Beaten by a tree – again.

So I have this big-ass oak tree in my yard. Yes, that’s its official scientific name, Bigassis Oakus or something. Its around 40 feet tall and leaning precariously. It’s leaning precariously away from the house, and away from the neighbor’s house. Just sort of leaning. The thing looks a little sick and I keep feeling like one day the tree is just going to say “fuck it”, and fall over. Probably at an inopportune time, like the night before we are supposed to leave at 7am on a five day vacation. So it’s either leave the tree laying there for several days pissing off the neighborhood, or be late and cut the bastard up.

Not that I care about pissing off the neighborhood, I really couldn’t care much less if they like me or my yard or anything. But a few years ago some of the mouth-breathing dimwits tried to start a homeowner’s association, and the last thing I need is to add fuel to their moron fire again, so I keep the weeds mowed and the pinecones picked up.

But there’s this tree. I used my saw-on-a-pole to remove what lower limbs I could, intending one day to hack the damn tree down with a chainsaw, but I really don’t like the way the thing is leaning, and wanted it to land on my property when it goes, and not block part of the neighbors driveway.

There was a big limb on one side I decided to get rid of, and maybe, just maybe, that would change the weight distribution so when I go hacking at it with my chainsaw, I can drop the beast where I want to. The only problem is, the limb was about six inches thick and 20 feet up in the damn tree. I am no fan of heights, and my saw-on-a-pole was not up to the task. So – I turned to my hiking knowledge.

A friend of mine has a manual chainsaw he carries hiking. It’s basically a chainsaw chain, with a handy strap at each end.

Hand-Saw-Pocket-Chainsaw-Blade-Hand-Chain-Saw-with-More-Cutting-Teeth.-Essential-for-Survival-Gear-Bug-Out-Bag-Camping-Gear-Survival-Kit-Camping-Equipment-Hiking-Gear-Emergency-Kit-Disaster-Kit-Handy-at-Home-as-Pruning-Saw-or-Tree-Saw-3-300x300

It works really easily in the woods. On the ground. With a helper. So I get a chainsaw chain (I had an new one, still in the box, for my old chainsaw), and cut it so I just have one long flexible saw blade, and tie a long rope on either end.

I really wish I had pictures at this point, but the whole episode was ridiculous and it was a little warm and the gnats were pissing me off. I tossed rope 1 over the limb, and hauled the chain up. Thankfully it got positioned right the first time, with the cutters down. I proceeded to saw back and forth with ropes 1 and 2, and the saw promptly got stuck.

Using this thing in hiking situations, I learned that you can’t put too much of a curve in the chain. In the picture above, that works for STARTING the cut, but once you get going, you have to widen the angle, or the chain binds up. So I go inside to get the wife and kid. I had them stand way out from the tree one way, and I stood out the other way. They never really could get the hang of it. One person has to pull, and the other has to keep a little tension on the rope for it to work. then the other person pulls back, and the first person keeps a little tension on the rope. I was getting all or nothing from my partner, so either the saw would barely cut, or they would yell at me for pulling their arms out of their sockets.

Finally the branch starts to crack, and breaks halfway off, hanging down like “okay, what do you want me to do now?” The kid throws the rope, which tangles it and flops the chain over, so the cutters are facing up. Now it gets stuck in what’s left of the tree branch. I finally have to weight the end of the rope and toss it over the branch, and pull everything down the other side, but at least I get my chain and rope back. I was sort of worried there for a bit.

So now I have this dangerous hanging limb over my head that weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 pounds. Its actually one limb with a fork in the middle, so it spreads out nicely. First I try swinging back and forth on it, and that helps, then I grab the limb and force it back past the trunk, and finally it lets go and crashes to the ground, scaring me in the process. Of course, now it’s too heavy for me to drag across the ground, so I have to get out the chainsaw and chop on it some.

Lumberjack stuff is hard work. I see why those guys are big and burly.

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It’s hiking season… get your gun!

No, not to shoot at hikers. There’s a constant question on different hiking boards and Facebook groups about whether to carry a gun while hiking, and what to carry IF you carry a gun, along with the legalities of such.

Since I started hiking in 2012 I’ve probably walked over 500 miles, and carried a gun exactly twice. Once was just as a test carry, to see how I liked it and what the extra weight was like. There were eight of us in a group, so I didn’t think I would NEED it, but I carried just the same. The other time was on a day hike, which was a geocaching adventure. I didn’t need it there, either, but I was glad I had it during a certain part of the hike. My friend had his, too, and not to get too technical, but there was definitely some creepy factor there. This guy is a narcotic agent, and when he says, “I’m glad I have my gun right now”, one tends to sit up and take notice.

