TGGEQ Update No. 9 – SOWEGA – Plan C

TGGEQ Update No. 9 – SOWEGA – Plan C

SOWEGA – Southwest Georgia

Early on as I planned out my strategy for completing this quest I decided that I’d do the south Georgia caches in the cooler months.  Let’s face it, caching in south Georgia during the summer when temperatures are north of ninety degrees and humidity levels are off the charts just isn’t fun.  Sometime during the past year I also decided that I wanted to tackle the caches in the southwest corner of the state first.  Why?  Just because.

When I began planning this adventure I had wanted to do the four Georgia State Parks GeoTour caches and one Georgia Historic Sites cache located more or less along the Georgia-Alabama state line between Columbus and the Florida state line (Plan A).  Unfortunately that trip didn’t pan out so I thought I’d do the four EarthCaches and the virtual cache located in Providence Canyon State Park near Omaha, Georgia Plan B).  Unfortunately that didn’t pan out either.  I had to do quick thinking Friday afternoon to come up with a Plan C.  Plan C ended up consisting of three EarthCaches in and around the city of Albany in southwest Georgia and four virtual caches between Albany and the town of Roberta, near Macon, before heading home.  Ambitious for sure, but it seemed to be doable.

I was up and out of the house and on my way by 8:30 Saturday morning and enjoyed the two and a half hour drive from home to Albany.

My first stop would be at Radium Springs, just south of Albany to visit the Radium Springs EarthCache (GC1YTT7).  Radium Springs is an artesian spring that pumps out approximately 70,000 gallons of cool, crystal clear water per minute.  A popular resort and casino (yes, there once were casinos in Georgia) was built on the hillside above the spring in the late 1920s.  The casino was severely damaged by floods in 1994 and 1998 and the building was eventually demolished in 2003 and a park has since been built where the casino once stood.  Portions of the building’s foundations and grounds have been incorporated into the park.

My next stop was at the Flint River Sand Dunes EarthCache (GC1Z30G).  Dunes?  In Albany?  But Albany is over a hundred miles from the nearest beach!  Now that might be a problem if these dunes were beach dunes created by water and waves.  No, these dunes are eolian (wind-formed) dunes that are believed to have formed between 15,000 and 30,000 years ago during the Pliestocene Era, a period when portions of North America were covered by glaciers.

My third stop took me to Albany’s RiverFront Park for Flint River Shoals EarthCache (GC1R06J).  Looking out over the shoals made me wish that I had brought a flyrod with me.

 

 

As I walked back to the truck I came across a monument dedicated to the late, great Ray Charles, a native of Albany.

With the three Albany EarthCaches behind me, I began to head north to work on the virtual caches.  Google Maps took me through the little town of Leesburg.  It was well past lunchtime and I was beginning to feel it.  I figured that I’d stop at some fast food chain where I could get something quick and be on my way.  As I was passing through Leesburg I happened to notice a little hot dog joint called DogOnIt Hot Dogs in a little strip center on my side of the road.  A couple of chili dogs sounded really good so I called an audible and swung the truck into the parking lot.  That spur of the moment decision turned out to be a great call.  The chili dogs were on par with The Varsity, my personal favorite.  Add an order of tots and a large Coke and you had a lunch fit for royalty.

With lunch out of the way I headed a few miles north of Leesburg to Larce Indian Town (GC25E6), the first of the four virtual caches for the day.  Larce Indian Town was once the home of the Chehaw’s, part of the Creek Tribe, who were friendly to the early settlers in the area.

 

The Jimmy Carter Regional Airport near Americus, Georgia would be my next stop for Lone Eagle (GCGVRY).  Who would have thought that Charles Lindberg, yes, that Charles Lindberg, would have made his first solo flight at a tiny airport in south Georgia.

The next cache on my list, Answered Prayers (GCGMJY) would take me to Andersonville, Georgia and to the site of Camp Sumter, one of the largest Confederate military prisons during the Civil War, now a memorial to one of the darkest periods in our nation’s history.

Unfortunately the buildings and plumes of steam that could be seen on the horizon clashed with the solemnity of the site.

My final stop of the day took me to Roberta, Georgia for George Washington knows me, but do you? (GC6C5C), a five-stage virtual cache dedicated to Benjamin Hawkins, a planter who served under George Washington as an interpreter before becoming an Indian Agent after the Revolutionary War.  Hawkins was a member of the Continental Congress and later negotiated treaties with the Creeks and Cherokees.  I arrived at the first stage just as the sun was hitting the tops of the trees and was able to work through the five stages before it finally slipped below the horizon.

After 11 hours, 7 caches and 350+ miles I made it back home.   In the words of The A-Team’s Hannibal Smith, I love it when a plan comes together.

