The Adventurous Adventures of Lil Henz II: Chattahoochee Bend Edition

I got a wild hair to take the day off from work. I don’t typically just take a random day off but we were looking at a long weekend for the Memorial Day holiday so I decided to stretch it an extra day. I guess I’ve sort of been needing a sanity day, a day to forget about work and stressful stuff and to recharge a little. Over time I’ve learned that there are two sorts of places that I can get the most bang for my buck, so to speak, when it comes to recharging my batteries. I can spend time on the water and time in the woods. After our little walk on the Pine Mountain Trail last weekend, Little Henz (aka Henry) convinced me that we should go down to Chattahoochee Bend State Park and go for a walk in the woods and he suggested that we take Jenna with us.

We got an early start so we could get started before it got hot and steamy. We grabbed breakfast and a couple of bottles of water on the way down. Once in the parking lot at the Day Use Area near the trailhead, I ate my biscuit while Jenna took Henry to see the river…

With breakfast finished we hit the trail…

We got to check out a new bridge that was built last fall to replace another bridge over a creek that flows fairly deep ravine…

We followed the Riverside Trail to the observation tower where we stopped for a few minutes to let Henry check out the view…

As we walked along I heard the sound of Jenna’s camera shutter clicking away behind me. I wondered what she was taking pictures of…

Well, at least she got my good side…

We hiked on about half a mile or so past the tower to find a couple of caches hidden along the trail then doubled back and headed uphill along the Tower Trail toward the Wild Turkey Trail. Once on the Wild Turkey Trail we had to take a short road walk to cross a creek then headed back into the woods and down toward the beaver pond along a stretch of relatively new trail.

The Bend beavers have been pretty busy and have backed up a fairly sizable pond…

Beyond the pond we made it back to the trailhead where we started. Me and Jenna were still good to go for a bit but I think Henry was pooped and pretty much done for the day…

Little did he know that we had one more cache to find before we headed home…

Posted in Chattahoochee Bend, Chattahoochee Bend State Park, Day Hike, Day Trip, Flagler College, Geocaching, Georgia State Parks, Hiking, Newnan | 1 Comment

On Markland Pond

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Originally posted on What Lies Within:
I’m done with college! Well, sort of… I am done with my freshman year of college. It was a whirlwind of a year filled with new experiences, good and bad. However, I am not…

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The Adventurous Adventures of Lil Henz II and Cooper the Pup: Pine Mountain Trail Edition

(Title and Photo Creds: Jenna Davenport)

I’ve been trying to plan a spring backpacking trip on the Pine Mountain Trail for me and Jenna for a couple of months now. Ideally we’d try to go when the weather is cool but that’s become a bit more difficult now that she’s off in college and more than a couple of hours from home. She’s finally out of school for the summer and this weekend was looking promising on our calendars. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t looking quite so promising. Saturday wasn’t looking too bad but Sunday was shaping up to be a washout. Rather than bailing altogether we decided to forego camping overnight and take our chances on a day hike on Saturday and see if Ashley and Cooper the Pup wanted to join us. Turns out we made a pretty good call.

Wait, what? You want to know who is Lil Henz II? Allow me to explain…

See the little guy poking his head up out of Jenna’s pack in the picture above? That’s Lil Henz II, a.k.a. Henry Flagler. He has a distant relative, Lil Henz I. Lil Henz I is distant in that he lives in Cocoa Beach, Florida with Jenna’s friend Hannah who is also her roommate at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. The college is named for Henry Flagler, an oil and railroad tycoon who built the Hotel Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine in the late 1800s, which is now utilized by Flagler College. To say that Flagler was influential in the northeast Florida area in the late 1800s and early 1900s is a bit of an understatement.