Recently, there was a report of a lady named Kadie who was mauled by some hunting dogs while she was hiking in North Carolina. There’s a big controversy over it because the owners weren’t identified, and the Sheriffs’ Office in the county doesn’t really care to get involved. Apparently, hunting dogs are “protected” in the sense that if they attack people or animals while hunting, the owners can’t be charged with a crime.

Seeing the recent report of the woman and her dogs mauled in NC by hunting dogs, makes me rethink guns. I’d rather drop the dog where he stands than get mauled. Normally I pick up a rock, which I can drop when no longer needed. I have had two occasions where dogs were close enough to make me nervous and go rock hunting. Sure, I carry two trekking poles, but a few ounces of aluminum aren’t going to do a thing to a vicious dog, even if used ineffectively as a spear.

So, the gun discussion came up on Whiteblaze (it’s an AT hiking group, not a center for some White Power movement like it sounds), and I posted the following:

A friend of mine has a Glock 380. It’s a very nice gun, and light. I’ve used the bodyguard BG380 by Ruger, it’s a decent, small, light gun but has a sharp recoil. It’s hard to shoot a lot without wearing out your hand. I have a walther Pk380, but it’s a bit large and heavy. Great gun, shoots well and the recoil is lighter of course.

I haven’t shot one yet, but there are several hammerless airweight revolvers out there in 38 caliber. If I was thru hiking I’d probably want one of those instead… Auto pistols have more parts and are more finicky. Revolvers don’t jam, if they don’t fire you just pull the trigger again, which is good if you don’t shoot much and aren’t used to clearing misfires under pressure (I practice with dummy bullets). Also, if you shoot some dog you aren’t throwing shell casings all over the trail. The biggest problem I see (besides the extra weight) is rust. You’re going to be in the wet, damp, heat/cold, for extended periods. If you don’t check the gun often and oil it, it’s not going to work when you need it. Even aluminum frames will start to pit and oxidize.

Then there’s the legality of it…where can you carry and where is it illegal? A lot of state parks prohibit guns. Odds are unless you use it, no one would know you even have it. But what if you use it? Are you prepared for fines or even jail? I’ve only carried twice on a hike, so I’m not a “gun nut”.

The biggest question is more of an internal one than anything. Could you bring yourself to shoot a dog or worse, a person, especially when it’s going to be just your word against a dead guy about what happened? Questioning whether or not your chosen invisible sky man would approve you shooting something is not something to do when you’re lining up the sights on another creature. You need to figure that out before you go gun shopping.

I’m an avid believer in “hike your own hike”. As long as you don’t trash the woods or hurt anybody, do your own thing. Odds are very high that carrying a gun may give someone a feeling of safety, and the only consequence they will ever have is slightly stronger calf muscles from lugging the extra weight around. Some people are into the full-on open carry thing and love showing off their gun in a holster as they walk along. Tactically that’s just not really safe in a non-military or law-enforcement mode. It puts a lot of people off, and gives your attacker an advantage if there’s someone that really wants to hurt you. To me (and this is just my feelings!) The best gun is the one NO ONE knows is there until a situation arises in which a gun is needed, after which the people involved say, “Wow, I’m glad you had that gun”.

But guns used wrongly or without regard to safety do hurt people. A gun pointed in the wrong direction, for example. A gun fired at a dog on the trail without regard for the hiker coming up the hill behind the dog. A gun used by someone who only fired it once the day it was bought, two years ago, and now it’s being pulled hastily from a holster or pack pocket… as they accidentally shoot a hole through their pack or into the ground or into a bystander. A gun stolen as part of the pack it was carried in, then used by a criminal later for nefarious reasons. Or even a gun turned on its owner by someone much more willing to use it than the person who carried it for 1500 miles.

So before you even go gun shopping, ask yourself; are you willing to commit to practicing with the gun? Are you willing and able to clean and care for it properly? Are you capable of becoming proficient with its use? Are you capable of killing some one or some thing in a crisis situation? And of course, Are you willing to accept the consequences of killing some one or some thing?

Carrying a weapon is a personal choice, but unlike picking a certain water filter or sleeping bag or even whether to use a tent or a hammock, it affects not just you, but those that hike with you and around you. A bad tent choice may only hurt you… not so with a firearm.

Of course, this conversation is about as touchy as abortions or gay marriage or which is better: Ford or Chevy. It usually doesn’t take long to devolve into personal attacks and people yelling at each other. If you have feelings either way feel free to post them, just stay civil.