Posted in Albany, Andersonville, Camp Sumter, Charles Lindberg, Chehaw, Day Trip, Earth Cache, Earthcache, Eolian Dunes, Flint River, Geocaching, GeoQuest, Georgia, Geotour, National Park Service, Radium Springs, Virtual Cache | Leave a comment

TGGEQ Update No. 8 – On the Road Again

It’s been a long hot summer and I haven’t spent much time caching, at least not here in Georgia.  I managed to log 30 caches during mine and Jenna’s trip to Yellowstone National Park in July and a couple each on our trips to Congaree National Park in June and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in early August.  Until lately it’s been too hot to cache…OK, at least to cache comfortably.  How hot has it been?  Well, here’s a little graphic that described Georgia’s twelve seasons.  But wait…we only have four seasons, right, spring, summer, fall and winter, right?  Astronomically speaking, that is correct.  But when we’re talking about real weather in Georgia, there are twelve seasons.

Until the past week or so, we’ve been camped out at Hell’s Front Porch since late June.  We had a few days of False Fall and now seem to be heading into Second Summer.

Even though it’s been bloody hot, I’ve managed to log a few quest caches over the past couple of weeks.  Jenna and I made a second trip over to Congaree so I used the trip as an opportunity to check Flowing Wells Spring Artesian Well (GC7YYNQ) off my list along with A.H. Stephens State Park (GC27C6V).  Unfortunately we arrived at A.H. Stephens SP a little too late to tackle the Georgia Historic Sites GeoTour cache that’s also located in the park.

 

The next weekend was move-in weekend for Jenna for her last year at Flagler College.  Caching didn’t play into our schedule for the drive down but I was able to squeeze a few in as ConnieLou and I were heading home including Adel Lime Sink EarthCache (GC4BHPG), Northbound Nicety (GC454VV), and I75N Letterbox Travel Bug Hotel (GC675T3)

Fast forward a few days…it was time to make my monthly work trip out to Greensboro, Georgia.  Instead of driving straight there and straight back I decided to take a little detour through Flovilla and then through Griffin to pick up the Georgia State Park GeoTour and Georgia Historic Sites GeoTour caches at Indian Springs State Park (History Trail – Indian Springs, GC80HQ4 and Indian Springs State Park, GC27C6K) as well as a virtual cache, Stonewall Solitude (GC2028) in Griffin.

What’s on the horizon?   We’ll be heading back St. Augustine in a few weeks for a family event at Flagler so there’s potential to check off a few more of the rest area/visitor center caches along I-75.  A couple of State Park GeoTour caches and an earth cache or two might be possible.  As the weather cools I’m hoping to take a weekend trip to southwest Georgia, maybe a weekend around Savannah, and I really need to wrap up the ITP quest caches around Atlanta. Beyond that…well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

And just in case anyone is wondering…213 to go!

Posted in A.H. Stephens State Park, Earth Cache, Earthcache, Geocaching, GeoQuest, Georgia State Parks, Geotour, Indian Springs State Park | Leave a comment

The Adventurous Adventures of Lil’ Henz II – The Beginning of an End

Or…Lil’ Henz goes to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

I’ve mostly avoided working on this entry for over a week now.  I started on it one day early last week but never really found the flow so I stopped and haven’t had much interest in picking back up.  Internally I’ve tried to blame the summer heat and humidity for giving me a bad case of lazy.  While that was probably at least partially true, I generally write these entries in the air conditioned comfort of our dining room.  There had to be some other reason.  I had a few minutes to work on this entry over the weekend so I opened up the text file on my computer and as I skimmed over what I had written previously one word jumped out at me…“final”.

What if I’m not just being a lazy slug? What if I’ve actually been avoiding writing this entry?  Three years ago, about this time, I wrote about moving Jenna into her dorm room at the beginning of her first year of undergrad at Flagler College.   I think back to that weekend at the start of her first year in college and graduation seemed so far away.  Of course I knew that they weren’t and that time would fly by like a bullet…and it has.  Now we’re at the beginning of her ‘final’ year.

So what does all that have to do with anything?  Well, the national parks trips that we’ve taken this summer were the beginning of her ‘final’ honors project which she will work on over the next few months and present her work in the spring.  In a few short months, after she’s presented her work, undergrad will come to an end and she will be off to whatever is next.  Bittersweet?  You bet it is.  I can’t help but wonder if my reluctance to work on this entry isn’t something down deep inside trying to avoid the march of time.  Of course I know that time moves on no matter what and that we have to move with it.  I have to keep reminding myself that the end of her college adventure is simply the beginning of a different adventure.  Maybe with that in mind I can finally make a little progress on this entry.

Onward…

We were back on the road (literally) to visit the third and final National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for Jenna’s senior honors research project.  Since we were going to be driving, we decided to change things up a little bit and bring ConnieLou and our pups, Sirius and Lyla, with us.

