendors online. Why run them out of business?

eBay evidently wants this pushed up to ten million in annual sales. Seriously? Ten million is the cutoff? So they just want the top earners to be screwed, and leave everyone else with the continued sales tax holiday. That seems sort of shallow to me… I don’t see them looking after the consumer. If they WERE concerned at all about the consumer, they would stop forcing “paypal” down their user’s throats, a service which can freeze your account at will and hold your money for six months for any or no reason, a service so hated by users there is a website called paypalsucks.com

No thanks, eBay, I’m not drinking your Kool-Aid. I don’t really see this sales tax thing being that much of an issue. After all, there are a lot of great reasons to shop online:

1.You’re not in a store. No dealing with crappy parking, asshole bell-ringing bums or other beggars outside the entrance, no endless searches down aisles looking for stuff without help. Even if you find someone to help they often don’t have a clue what you are talking about or where something might be. Seriously, I ask if you have X and you look at the shelf for five minutes? I can do that. Run to the back and get it for me… don’t stare blankly at the shelf. There was a time when you had to know something about the product you were selling. Go into Radio Shack and ask them where the 555 Timer ICs are.

Radio Shack: You’ve got questions, We’ve got blank stares.

2. Price comparing is really, really fast. Even if you are in a mall, running from store to store takes a lot of time. It’s like shopping for a car – they make it tedious so you’ll just go ahead and buy. You might as well buy what you want from the first place you find it, by the time you waste half a day looking around, you could have been home programming it or wearing it or shooting something with it. Online, I can get six different prices from stores all over the country in about fifteen seconds. Yes, sometimes it is all about price.

3. IF you have to order it for me, I can just do it myself. Brick and mortar stores can’t hold everything. There is a bookstore I know that never has what I want. I get told “we can order that for you”. Well, Duh! I know you can. If I wanted it ordered, I would have done it on Amazon. I want it RIGHT NOW, for whatever reason. And I don’t want you to refuse to order something for me, just because it doesn’t mesh with your beliefs.  Amazon is getting smart, and getting ready for the sales tax thing. By making tax deals with states, they will build warehouses across the country, enjoy tax breaks, and be able to overnight almost anything, anywhere. So by pushing for “marketplace fairness”, it might improve shipping times and put amazon closer than ever.

4. The adage that “mom and pop” stores have better customer service rings true, even online. Small businesses that are going to prosper are going to have to go online. That’s a simple truth. I know of a few cottage vendors that sell hiking and camping stuff. They are little mom and pop (or boyfriend and girlfriend) businesses that have figured out how to make stuff that people need, and advertise online. I would never go to BFE, Ohio to buy something. But online, the small business survives and prospers. Why? Because they have something that you can’t get at a big box store, something designed and built by americans in small buildings and garages. They survive on word of mouth and good reviews. They don’t complain about big businesses taking their customers, because their customers don’t and can’t GO to big businesses for what they have.

And, after all, online you can shop in your pajamas without winding up somewhere like “peoplewalmart.com”

Decisions, Decisions…

It’s official. I’ve been into the whole backpacking thing for a year now this week. Over that time I’ve learned quite a few things, and made a heck of a lot of mistakes. Thankfully they were gear and budgetary mistakes, not “Hey let’s play with that brown snake with the diamond pattern” kind of mistakes, or even the “hey let’s follow that old trail that’s not on the map” kind of mistakes.

So Now I have a few different kinds of stuff I can take with me in the woods, and it’s decision time. Not just because I’m going on a hike soon, but because I’m going on a hike soon with people that may look to me for the short-term solution to their problems.   They may look at me and say, “why do you do things this way?”

I want to make it clear – I am not a leader. I just happen to have been there twice and have a map. I will walk (hopefully) the right way, but other than that you are pretty much on your own.

So – stoves. I have this fancy $50 canister stove thing that is pretty small and quiet and uses the same sort of dinosaur-fart based fuel that your grill does. I also have this 58 cent stove I made from a can of fancy feast. I’m leaning towards the Fancy Feast stove this time. I cut a new wind screen for it. My last wind screen was the shape of a little volcano, which totally encapsulated the stove and most of my titanium mug. This created a blast furnace effect that burned anything under the cone, including leaves, pine straw, and whatever else was flammable. You could tell where I cooked, there was a black circle on the ground. My new screen is a metal cylinder that fits in the cup. Very sleek, and I need to try it out. Also, since I’m only going overnight, and will just be cooking twice, I don’t want to waste part of a new canister for two meals. If there is time I plan on posting a video of my new stove screen before I go… but definitely one from camp when I get back.

Water purifying – I have this really cool water bag thing with a hose I can drink from. It goes in my pack. I have a filter for it so I can add water without removing it from my pack. It holds up to three liters, which is a LOT of heavy water. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell how much water is left in there WITHOUT removing it, so I carry a lot of water weight. I also have a little one liter plastic bottle and this cool UV pen thing that kills any runs-causing water borne nasties. The only problem is one liter is not a lot of water, although I’m likely to run across multiple water sources during one day, in this particular place. I’m thinking of taking the water sack, but letting it run dry between one-liter fill-ups.