A few tips for driving in the south

I spend a lot of time driving in the south. I live there, so that really goes without saying. Over the weekend I went on the Annual Angie’s Apple Adventure, which means a 4 hour drive to the mountains for apple picking and then a return drive home. Having just driven to the mountains the week before, I was well-versed in driving I-26 from Columbia SC to near Asheville, NC. While on the way there and back, I started thinking about driving in general. There seems to be a separate set of rules when driving in the south, so I wanted to let any potential tourists know how unique we are, thus sparing you the hardships and frustrations of learning to drive in the south during a future trip.

Rules for driving in the south (as recognized by southerners):

All lanes are equal. The left lane is just as useful as the right lane, and no one has any more right to it than anyone else. If you are speeding along and want to get around a southerner in the left lane, start looking for a place to pass on the right, because they will NOT get over. Unless, of course, by getting over they succeed in blocking you from getting around in the right lane, because there’s someone driving slightly slower than BOTH of you in the left lane.

Don’t even consider flashing your lights at someone in front of you. Sure, you want them to get out of your way, or speed up, or get distracted and run off the road and die when they hit a pine tree. Flashing your lights at a southerner (particularly one going the speed limit in the left lane) will probably get you one of two positive reactions – not including their complete ignorance of you being behind them: 1. They will speed up to pass whatever larger vehicle is in the right lane preventing them from getting over. When they get almost to where they could get over or you could pass on the right, they will “formation drive” with said large vehicle, for about five miles, leaving you stuck next to the truck. 2. They will flash their tail lights back at you, usually accompanied by a sudden reduction in speed. Flashing headlights doesn’t do any harm. Their flashing tail lights may be expensive for you.

Southerners can “formation drive” with the best of them. The Blue Angels would be impressed at the level of precision with which southerners can formation drive. Whether it’s two trucks, a couple of cars, or any other combination of vehicles, its truly a site to behold when several southerners spread out across the intersection at equal distances, thus blocking any attempt to pass. The formation driving can go on for miles as they chat with their families or text their friends with complete disregard to the fact that you left an hour late and have to be at the cruise port in two hours or your vacation is going down the drain. Don’t flash your headlights.

Southerners love a good car wreck. Blame the Nascar culture, but if there’s a car wreck ahead, we have to look. It doesn’t matter that the wreck is in the northbound lanes of traffic and you are going south, or even that the wreck is on a side road that doesn’t interfere with the interstate at all. If there’s a wreck we can see, we’ll slow down to 20 miles per hour to look at it. So when you sit in traffic going at a snails pace for 75 minutes, and finally realize that on the other side of the concrete divider you can see a few fire trucks, a state trooper’s car, and the top of an ambulance, you might as well try and get a good look, because that’s what all the people in front of you were doing.

We can’t drive in snow and ice, or even major thunderstorms. Everyone knows this, the whole state shuts down if there’s an inch of snow south of the Mason-Dixon line. We all have to get out and look at it, too. Never mind the fact that Facebook will be full of pictures (once the power comes back on), and that the traffic lights will probably be out. Southerners just have to get out and “look” at the inch of snow. So we drive around in it, spin around, wind up in ditches. We also pull off to the side of the road in thunderstorms and put our hazard lights on. A side note here – because I see you northerners do this and it drives me nuts. The flashing lights on your car are “hazard” lights. If you park next to the interstate during a downpour, or your car becomes disabled, put on your hazard lights. DONT drive down the damn road with those things on. Hazard lights say “this car is broken down”, not “hey look at me while I drive in the rain!” Southerners know that really heavy storms will often be gone in ten minutes or so, which is why you’ll find us parked on the side of the interstate until they pass.

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All about that Bass parody

Okay – so I listened to this horrible song on the radio the other day.

“All about that bass”. I really don’t get the connection between bass and big girls, but thats what the song seemed to be putting out there. I guess there’s a stereotype that guys who are into a lot of bass-y music are into girls with what would be colloquially called the “ghetto booty” (big asses for those of you not in the know).

There’s an internet meme going around called “shaming”. A few years ago we called this, “telling the truth”. For example, you used to be able to say something like, “That Missi, man she’s a complete whore, she slept with the whole football team after homecoming”. Now you would be accused of “slut shaming”. People post pictures of their dogs on the internet with cutesy signs like “I peed on the rug. I’m a bad dog”, and people say that’s wrong, that they are “pet shaming”. Or you post a picture of some lady at Disney World who weighs 500 pounds and she’s driving her scooter through the crowd holding a giant soda in one hand and three dole whips in the other, and they say you are “fat shaming”.