Now back to our story…

We got an early start to our journey with the usual admonitions to drink plenty of water and watch out for snakes. There are only six types of poisonous snakes here in Georgia and fortunately we never encountered the dreaded coralheaded waterrattler. Actually we didn’t see a snake the entire day. We made a quick stop to grab some bottled water and Gatoraid and then a pit stop at the FDR State Park office before hitting the trail. The cloud cover was low at the park office, which gave us hopes of a cool hike…

We finally got to our starting point at the beginning of the Pine Mountain Trail at the 0-mile marker…

The first 1.3 miles of the trail were relatively flat to gently rolling and we found a few of the caches hidden along the trail…

The trail runs along the southeast side of Pine Mountain just below the ridgeline for a little over a mile until the trail crosses the road at the Gardens Overlook. Lil Henz II seemed to be enjoying his adventure…

We walked on to the 2-mile marker, noticing a lightening-struck tree along the way. Was it a sign of things to come?

We doubled back at the 2-mile marker to head back up to the Chestnut Oak Trail to finish out our hike…and felt the first drops of rain as we did. Afternoon pop-up showers were building and it rained on and off for the next hour or so. We managed to dodge the heaviest downpours under the tree canopy but all in all, the rain felt pretty good so we hiked on and enjoyed it.

The Chestnut Oak Trail was pretty much the opposite of the first two miles of the Pine Mountain Trail. From its intersection with the Pine Mountain Trail, the Chestnut Oak Trail was switchback after switchback down to the Little Bridges campsite at the bottom of the ridge and then a long gradual climb back out to the trailhead on the opposite side of the road as the Pine Mountain Trail trailhead.

Once back at the trailhead we checked the tracked mileage on my phone and found we’d walked just shy of five miles.

Then we took one last look from the parking lot overlook in front of the Callaway Gardens Country Store before heading home…

Posted in Day Hike, Day Trip, FDR State Park, Flagler College, Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park, Geocaching, Georgia State Parks, Hiking, Pine Mountain, Pine Mountain Trail | Leave a comment

An Ode to the Boiled Peanut

The Veggie Patch, our local fruit and vegetable stand, opened back up for the summer recently. The other day, as ConnieLou and I were headed home from running errands and as we passed by ConnieLou said “Too bad we’re already past The Veggie Patch, I’d like some fresh tomatoes.” I replied “Yeah, and I’d like to have some boiled peanuts.” Needless to say we found a place to turn around, doubled back and were soon pulling into the parking lot. In fairly short order we were leaving with a basket of tomatoes and a couple of scoops of peanuts.

Boiled peanuts are one of those quintessentially southern foods along with grits, sweet tea, Coca-Cola and chili dogs from The Varsity. OK, I know that you can get a Coke and a chili dog dang near anywhere but somehow chili dogs from The Varsity are special and Coke, well, Coca-Cola has its origins right here in Georgia. Boiled peanuts are simple fare…green peanuts boiled in salty water. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Sure, you can buy ‘cajun flavored’ boiled peanuts and other flavored boiled peanuts and you can even buy boiled peanuts packed in a can…but why?

Boiled peanuts, like beer and Scotch, are said to be an acquired taste. Some acquire the taste for boiled peanuts early in life, some acquire it later and then there are those unfortunate folks who never acquire it at all. Me? I acquired it early. In fact, I can’t help but wonder if I wasn’t born with it.

My earliest recollection of boiled peanuts was of eating them on the patio with my Grandpa Davenport who lived next door to us. He would show me how to look for the little bump on the side of the shell at the opposite end as the stem and squeeze at the bump to pop the shell open. He also taught me how to ‘schlurp’ the peanuts out of the shell and not lose any of the salty juice.

I remember the two of us going to buy boiled peanuts, along with fresh peaches and plums at local fruit stands near where we lived. I also remember him buying raw peanuts then boiling them with salt in a big stock pot on the stove. Once cooked he’d drain off the salty water, let them cool, bag them up in quart bags and put the bagged peanuts in the freezer for later. I usually stayed at my grandparents after school when I was in elementary school and my Grandad would break out a bag now and then and let it thaw for afternoon snacks for a couple of days.

During my college days, particularly during my time at Young Harris College, I remember buying boiled peanuts at one of a number of roadside stands. During the fall we’d head out to our favorite peanut stand to pick up a couple of scoops to enjoy while watching college football in the afternoon. More often than not these ‘stands’ consisted of an older gentleman in overalls tending a large soot-covered pot set on three cement blocks over a wood fire. The peanuts were usually stirred with a piece of wood shingle carved into a paddle and dipped out with a large metal ladle with holes punched in the bottom. I don’t think the wood fire added anything to the taste of the boiled peanuts but they sure were good.