Tarp sacks – I have this great big tent cover that I haven’t used yet. the tent came with two, the small one and the large one. I used the small one before. Twice it wasn’t supposed to rain and did, and the foot end of my sleeping bag was damp (but my feet were fine). This time it’s looking like rain is almost a sure thing. Like most things woodsy, once I took the tarp out of the packing, it was virtually impossible to get BACK IN the sack. That was on the bedroom floor. I can imagine this in the woods, especially after it’s wet and I’m cold, and trying to pack up and leave. I finally got it packed neat and squished, inside the cloth equivalent of a tennis ball can. I fear that on my way out of the woods, it will instead occupy a much larger space. I am taking a spare stuff sack just in case, but I really don’t want the damn thing hogging valuable pack space. Here’s hoping for drier weather so I can take my smaller roof. It stuffs really quickly with no fuss, but leaves my feet damp in the morning. On the up side, if I do take the large one and it rains, four people (six if they are really friendly) could stand under it in a pinch.

 

The Saga Continues

Well, in the continuing saga of Me vs. Honda, I had one last gasp.

They were nice enough to fix their faulty air conditioning design for me. However, during their fix, they somehow created a leak inside the car.

Under the dash somewhere back in all the mess is part of the A/C system. It’s cold, and much like your ice tea glass on the counter, water condenses on the outside of it. This water is typically collected in a plastic drain pan of sorts, and is routed outside through a hose, which is why on warm humid summer days it may look like your radiator is leaking in your garage, when it’s just A/C water.

During their repairs, the Honda people somehow caused this drain thing to leak, so the water wound up on the floor. A slow drip, over time, can create quite a mess. And so we found on the way home from Disney world.

On Wednesday when we picked the car up, it was cold. Thursday was also mildly cool, not requiring much use of the A/C system. Still, by the time we reached Florida, it was warm enough. Upon reaching Disney World, my wife remarked that her bag was damp. We didn’t think much of it, because it was wet outside, and it could have hit the ground.

The next morning, while going to Mickey’s house, we noticed a faint moldy/musty smell, like someone left a garbage bag in the car too long before heading to the dump. It was disagreeable but not awful. By now it was warmer, and we were running the A/C regularly. By Sunday morning it was truly awful, like riding in the back of a garbage truck. She happened to feel water drop on her foot, or see it drip on the floor. I poked around under the dash at Cracker Barrel, and found where it was coming from. I had hoped they only forgot to plug the hose back in. Nope.

So the car had to go back. They fixed the leak, and told me to “let the floor dry out.” Easy for you to say when you’re not riding in a car that smells like the garbage can in the back of Foot Locker. We took to calling the car the CR-Feet, instead of CR-V.

I took out the cloth floor-mat, which really reeked, and tried to dry out the floor board, which is kind of a spongy carpeting. It still holds a lot of water. Now I’m leaving it in the sun with some sort of “dampness absorbing” thing I got from Lowes. It has a flower fresh scent, reminiscent of when someone takes a bad dump, and sprays the bathroom down with apple-scented spray. Then it just smells like someone pooped in an apple orchard. Same effect.

So, thank you Honda, for making a bad situation worse. I guess it could have been even worse. It could have been a Ford.

the Roll Cooker 4000

One thing I really suck at when I’m hiking is coming up with acceptable meals. Cooking is hard enough, and even more so when I’m restricted to noodles in a sack, or some other type of pasta. Noodles get old after a few trips. There should be more to look forward to. Plus, there’s none of the great sides often accompanying noodles. Bread, for one. Sure, you can lug a couple of slices of Merita into the woods, but rolls? What about warm buttery rolls.
Enter the Roll-Coker 4000 system. I thought and experimented for a week or two, and came up finally with something resembling a model of a home oven. Basically it transforms a backpacking mug into a stove with two little wires. You can see it in action
The camera cut off before I could get everything, but it works really well. You just have to be careful not to burn fingers when removing the bread item, but in about seven minutes it creates a browned, crusty, piping hot roll, just like you would have at home out of the oven. And it’s simple enough anyone with some wire and pliers can make it in about five minutes.
It’s reason enough to dump that silly cat food can stove…

My new Whoopie Slings!

When I told my wife I was going to try out my whoopie sling in the back yard, she told me, “What whoopie sling? And not until it’s dark, the neighbors will call the police!”

No, it’s not that kind of a sling, you perverts. Get your mind out of the gutter. If it wasn’t for the gutter, my mind would be homeless… but I digress.

A “whoopie sling” is a very useful rope product made of some high strength rope originally designed for marine use. Is has a fixed loop on one end, and the rest is a huge adjustable loop. It’s perfect for hammock tents. Why?

The Whoopie Sling!
The Whoopie Sling!