Look, I understand everyone can’t be a supermodel. That’s fine. People come in all shapes and sizes, and thats okay too. It’s unhealthy for some people to starve themselves into a shape they would never fit in. But on the flip side, being obese is unhealthy, and that shouldn’t be seen as okay. And of course, the ‘artist’ (i use the term loosely) picks on girls that AREN’T fat, calling them “skinny bitches” So – I had to make a parody of the “all about that bass” song. If you want to sing it Karaoke’ style and post to you tube, please make a link for me. I don’t have the talent or the time to put a video together. That’s what America’s teenagers are for.

“I’m stuffing my face”

a parody of: “All About That Bass”

Because you know
I’m stuffing my face, in my face
no treadmill,

I’m stuffing my face, in my face
no treadmill,
I’m stuffing my face, in my face
no treadmill,

I’m stuffing my face
stuffing my face

Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two
I’m eating the shakes and junk
That I ain’t supposed to
I got that boom boom, chubby chasers chase
And all the big lumps in spandex-covered places

I see the healthy girl, workin’ out at the gym
Working out’s for real
Just get out and try
You gotta work on beauty, beauty, just do push ups
‘Cause every inch of you could be perfect
If you’d just put down those fries

Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size
Thats why I’ve got these giant flabby thunder thighs!
You know I won’t be no healthy, trim and fit yoga girl
So if you like working out with me you better move along

Because you know
I’m stuffing my face, in my face
no treadmill,

I’m stuffing my face, in my face
no treadmill,
I’m stuffing my face, in my face
no treadmill,

I’m stuffing my face
stuffing my face

Hey!

My giant booty’s back
Go ahead and tell them healthy ladies that
Now I’m not playin’ You know they think we’re fat
But I’m here to tell ya
Every inch of you could be perfect if you’d just start eating right

Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size
Thats why I’ve got these giant flabby thunder thighs!
You know I won’t be no healthy, trim and fit yoga girl
So if you like working out with me you better move along

Because you know
I’m stuffing my face, in my face
no treadmill,

I’m stuffing my face, in my face
no treadmill,
I’m stuffing my face, in my face
no treadmill,

I’m stuffing my face
stuffing my face

 

Hiking with the noobs…sort of.

Well it’s fall, and officially it became time for one of our meetup group’s members to host “backpacking 101”. I’ve been on about every one of these since my first trip back in 2012. He’s gracious enough to allow alumni to return and go on the trip as well, and this time there were five of us that had been a time or two. Because the group had gotten so large (20 at one point – but dropped to 14 by the morning of the trip), Mark the group leader decided to split us up. The alumni decided “hey we’ll all go a new way and meet at the camp site”. Thus the exploration of hitherto unknown areas of P-Town began.

 

True wordpress style, my uploaded pictures are all out of order, so instead of a cohesive story with pictures I just have random pictures interspersed with my tale. So look at the pictures and enjoy, then read the story…

 

All of us at Camp
All of us at Camp in the morning, just after the rain stopped.

The first step was the drive. It was early morning and still not fully light when we all met at our favorite spot, the parking lot of a large chain store, which allows us to use their parking lot for nights on end, as long as we park waco in the back. People divvied up their cars, and this time I wound up driving alone, because I planned to take a side trip on the way out.

 

Greenland creek falls
Greenland creek falls. Someone else took this photo. I’m the little blob sitting on the big rock under the first falls, upper left corner of the picture. 

I forgot how long and boring the trip can be alone, but was soon trying to keep up with Jason, in front of me with the rest of the Alumni Group. Jason liked driving a few MPH faster than I normally do, and I was trying to keep up and yet scared of getting a ticket. Within ten miles of getting on the interstate they hit McDonalds.

Jason at Greenland Creek (I'm photobombing on the rock)
Jason at Greenland Creek (I’m photobombing on the rock)

Long drives in big groups are often like this. Someone always needs to pee, get gas, or get coffee, or feed some other addiction, or get breakfast because they were running late. Usually with the BP101 crowd we stop at LEAST three times on the way there. I was glad to have my own car. I bypassed mcDonalds and soon the speed demon caught up to me and we were off to the races again.

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Last stop to view the woods before the car

Finally at Panthertown (after a stop at SubWay – because the rest of the Alumns didn’t know the plan Kim and I had come up with excluded subway and they should have BROUGHT their first day’s lunch) we got parked and unloaded. Panthertown has no real parking lot. Its a wide dirt road and you park on the shoulder wherever you can find a space. I wound up at the entrance, right off the side of the road. It didn’t bother me much, since the “out” trail would put me out by the car.