I haven’t seen many peanut pots over wood fires in recent years. Propane burners have taken the place of wood and cement blocks but fortunately one can still find the older gentleman in overalls tending his peanut pot at roadside stands here and there. Cajun boiled peanuts and boiled peanuts in a can may appeal to some. But for me, I’ll take the simplicity of peanuts, salt and water…and that suits me just fine.

Posted in Newnan | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Wildflower Season

This gallery contains 11 photos.

Originally posted on Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap:
Each day I go out for a hike, I find more and more wildflowers blooming. I love this time of year when everything starts to sprout and turn green. This blog post…

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Excuses, Excuses…

I was a bit overdue for my Young Harris fix and was looking for an excuse for a visit.

Now to be honest, it doesn’t take much of an excuse to cause me to head up for a visit. ‘Because I woke up and the sun was shining’ is really all the excuse I need. This time around I had a better excuse. Several weeks ago I saw a notice on Facebook from the Young Harris College Flyfishing Club that they were hosting the Fly Fishing Film Tour on Campus in the evening on April 8. I checked my calendar and discovered that April 8 was a Saturday. Needless to say I had to go.

The week leading up went by painfully slow but April 8 finally came around. The dinner, which was included in the price of the Film Tour ticket, was scheduled to start at 6:30 that evening. It’s a 2 hour and 45 minute drive from our house to Young Harris so I left at 9:15 Saturday morning to give myself plenty of time to make the drive and stop for lunch before dinner started.

Maybe I gave myself a little too much time?

Nope.

I rolled onto campus around 12:30.

Perfect.

I spent a short while wandering around campus and visited the college bookstore then went on to check on my lodging for the evening…my super-secret spot nearby where I hang my hammock for the night when I’m up for an overnight trip by myself.

I still had some time to kill before dinner started. Fortunately I had a plan.

During the week prior to my visit I spent some time looking on the Geocaching.com website for nearby caches that might need my attention and noticed the Rivercane Walk Series, a new cluster of caches in Little Brasstown Creek Park, located at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, a few miles northwest of Young Harris.

The drive up to Brasstown was a bit bittersweet. As I crossed the state line heading into North Carolina, I noticed that the Border Hop, the last of the three old beer joints (also including Robert’s and Buckwheat’s) that were popular with stu…err, locals back in my college days, had closed. Apparently it had been closed a while as the boards that had covered the door and windows were beginning to fall off. Guess I haven’t passed that way in a while.

Once in the parking lot, I retied my boots and checked out the sign that described the rivercane in the park, a type of giant grass similar to bamboo, and its importance to the Cherokee people who once lived in the area.

The Rivercane Walk winds through the canebrake and hayfields along Little Brasstown Creek…

And is dotted with art installations…

Bridges…

And observation decks overlooking Little Brasstown Creek…

As I walked along I noticed that the gradient of the water flow in the creek had decreased and the creek had widened significantly.

Caution, beavers at work…

And not to be overlooked, there were four caches stashed along the path…

And a fifth was hidden in one of the hayfields…

What? You think I’m going to post spoilers? Think again…

Unfortunately I never found the cache in the hayfield. I know what I should be looking for but just wasn’t ever able to find it before it was time to head back down to Young Harris to catch a few innings of Mountain Lion baseball before dinner and the Film Tour.

Oh, and how was the Fly Fishing Film Tour, you ask? Definitely worth the cost of a ticket…and I brought home a few raffle goodies and a new cap to boot!

Posted in Campbell Folk School, Geocaching, John C Campbell Folk School, Young Harris, Young Harris College | Leave a comment

On the Grid – March 11, 2017 – Venimus, Vidimus, Vicimus

I’ve been waiting for a year to write this entry. Yesterday I finally conquered my 366 Grid. One year ago yesterday, ConnieLou (and her doctors) conquered breast cancer.

Venimus, Vidimus, Vicimus!

We came, We saw, We conquered!