Traditionally hammock tents involve a lot of knots. Now I like to tie things up as much as the next person, but in the woods when it’s cold or raining or you have to re-tie knots six times to get the hammock to hang right, a non-knot method of getting your hammock well hung is much appreciated.

Soooo – in comes the whoopie sling, with it’s completely knot-free design. It’s a simple enough thing. Put strap around tree, put loop through strap, and put something in loop to keep it from coming out. In my case, a trekking pole. Repeat on other end, and adjust loops until everything is centered and at the right height. Much simpler.

Of course, getting the slings onto the hammock in the first place is hard enough, but there are internet videos to help with that. The internet is great for that. Someday I imagine there will be no more need to ask anyone anything. It will all be on youtube.

So what follows

Right HERE

is a video for hammock experts and noobs alike, showing how I modified my Hennessy hammock to use the whoopie sling ropes. What I don’t show in the video is that I did replace the ridge line with an adjustable line. After adding the whoopies, I found my ridge line had shifted and left me with a flaccid and ugly-looking mosquito net. It should be relatively stiff and straight when I am inside the tent, almost like it would be for you ground dwellers.

So really, besides saving half an ounce (which might really perk up your ears if you are a dedicated gram-wienie), what are the benefits?

Decreased setup time! Thats the biggie. I’ve seen tent dwellers set up their stuff much faster than me, and I don’t even have to worry about flat ground. As long as you don’t tangle the ropes (which I edited out of the video for brevity), using two trekking poles and the whoopies cuts hanging time at least in half. It also cuts takedown time as well. On a nice day, you really have all the time in the world. On a misty rainy morning or evening when all you want to do is get the blasted thing set up or stored, cutting two minutes off your “dealing with the hammock” time suddenly becomes very valuable.

Less to carry: We are back to weight again, but along with weight goes some bulk. The ENO system uses carabiners, which you have to lug around with no other use than for the hammock. Many whoopie sling-selling sites will sell “toggles” which are just short sections on aluminum tube. Well – I’m carrying two aluminum tubes already. Why not put them to a good use at night when I’m not using them? Also, the whoopies take up less room in the stuff sack than the thick, bulky ropes. It’s hard to believe they are rated close to the same limits.

Ease of use: I used two seperate colors for the ends. Several times I have set my hammock up, only to realize the entry/exit hole is on the wrong end, i.e. the low side of the hill so I can’t sit down, the end near the creek with the mushy ground, the end by the thick brush, not the clear opening. With my different colors, I know coming out the sack which end is which.

The cons:

The initial setup can be slightly daunting. It’s even worse if you decide later to go back and replace your ridge line. It’s a lot to remember in the right order. If you just pull the ridge line out, how do you get the new one in? Did you put on the mitten clips and ridge line organizer? Does your mosquito net behave?

You lose your trekking poles: Say everyone gets to camp, you set all your stuff up, and then after supper someone says “Hey why don’t we go on a dusk hike down the road a piece?” Your trekking poles are stuck to the side of a tree. Of course, this could be mitigated pretty quickly with a stick, but if you let go of the rope then or later, you could cause your whole setup (tarp, tent, and under quilt) to fall to the ground. Not something you want to fix at ten at night when you are coming back tired from a second hike.

Expense: Amsteel rope turned into whoopies isn’t the cheapest thing. A couple of whoopies, a ridge line, and shipping comes to about $30. No one ever said hiking was cheap. Well, some people did, but that was like 30 years ago. It’s not cheap now.

 

Next post: Deploying my tarp in the rain. Or maybe a detailed video on how I cook a roll in the woods…

Walt Disney World Flower and Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So the wife and I attended Disney World’s Flower and Garden festival. It was a unique experience, one I had not done before. It was good to get away for a few days over spring break. Despite my hiking trip not working out, doing ten miles around Disney parks still felt pretty good.

Here are some of my better pictures. By which I mean pictures without me in them.

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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
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Rapunzel’s House
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The Beast’s Castle. No – I didn’t photoshop this, it was just a dark dreary day.
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Be….Our….Guest….
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My attempt at making an evil Cinderella Castle – from the back side.
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More of the castle
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A happy pleasant view.
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Test Track! Going 60 miles an hour on a bumpy track makes for difficult pictures.
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Most rides dump you in a gift shop. Test Track is no exception.
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Tow Mater!
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Flowers and Gardens, of course. That is the reason for the festival.
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They have big balls here.
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Outside Tinkerbell’s Butterfly House.
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Monsters, Inc.?
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The English “tea garden”
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Belle, outside Le Chefs De France!
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Who knew Bonsai wasn’t just little pine trees?
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I love Morocco…. Photographs so nicely, and I finally tried the lamb this time. Mmmmmm…Lamb!
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Epcot entrance at night.
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Welcome to the Magic Kingdom. Even if it is cold and raining.
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Playing with black and white.
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Mickey Mouse and his loyal servant.
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The teacups are awesome. Where else can you spin around so fast you can barely get off the ride?
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Swiss Family Treehouse. It’s like the stairmaster from Hell. Up down and around… not much of a ride but I hadn’t done it in years.

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