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Cut through the woods for the power line

We headed off, the six of us. Me (Taco), Kim (Sunshine), Jason (?), Thomas (Cowboy), Rudy (Chef) and Bob (Rainfly) went exploring some areas that Rudy and Kim had done, but I had never seen. We first went up towards Warden’s falls, but missed a turn somewhere. We wound up skipping it, and then going over to Jawbone falls. After pushing through the break in the trees and going down hill, we were stuck with the idea of going across a small stream and then downstream to the waterfall. Thankfully it was only around calf-deep. Sunshine at first said “no no no – this is NOT fun, I’m not doing this”, but since everyone else was already halfway across the creek, she gave in to the mutiny and headed off. I followed, being the slower and clumsier one on the trip. I figured, no reason to take out everyone when I fall.

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Fall comes early at high elevation
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Leaning back resting while waiting on the Greenland Creek falls group to finish.

Jawbone falls was very nice. It was about 40 feet high, but mainly a slide, and it didn’t take up the whole rock face, so we crossed the stream above the falls, and then worked our way down the angled face of it. Finally at the bottom, we crossed the stream again the other way, which was just over knee deep (but I didn’t get my kilt wet!) and the water was really sluggish, so there was very little current.

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Standing up on Greenland Creek Falls
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View from Under Greenland Creek Falls

After a brief stop to put shoes back on, we headed down the path to the next falls, but I don’t know their names off hand. It was pretty, but not as impressive from the top. It was mainly a low slide, tumble over a jumble of rocks, more like a rapids than a true falls, and went on around the corner out of sight. After that it was up the blackrock mountain trail.

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Looking up from the big rock on the second level of the falls.

Oh, I forgot to mention something. During some of this, it was RAINING. It would come and go in fits and starts, and we put on and took off our rain gear once. There’s a point when you realize that you will get completely soaked, and grab the rain coat. Hiking in slight rain is okay, because under the raincoat you’ll sweat just as much as you would get wet, but there come a point where you just don’t want to be soaked and cold, and finally get the rain gear out.

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Looking down stream from the big rock.

We passed a real, live hornet’s nest on the way up the blackjack trail. I’d never seen a real one hanging in the trees, it was interesting to look at from a distance, and thankfully it was raining, so the hornets were mostly inside, instead of trying to chase us away.

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The falls from in the middle of the stream

One down from Blackrock and onto Carlton’s way, which was a twisting, turning, near-bushwacking trail in places, we made our way to the shelter area. The shelter is in the midst of a large, open area, and looks like the tin roof attic section of an old house or barn, with no ends. Its a very weird structure to come upon in the middle of nowhere. It was unfortunately occupied for the night. There were no people, but there was gear everywhere.

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Big Green/Macs Gap intersection creek crossing. Very cold to stand in and try to take pics. I held the camera right above the waterline. Creek is only about fifteen feet wide and at most 2 feet deep here. 

Chef Rudy knew of another site a few hundred yards down the trail, so we headed off and began setting up camp, intending to ditch our stuff and go exploring. Someone had a cell phone with service, and they texted the 101 group. By the time our camp was set up and a water run to the creek completed, the other 8 people showed up and started picking out spots. Mark (the Hobbit) had brought his manual chainsaw, and we cut down a dead tree. Me and jason were in charge of lumberjack duties, And dropped it right where we wanted to, right between two other trees. It hit the ground and broke into several sections. Chef Rudy got a slow-mo video of it which was really awesome. I’ll share it if he posts it somewhere.

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Lots of yellow everywhere

After spending a good deal of effort moving my bear bag (because someone chose to camp under it), I was met with howls of derisive laughter, after which I was asked to hoist up around 80 pounds of food and cooking gear (being sarcastic, but it WAS heavy). I finally gave up and found the only limb capable of holding our load, which was sort of low, but I just went with it.

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Woods on the way out down Big Green Trail

After a snack, and watching the second group set up camp, one of our group figured out he had left his rainfly at home because he brought the wrong tent. I had enough room when I spread my hammock tarp out, so I let him camp under me. His tent stuck out just a little, and he threw a poncho over the end. Some of the group decided to go ahead and eat before the night hike. Chef Rudy made Pad Thai in the woods, from scratch, including scrambling an egg after cracking it one handed on his knee, and dicing garlic. He also cooked a bacon-wrapped filet mignon that Kim Sunshine had brought with her. As I had forgotten my steak, a bite of hers was pretty tasty.