You may remember from my March 13, 2016 entry that I did not find a cache on March 11, 2016…the day of ConnieLou’s cancer surgery. I had intentions of finding a quick cache sometime during the day while going out to grab a bite to eat…but that didn’t happen (and that’s OK). Although it wasn’t confirmed for a week, ConnieLou, with the help of her surgeon, conquered breast cancer that day.

I had to wait a year to finish up my grid…but that gave me time to plan, to select a special cache worthy of commemorating both conquests. But I didn’t really need the time. It only took a few minutes to think of the perfect cache. The answer was obvious.

That special cache had to be at a location special to both of us. Like near the place we first met, the place we first kissed, the place we took moonlit walks, the place we both graduated in 1985. The location was obvious…Young Harris College.

But it wasn’t to happen quite like that.

Nope. Not at all.

Plans got changed late last fall when I discovered that the cache that I had in mind had been archived and was no more. Even worse, there were no other caches on the YHC campus that I haven’t already found and logged. I contemplated maybe using another nearby cache but there really weren’t any nearby that were in a location quite as sentimental.

ConnieLou provided a possible solution when she started looking over the calendar and realized that Ashley’s and Jenna’s spring breaks overlapped by a weekend and suggested that we go to the beach. As it turned out, Ashley and her boyfriend, Austin, were planning to go to St. Simons Island near Brunswick, Georgia for a few days over their break and since St. Simons is just a couple of hours north of Flagler College in St. Augustine, St. Simons became the destination of choice. I took a look at the cache map for St. Simons on the Geocaching.com website and saw that there were quite a few caches on the island and in the surrounding area. Then, while reading the cache descriptions, I discovered that there was a cache located at the St. Simons Lighthouse…at the top of the lighthouse…129 steps up from ground level (Lighthouse Keepers Lament, GCHAGX). The choice was obvious.

Then the waiting began.

March 10 finally rolled around and we all were finally on our way to St. Simons. As the day progressed I began to think I might have to wait another year to fill my March 11 spot on my grid. We got a late start leaving the house and had some car troubles on the way but fortunately everything came together and we made it to the cottage we’d rented for the weekend.

We woke Saturday morning to a beautiful day. I enjoyed a morning pipe on the screened porch then a leisurely breakfast before getting ready and heading over to the lighthouse.

We paid for our tickets, checked out the lighthouse museum then headed to the top…climbing all 129 stairs…

There were landings and windows every twenty to thirty steps so we stopped to enjoy the views and take a picture or two…

ConnieLou wasn’t feeling up to the climb so she found a place to sit in the sunshine and cheer us on from the bottom…

Once at the top we spent a few minutes checking out the view then remembered we were there to find a cache. I made a trip around the top of the light looking for a hiding spot on the outside and was just about back to the door when I heard Austin say “Hey, is this it?” Sure enough it was. I signed the log and Jenna took a couple of pictures before Austin tucked it back into its hiding spot.

After a few more minutes of enjoying the view we headed back down to spend the day piddling around on the island and chilling on the beach…literally…hey, it’s still March after all…

Posted in 366 Grid, Geocaching, St Simons Island, St Simons Lighthouse | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yep, I survived my 52nd trip around the sun and have started another. When ConnieLou asked me what I wanted for my birthday I had to think about it for a little bit. There’s almost always some little gadget or piece of gear lurking in the back of my mind but for once I was drawing a blank. As I was watching a hammock camping video on YouTube a few weeks back it hit me that what I really wanted was a down underquilt that would carry me through a southern winter and keep me comfortable at temperatures 10 to 20 degrees colder than my DIY Climashield underquilt could handle.

I already knew that there are plenty of options available from small ‘cottage’ manufacturers so I began to do my research to figure out which suited my needs and wants which included goose down fill, full length (72 inches) and a 20-degree (F) rating. All in all, finding an underquilt that I liked that met my criteria wasn’t hard at all. There were several that fit that bill but when I got down into the details I found that Hammock Gear’s Incubator 20 grabbed my interest.

tag

For the most part, Hammock Gear’s products are made to order and one can choose between fabric weights and fabric colors for the inner and outer shells and can also request additional down fill if desired. But…they also have a few already completed pieces on their website that can be had at a bit of a discount if you’re not picky about colors. Luckily, they had an Incubator 20 with a black outer shell and Mediterranean blue inner shell which was pretty close to what I wanted.

