My new Hammock arrived last week and I couldn’t wait any longer to try it out. My week was looking pretty full, as I’m at a conference next week and Friday was booked with a customer, plus I had a meeting first thing Monday. I wasn’t sure I could justify squeezing something in, but the alternative was to let my nice new hammock sit in a gear-bin untested for at least a couple of weeks. I checked the weather and decided I could fit in a quick hike with one night in the wilderness if I left straight after the meeting on Monday.
Besides spending a night in my new hammock, I thought it would be a chance to change the gear I’d been using. The forecast was for a colder night (35°F) than my last trip, and I wanted to try and lighten my pack.
I took my 0° sleeping bag and the huge (77″x24″) but warm and comfy Neoair pad (Contrary to what I said when writing up my last trip, while bigger when in use, the Neoair packs smaller and is lighter than my Thermarest pad). Instead of my huaraches, I wanted to try out my hiking sandals (also from Xero Shoes), and with no rain in the forecast, I decided to give another, heavier, Utility Kilt, and my down jacket a try-out. I had two new Mountain House meals to try out; Beef Stroganoff and Breakfast Skillet. I fixed the ripped out grommet in the tarp (damaged on my last trip) by gluing in its place a plastic washer made out of an old page divider. I wanted to try out a larger groundsheet, but I couldn’t find the spare Tyvek. Oh well.
I decided to hike the Pees Hollow trail at Hercules Glades. It’s a six miles loop, which you can do in a day — if you don’t get lost. As I was starting later in the day, I thought I’d hike the trail clockwise, starting at the western (furthest ) end, and hike the mile and a half down to ‘The Cab’ — an old truck cab abandoned in the wilderness. There’s a fire ring by the cab, and I could spend the night there, or do some exploring and find a spot to camp along what we call ‘Cab Creek’. The next day, it would be a fairly easy, but, uphill hike for the remaining four or so miles of the trail to complete the loop.
It was around eleven-thirty by the time I got back from my meeting, and while I’d gathered everything up ready, it all needed to be packed away. I didn’t weigh my fully packed rucksack, but it was 21lbs without water and my 4lb sleeping bag, so probably somewhere around 30lbs. I managed to get out the house and on the road by one p.m. (with one false start where I set off and then realized I’d forgotten to pack coffee).
By two O’clock I was on my way heading towards the Western end of the Pees Hollow Trail. The hike down the ridge to the glades was nice and easy.
I stopped and took lots of pictures all along the way, so, it took me a nice leisurely hour and a half to get to the cab.
Someone had left a good supply of firewood at the fire ring there, but I don’t like to camp right on the trail, so I decided to take a look along Cab Creek. After a short walk on what is a little-used side-trail, I found a nice little fire ring next to the creek, which was running and making watery noises as it dropped down a series of low stepped falls. I could have hung my hammock across the trail near the fire ring, but I decided to go a bit further on and then set up camp well back from the trail.
I took my time setting up the hammock — though it was very simple. The new (‘Beetle’) buckles are quick and easy to set up and the hammock set really well. The Neoair pad fitted the hammock okay — I thought it might be a bit of a tight fit.
Just like last time out, later in the afternoon the temperature dropped rapidly, and the last forecast I had seen was for 29°F overnight, a lot cooler than I was expecting. With that in mind, I decided I’d light a fire to pass the evening hours, and keep warm. With plenty of daylight in hand, I collected wood and prepared the fire, and left a nice big pile of prepared wood by the fire ring, enough for the next visitor to start a fire too.
I had dinner sitting under the tarp. The Mountain House Beef Stroganoff was tasty enough. When I’d cleared up I set off to go and sit by the fire. The fire was fun, and the down jacket did an excellent job of keeping my back warm, I was nice and cozy. I also discovered a great advantage of a kilt over shorts. Sitting down, you can drape the kilt over your legs to keep them warm.
My new hammock is great. I fitted the bug net, which helped keep a bit of warmth in. I’d wrapped my pad in my sleeping bag liner so it was more comfortable to sleep on and used the sleeping bag as a quilt. My nose got chilly, but that was about it. I was very comfortable and warm. Too warm, as at one point and I got rid of my base layer. I’m looking forward to trying out the hammock with an underquilt. While sitting around I had an idea, that, if I can get it to work, might extend the temperature range of the underquilt. I want to try lining it with my 40° quilt.
There was one problem though, I woke up feeling a bit cool underneath. I later realized I’d made a rookie mistake. I inflated the pad when it was warm, and forgot to top it up when it got cold, so the pad was a bit deflated and a lot less effective than it should have been by morning.
Making coffee got delayed when I couldn’t find the coffee. I knew I had it, and I thought I’d put it on one side for the morning. After turning everything out, I went and retrieved the bear bag, and sure enough, I’d packed it away up a tree. Oh well, I needed my breakfast from the bag anyway.