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Woods along Big Green ridge line

The next event, which about 8 of us participated in was the hike up Big Green Mountain for the sunset. It turned out to be very nice. Big Green is a pain to walk up, as you have to go up around 300 feet up the side on a twisting, turning, muddy path, and then continue up an incline and finally out onto the edge of the Great Wall. I felt a little like I was in “A Game of Thrones”, without the snow.

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Hiking down from Big Green Mountain

The group settled down and watched the sun set, and then walked back in the deepening darkness, only to find out some had forgotten their headlamps. We called out obstacles such as mud and roots and stumps, and everyone made it back safely. After retrieving the food, it was time for supper, a fire and bed. I used my Snow Peak canister stove this time, instead of my alcohol stove. It was different, easier, but I still like the fancy feast stove.

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Very yellow in the morning sun.

Mercifully, the rain waited until after bedtime, but the group of “Christian” students down at the shelter whooped and hollered and played music like a drunken spring break group until around midnight. Finally the rain started and they quieted down. I woke up once at 1:30 to a good hard, but straight down, rain, and went back to sleep. I slept pretty well until a surprising 7am. It was still raining, and I lay around until 8am and finally decided someone had to get the group up.

 

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Leaving Camp

I collected our food, and distributed it to the masses like some campground “meal on wheels” vendor, and went back to pack up my stuff. With no shelter, cooking and eating was going to be tough, so I packed my pack first, leaving only my rainfly tarp out. I stretched it out as flat as I could, leaving the rain to run off the corners, and my activities woke Rainfly Bob from his tent. Several of us cooked breakfast under the Tarp and hung around waiting for the rest of the group to finish packing.

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Packing up in the rain is always fun.
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Rainy morning in camp

It was at this point that we all decided to mostly stick together. The original plan was to split up again and hike different directions, but I think the rain may have hampered us a little bit. We walked out along Big Green trail and up the mountain again, this time with packs on. That was quite an experience but its always nice to do that AFTER doing it the night before, otherwise you have no idea when it will end, its just one long slog up the side of a damn hill. The core of the alums somehow wound up out front, Me, Rainfly, Jason, Cowboy and Chef. I’m not sure where Sunshine went, I never saw her again.

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Cowboy stretches a little after a long wet night.
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Carrying out wet tents is never fun.

Our group in front headed on down and across the ridge to Greenland Creek trail, and dropped packs at the campsite near the falls. Chef Rudy stayed behind, intending to head on back to the car by himself. I started ahead of the other four, figuring I would meet everyone else at the falls. Thomas, Jason, and Rob caught up with me and passed me, as I was struggling with mud in my open-sided shoes. Greenland Creek trail will ruin shoes… which is usually why I go barefoot down this one.

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Wet morning in the TarpTents

I finally made it to the end and the falls were beautiful, and not running too hard. Chef Rudy had told me about a path up to the top of the falls. The falls are around 40 feet high I guess, from the main trail to the top. I found the side trail and started up, and it was steep. Before long it was REALLY steep. Even though I was in the trees and not out on rocks, I was still handholding and scrambling up. Finally I decided it was too high and too steep, when I was almost level with the top of the falls. I turned around to come down.

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“Chef” Rudy makes Pad Thai in the woods.

Have you ever gone up a ladder to the roof to fix something? Its a little scary, but then you make it to the roof, fix whatever, and turn around to come down. Now it’s REALLY scary. I was thinking, “how the HELL do I get down? Where is the trail, did it fall off the side of the cliff while I was contemplating whether to go up?” Needless to say, I made it down, as I’m not typing this in the woods. But it took me about twice as long to go down as it did to go up.

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Mark eyes the dead trees, maybe?

Now normally, I don’t have to crap in the woods on an overnight. But halfway up that trail I really started to feel sort of an urge. Thankfully I didn’t have to go on the side of that hill, and by the time I got down, the urge was gone all together. Back to normal hiking mode.

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Wait, why is no one making fire?

I decided to try and make it up as close to the underside of the waterfall as I could. I’d done it once before, and was pretty sure of the route. It was easier than I had remembered, even though I was wearing shoes. I took it very slow and deliberately. There’s one section where you have to cross the flat section of the rock, and it can get slippery. I made it up to the falls and was rewarded with a great view and a roaring white noise and cold mist.

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Backpacking: Spending lots of money in an effort to emulate being homeless for a night or two.