I placed my order and in a few days found a large box on my front porch. Fortunately it arrived on a Friday so I wouldn’t have to wait to hook it up and try it out. ConnieLou was kind enough to come out in the woods in the dark to help me adjust the suspension and tighten the cinches at the ends. I knew that a 45 degree night wouldn’t be much of a test for a 20 degree quilt so I compensated a little bit by wearing just a pair of soft shorts, a t-shirt and a light pair of socks…and stayed toasty warm.

Fast forward a week…the weather prognosticators were predicting that a cold front would move through our area yesterday that would bring a little rain and much cooler weather. Needless to say I jumped at the chance to give the incubator a better test.

I hung up my hammock, quilts and tarp in my usual spot…

incubator-2

…and pitched my tarp in ‘porch mode’…

porch-mode

Of course I had to spend a little while confirming that my hammock, quilts and tarp were hung properly and admired the view from my ‘porch’…

test-drive

view

Once bedtime finally rolled around I pulled on a thin fleece shirt, a pair of flannel lounge pants and a loose fitting pair of wool socks and grabbed a fleece balaclava to keep my noggin warm then headed out back…

balaclava

My little thermometer that lives in my ridgeline bag told me that the temperature was 40 degrees when I crawled into my hammock and pulled up my topquilt…

40

By daybreak it was 31 outside my quilts but I was nice and toasty warm inside and in no big hurry to get up…

31

morning

Unfortunately it seems like we may be just about finished with winter here except for another cold snap or two. Guess that means I’ll get to spend the next few months figuring out how warm I can go with combinations of the Incubator and various top quilts before having to switch to a lighter underquilt.

Posted in Backpacking, Camping, Hammock, Hammock Camping, Hammock Gear, Hammock Gear Incubator, Hammock Gear Underquilt, Incubator 20 | 2 Comments

Double, Double Toil and Trouble…

Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble…

What may be the most memorable line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth popped into my head as I was boiling a little water with my new Solo Stove.

Wait…new Solo Stove?

Yep…got a new toy to play with for Christmas! Apparently I was a good boy this year…that or I really have someone snowed…not sure which.

First things first, let’s establish what this entry is and what it isn’t. What it is: it’s simply my first impressions of the stove. What it isn’t: a thorough product review. Let’s face it, trying to do an actual review of a product based on one use, and not even a use in ‘real-world’ conditions, would be foolish. Want a real review? Let me play with it for a year, maybe two. Let me boil some more water and actually cook a few meals in the woods and then maybe I’ll get interested on putting together a real review. But for now, let’s stick with first impressions…

So…what is this Solo Stove that I speak of? A Solo Stove Lite…

1-stove-bag2-stove
According to the Solo Stove website, a Solo Stove is a “wood burning stove that incorporates a secondary combustion for a more complete, efficient and cleaner burn.” One could simply say that it’s a hobo stove on steroids but that would be a major understatement. Without going into a lot of detail about how it’s made and how it works, calling it a double-walled, stainless steel, wood burning, gasifier stove would be a bit more accurate, if not a mouthful.

Are there other similar wood burning stoves? Sure, the Toaks Titanium Wood Burning Stove and the Bushbuddy come to mind quickly and a Google for ‘wood gasifier stove’ search tells me that there are others that can be purchased. Don’t want to buy one? Well, there are also quite a few how-to’s out there that one can use to make their own.