Breakfast, the Mountain House Breakfast Skillet was very good, It is an instant favorite of the dehydrated Mountain House meals I’ve had so far.
I spent a leisurely morning taking pictures and packing away. I loved how easily the hammock can be pushed into its stuff sack. It took seconds. Disconnecting the hammock from the suspension I discovered another careless/rookie mistake. At the foot end, I’d got the beetle buckle upside down, which meant the buckle wasn’t being held closed. I was lucky I didn’t get dumped on the floor in the middle of the night!
On the way back I planned to try and find the remains of an old Ozarks log cabin we’d discovered on a previous trip. I wanted to take some better pictures and geotag it. It was somewhere just before Brushy Creek (a very apt name by the way, it is very brushy!) Half an hour after setting out in the morning, I was wandering off trail looking for the cabin. I was lucky and found it almost immediately. The cabin must have had a great view of Brushy Creek when all the intervening brush was cleared.
Pictures taken, I hiked the short distance to Brushy Creek.
Looking down the creek I spotted a spring box, and went off to explore. Once there, I noticed a second spring box. It looked set up to catch drips from a seep in the creek’s bank. I explored further down the creek and there were some excellent-looking rock steps where Brushy Creek and ‘Cab Creek’ meet. I spent a while taking pictures and looking around. This would be another nice spot for wild camping.
Pictures taken and exploring complete, I hiked straight up the creek bed back to the trail (an advantage of wearing sandals or huaraches). Where the trail crosses the creek is well marked, they were the first trail markers I’d seen on my hike so far. Now all I had to do was complete the long climb from the Brushy Creek crossing back to the trailhead at the fire tower. En route I hoped to check on a few old landmarks we have previously geotagged.
The climb up from Brushy Creek along the old farm track got my heart and sweat going! Once out of the trees, I came to a spot where another ‘unofficial’ side trail joined from the north. I realized this was most likely where Ginger got lured off the trail when she tried to hike the Pees Hollow Trail counterclockwise a while back. I stopped to take a picture to show Ginger and I saw one of the most badly placed trail markers I’ve seen so far. Instead of being to the left of the Pees Hollow Trail, it was slap-bang in the middle of the two trails. Nothing indicates that you should follow the trail to the left. I wish I’d had a sharpie with me to draw an arrow on the trail marker.
As I hoped, I found the landmarks I was looking for; the farm track gate posts, the Dodge truck hood, and the remains of an old building.
I made one new discovery very near the end of the hike. I saw a spring and spring box, at what has to be one of the sources of the creek that Joins ‘Cab Creek’. It must produce quite a lot of water, as It was a couple of hundred yards off of the trail, and the sound of running water was very clear. I didn’t bushwhack over for a closer look, because I didn’t want to give away any of my hard earned elevation gains. I’ll have to explore it another day.
I’d started hiking at around 10:15 a.m. and I arrived back at the van at 1:30 p.m.
- My new DutchWare Gear Chameleon Hammock. It is very well made and the bug net kept in a surprising amount of warmth. Having the ridgeline inside the bug net is very convenient for hanging gear on, making things much more organized.
- The Deuter backpack was again comfortable and took everything easily with plenty of room to spare. And that included the huge 0° sleeping bag.
- Utility Kilt. I don’t know if it was the thicker material that made wearing a kilt comfortable in the lower temperatures or not, but it was fine. I was comfortable in it from 34°F to 60°F. I think this might well become my regular hiking attire. I’ll just have to get used to meeting people on the trail while wearing one.
- Buff. I’ve carried one of these for ages, but not used it. I was surprised by how good it was. I turned it into a beanie and wore it instead of my thick Thinsulate hat while I sat around the fire. It was warm and comfortable. I shall be experimenting with it some more. It has the advantage of being very light and compressing very small.
- Hiking Sandals. These were great and I appreciated the extra depth of sole making some of the more stony and sharp parts of the trail easier to hike.
- Once again the Trangia stove and the rest of my cooking system worked great. Right now I see no reason to change anything.
It all went very well for a quick first test of a new hammock. I’m pleased with the hammock and looking forward to getting the underquilt so that I don’t have to carry and deal with an inflatable pad. Lugging around the 12′ x 10′ polypropylene tarp is a bit of a chore, so I cannot wait for the delivery of my lightweight tarp.
This time I remembered to take powdered milk (not whey powder), and I mixed it into a nice hot cup of cocoa which I drank while sitting by the campfire.
I hiked a tad short of six miles with a total elevation gain (and loss) of 1,000′. Now to plan another trip for after next week’s conference.
Copyright © 2018 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.