The other guys motioned that they were going back, and I waved them off. I worked my way back down and back to the little campsite we were using as a base for Greenland Creek falls. When I got back, the rest of them were moving on, and Mark, Lorenzo and Ann were just arriving. Mark reported that everyone else had headed back to the cars, and he wanted to show Lorenzo and Ann the falls. I told him I would wait, and they took off.

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Fighting the Dome Tent into submission
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Ann eyes those tent poles suspiciously.

I took advantage of the break, and sat down to eat a little. I still had food left in my pack, why not eat something? I wish I had a nice hot drink at that point, but although I had my stove, I was fresh out of drink mix of any sort. My bad. I reorganized a few things and found my dry socks from the previous day, and made sure I could find my keys and my wallet. I went through my pictures from the hike and deleted the crappy ones, and laid my head back for a nap against my pack, leaning against the tree. Before long Mark, Ann and Zo came back, and we walked on out, ending our hike.

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Picking out spots
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Rudy’s ingredients set out, fresh garlic is chopped. Wait, what? Did I mention that Chef has a 35 liter pack that holds his entire trip supplies, and weighs around 15 pounds? No? That’s because crap like that seriously pisses me off. Damn ultra lighters.
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Tarp tent and hammock area
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Making camp with Jason and Bob “Rainfly”
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My home away from home, before Rainfly decided to sub-let and sleep under me. I’m just glad I didn’t have to get up at 3 am and pee. Oh – and the ENO Twilight’s worked AWESOME in the hammock. I could see it in the trees from 50 yards away.
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Kim “Sunshine” after the mutiny, looking perplexed about where to go. Or maybe she’s waiting until we leave so she could pee.
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On the trail to camp after the trip down Carlton’s way.
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My first view of a real honey’s nest, in the woods, with hornets still hanging around. A scary thing…
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Pretty fall colors.
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Standing on some little falls with Sunshine, Chef, Cowboy, Jason, and Rainfly. Downstream of Jawbone… not sure the name.
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Downstream on the falls.
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Looking back up Jawbone falls. Yes, we walked down that.
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Looking back up Jawbone as we walked down.
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The view from on top of Jawbone falls. we had to get down to the bottom and across the creek.
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Little cascade of about 2 feet, on Jawbone falls
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Jason takes pictures and Sunshine moves on.
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First power line crossing. Very pretty fall colors in effect
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Enjoying the view and the free electromagnetic radiation from Duke Power
on the trail
on the trail
Leaving the packed parking area
Leaving the packed parking area
Jason makes a plan
Jason makes a plan
Walking down the falls.
Walking down the falls.
In the backside of nowhere above Jawbone falls.
In the backside of nowhere above Jawbone falls.
sitting around the fire
sitting around the fire
me cooking my food at night
me cooking my food at night

Just sitting around relaxed

Me, waiting on the sunset

Just behind the mountain
Just behind the mountain
Getting darker
Getting darker
Me, waiting on the sunset
Great leaf pic
Great leaf pic
Hiking onward
Hiking onward
Coming down at night from the wall
Coming down at night from the wall
Jim enjoys the sunset
Jim enjoys the sunset
Katelyn on the Wall
Katelyn on the Wall

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Little Green Lunch
Little Green Lunch
Clouds rolling in on Little Green
Clouds rolling in on Little Green
The Walking Blueberry on Little Green
The Walking Blueberry on Little Green

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Mark on top of Schoolhouse Falls
Mark on top of Schoolhouse Falls
Joe, Jim, and Katelyn
Joe, Jim, and Katelyn
Cutting down a dead tree for some firewood.
Cutting down a dead tree for some firewood.
Waiting on the sunset.
Waiting on the sunset.
On the Great Wall - feeling like the Night's Watch
On the Great Wall – feeling like the Night’s Watch
Heading to Jawbone
Heading to Jawbone
The Great Wall
The Great Wall

Rigging a tarp

Not the most interesting subject, I know, but it has been a while since I went anywhere, and someone had asked me. Also – over the years I’ve tried many different things, and finally have settled on this as being the best way, FOR ME.

Sure, if you hike, you probably have your own way of doing things, and that’s great. The nice thing about hiking in a group is that it’s easy to find new and better ways to do things. People also make suggestions and sometimes comments that make you rethink stuff.

Take the infamous “twin falls” hike up Clawhammer Mountain in the Pisgah forest in NC, for example. We still laugh at it sometimes.

The Clawhammer Mountain loop was an 18 mile or so overnight trip and and back on Clawhammer Mountain. There wasn’t a whole lot to see or do, and it was easy to get to. So when arrived at the halfway point around 3pm, it was a long time until dark. So, we decided to look for Twin Falls, which according to the map was pretty close by. We could hear it eventually, but we were coming at it from above, and never could get to it. Finally, confused and defeated, we headed back to camp to lounge around until dusk.