Back to first impressions…

The weather is beautiful here in Georgia this weekend and I decided that it was time to give the Solo Stove a try. I spent a few minutes picking up small sticks and twigs in the woods back behind the house and breaking them into short pieces…

3-sticks

Just in case someone might think I’m foolish to fire up a wood burning stove on a unprotected wood deck rail, I’m going to bust your bubble…I didn’t. Thus the paver stone…

4-stone

Loading the stove up with wood is a little counterintuitive. Usually when building a fire one starts with their tinder then adds wood over the tinder progressing to larger and larger pieces. According to the literature that came with the stove, loading the stove is just the opposite, larger pieces on the bottom then smaller pieces and tinder on the top…

5-loaded
6-cotton

Counterintuitive or not, it worked…

7-flame

Once the fire was going good, I placed a cook pot (a 10cm IMUSA mug) filled with water on top of the stove and began feeding it more wood to see how long it would take to get to a rolling boil…

8-cook-pot

Eight(ish) minutes later, water, boiling hot…

9-boil

Initially I was thinking of adding a list of Pros and Cons at this point, but as I began to think through the possibilities it occurred to me most of the Pros have downsides and most of the Cons have upsides so maybe a few general thoughts might be better.

Cost: It ain’t cheap. The Solo Stove Lite retails for $99. As of the date of writing this entry, it listed on the Solo Stove website and on Amazon for $69. Considering a MSR Pocket Rocket retails for about $40 and a Jet Boil (stove only) retails for $50, $69 isn’t bad.  Also consider that one will not have to buy fuel for this stove so the overall cost essentially diminishes over time.

Ease of use: It’s not a ‘set it and forget it’ item like an alcohol stove or a canister stove. It takes some tending. But, if you can make a fire and don’t mind tending it for a few minutes as your water boils or your food otherwise cooks (or if you’re just a pyro like me) you’ll be in good shape.

Cook time: It ain’t fast. Your Pocket Rocket, JetBoil or favorite knock-off will boil a couple of cups of water in around two minutes and most alcohol stoves can do the job in about six. About twelve minutes elapsed from the time I lit the tinder to the time I had water boiling. If you like to hike from dawn to dusk and just want to cook a quick meal before turning in, you might want to consider other options. If you’re like me and aren’t concerned about putting in a lot of miles and enjoy having some time to chillax at the end of the day then a wood stove might be a good option.

Space/Bulk: Own its own, it’s bulky and will take up some space in your pack but if it can be nested in a cook pot it doesn’t take up any extra space. Solo Stove offers a 900ml cup/cook pot that the Solo Stove Lite will nest in (they also make pots that the next two larger size stoves will nest in). I don’t think I’d be too off the mark if I said that there probably are other pots available that it would nest in as well.

Weight: At 9 ounces it’s not exactly light.  Consider that a canister stove and fuel canister stove will weigh a little over 7 ounces with a full fuel canister.  Also consider that you’re not carrying fuel.  Not a lot of difference really.

Clean-up: Simple. Let it cool down, dump out the ashes and put it back in its stuff sack. Yes, it’s going to leave some soot on your cook pot but because combustion is more complete in a gasifying stove, it won’t be nearly as bad as cooking over an open fire or a non-gasifying wood stove. Regardless, put the stove and cookpot in a stuff sack and it’s not that much of a problem anymore.

Personally, I think I’m going to get along with the Solo Stove quite well and will be picking up the 900 ml cook pot to go with it in the near future.  And, OK, I’ll admit it…I just like playing with fire.

As always, these are my thoughts. Your mileage may vary…

Posted in Backpack Stove, Backpacker Stove, Backpacking, Camping, Gasifier Stove, Gasifier Wood Stove, Solo Stove, Solo Stove Lite, Wood Stove | 5 Comments

PSA: Help Prevent Wildfires

Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap

As many may know by now, there are an alarming amount of forest fires burning in North Georgia, North Carolina and East Tennessee. Over the last few weeks, hundreds of fires have broken out throughout the area. The dry summer and lack of usual rain in Autumn has turned our woods into a tinder box. The Chattahoochee National Forest, which envelopes the entire AT in Georgia, has had a camp fire ban placed on it until mid January of 2017. It is now illegal to build or maintain a fire due to the extremely likely possibility that it can get out of control. Camp stoves are excluded from these restrictions but it is still massively important that these guidelines are followed for the safety of recreational area users and our forests.

cw1sh34wgaac1kr The Rough Ridge fire in the Cohutta Wilderness has burned more that 10,000 acres of forest so far.

High winds have…

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