Now, any place that we aren’t sure where it is, or something that doesn’t work out quite right, is “over by Twin Falls”.

On that trip, though, I was tying up my big tarp for the first time. My little tarp (the stock diamond-shaped Hennessy Rain Fly) clips to the hammock suspension/ridge line and its done. But the big tarp requires it’s own suspension system. I put a length of parachute cord between the loops and put a carabineer on one end. It was a simple matter to loop one end around the tree, clip the carabineer into place, and then run the other end around a tree and tie knots.

Mike, who is gruff and humorous to the point where you’re not quite sure if he’s being funny or insulting you, commented I must have majored in knots in college. He was right, tying the prussic knots around the tree was a chore (pulling all the spare line through the loops) and took a lot of time. By the time I got the tarp up, one of my other hiking partners was laying in his tent. Hammocks were supposed to be faster, damn it!

So my first improvement was to make a series of tree straps and hooks, which looked like this:

20140313-194435.jpg

 

Yeah, I know, the angle is all wrong. I just clipped it to the tree and held one end with my left hand. I wanted you to see the buckle and the hook at the same time. In use, the buckle goes around the back side of the tree from the tarp, and the hook sticks straight out away from the tree. You can learn more, here –

https://theosus1.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/finished-my-tie-out-clips/

They worked pretty well for eliminating the knots at either end of the tarp ridge line. I had an opportunity to use them on our marathon hike in July, and they functioned quite well. The biggest problem was I was on sloped ground, and I had to get the tree strap past some dead branches up over my head and pull it tight onto the trunk.

But now I had to deal with the tarp lines themselves. There’s a great site for learning to tie knots, and you only need to know a few. The Prusik knot slides back and forth easily, and stays where you put it. The double fisherman’s knot (or the Fisherman’s Bend) is great for joining ropes into a loop, especially ropes you do NOT want coming apart. Anyway, the site is called “AnimatedKnots” – just google it. I used the Fisherman’s Bend for making loops, and then used the loops to make prussic knots.

Now my tarp is permanently on its ridge line, and all I have to do is

1. Put up tree straps.

2. Loop the ridge line through the hooks twice. No knots, no pulling rope through. Just loop.

3. Pull the bag off the tarp from where it’s now hanging in mid air.

4. Slide the loops out until the top of the tarp is taught.

That’s it. I haven’t timed it yet. The nice thing is, the whole system fits in one bag, so it it gets wet, It can all go together outside the rest of my stuff, or even clip to the outside of my pack.

I have a video of the basic parts, here:

 

My other recent concern is – my pack is too big. I’ve pared myself down to essentials and I’ve been able to get smaller stuff and learn what to pack and how to back right over the last two years. My pack is really too big and too heavy. It’s 75 liters, and over 6 pounds empty.

Not that it’s really a problem, it rides okay but I do start to feel the weight after several miles or up long climbs. I’ve pretty much exhausted every other opportunity to lighten my load.

Now here’s the thing – I Hammock Camp, which isn’t always ultralight or ultrasmall friendly. I know people who’s whole backpacking world fits in a 45L pack for a 4 day trip. I just can’t jam my stuff in a pack that size. But 60 liters would do me well. My stuff is just bulky. The quilts, for example – I have a down top quilt and under quilt for my hammock, each about the same size in their sack as a down sleeping bag. Sure, they keep me alive down to 0 degrees, but they are a tad bulky. I use a large rainfly too, the Hex fly from Hennessy is twice the size of the stock polygon tarp, and of course packs twice as big, too.

So, my old Deuter Pack fit me quite well when I purchased it, and it still looks pretty good. Eventually I’ll need to change it, though, and I’m really liking the looks of these:

http://gregorypacks.com/en/GM59849.html

The gregory name is pretty respected, and the product sounds pretty good. I might have to try one on next time I’m in an REI store. Of course, there are two rings worth mentioning:

1. The pack is costly. $300 of a pack after taxes is way up there. Sure, its a little smaller and a LOT lighter (2 and a half pounds!) but my current pack is working fine, at the point.

2. Someone on a Facebook hiking group said, “If you like it, stick with it”.

 

I guess the other way you can say this is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – so maybe I’ll wait a while. After all, I just found out today it’s going to cost me around $300 to get my wisdom teeth removed, so that has to come first. The pack can wait, my headaches have to go!

 

 

 

https://vimeo.com/108145114