Over the course of these trips, the three of us have assumed various roles based on the needs of each trip and our talents.  Jenna was the principal researcher and photographer, ConnieLou was our travel agent and took care of booking airline tickets, car rentals and arranging lodging, I took care of general logistics and was our driver, navigator, and sherpa.

To start the process, Jenna would search out old photos of locations in each park that might have experienced some man-caused change.  She would give me the photos and some information about their locations.  It was then my job to try to find each location on a park map and then figure out a plan to visit each of the locations.  We had originally planned for four days for the Smokies trip but after I’d had some time to ponder the photos and park maps, I decided that we could probably do the trip easily in three days instead of four which would allow me and ConnieLou to each save a vacation day and the cost of a nights lodging for later in the month when it’s time to move Jenna back to school in St. Augustine.

Friday morning we loaded up the car and got on the road.  We wanted to avoid Atlanta traffic as much as possible but we weren’t in too big of a hurry so we waited until after rush hour (and a stop at Chick-Fil-A for breakfast) to get on the road.  Our plan for the day called for three stops in the park, two near Cherokee, NC and one at Clingman’s Dome before driving on to our hotel in Pigeon Forge, TN.

Out first stop was at the Mountain Farm Museum at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center located just inside the park.  The Mountain Farm Museum is essentially an open air museum in the form of a mountain farmstead.  According to the museum’s website, most of the buildings were built before 1900 and were moved to the museum site in the 1950s.

While at the Farm Museum we noticed small groups of people beginning to gather at the edge of the meadow.  Everybody seemed to be looking in the same general direction and we soon noticed that a small group of elk had come out of the woods, crossed the road and walked into the meadow.  I’ve seen plenty of elk out west but not in the southern Appalachians.  Elk were largely gone from North Carolina and Tennessee by the 1850s.  Elk were reintroduced in the Smokies in 2001 and 2002 and the herd has thrived since.

Our second stop was at Mingus Mill, just a short drive from the farm museum.  Mingus Mill is an 1880s-era grist mill that used a water powered turbine instead of a water wheel to turn the millstones and power the other machinery inside the building.  Mingus Mill was also the first of a handful of caches I’d log over the course of the weekend.

Clingman’s Dome, at 6,643 feet above sea level, is the highest mountain in the Smokies.  The walk from the parking lot to the observation tower at the top of the mountain is only half a mile and is paved but is somewhat steep and is still a pretty good work out.  Unfortunately, pets aren’t allowed so ConnieLou elected to stay down below with the pups while me and Jenna went up to the tower.  The weather at the top of Clingman’s can be somewhat of a gamble on any given day.  We got lucky in that there were broken clouds in the area rather than the sky being completely overcast.  Still, we had to contend with clouds moving in and out to get the photos that Jenna needed.

 

As we walked back down to the parking lot I was excited to nerd out over some of some bedding planes and joints and fractures that I noticed in a couple of the rock outcrops along the trail.

Of course I nerded out, what else would one expect from a geologist?

Around sunset we found ourselves on the north side of the park and rolling through Gatlinburg on our way to Pigeon Forge.  We haven’t been to Gatlinburg in at least 15 years and its changed just a bit and has it ever changed.  Maybe it was just that it was Friday night but it was wall-to-wall people and lights, Like a down-scaled version of Times Square in New York City.

Saturday morning we headed over to Cades Cove in the northwest portion of the park to visit a handful of locations.  We’d barely entered the cove when we got caught up in our first wildlife slowdown of the day, a bear in a tree.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to stop as the park rangers waved us on.  We’d only traveled a short distance farther when we encountered our second slowdown for another bear in a tree.  This time around we got to get out, get a good look at the bear and take a picture or two.

We traveled on to the Cable-Gregg house and Cable Mill at the west end of the cove where was able to visit the rest of the Cades Cove locations that she needed to see and spent a little time checking out the Cades Cove Visitor Center.

While the girls were inside I noticed a deer and several wild turkeys feeding at the edge of the woods between the visitor center and restroom building.  As I watched the turkeys and the deer I also watched the people that came and went from the two buildings and was surprised at the number of people who never looked over towards the woods or noticed the wildlife.

After we finished up in Cades Cove we headed to the Little Greenbriar Schoolhouse at the end of a half-mile long single lane unpaved road.

Single lane unpaved roads are always an adventure.  You’re almost guaranteed to meet someone coming the other way and the vehicle coming downhill has the right-of-way.  Fortunately we didn’t encounter anyone going to the school (uphill) but encountered two other vehicles on the way down.  One of the vehicles was able to squeeze by in a wide spot in the road but the other had to put it in reverse and back down a couple hundred yards to the next wide spot where we were able to pass one another.  Once we finished at the Little Greenbriar School we called it a day and headed back to town to our hotel and then grabbed some supper.

We only had one stop at the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg planned for Sunday morning before we headed home.  We weren’t in any hurry and ConnieLou and Jenna wanted to make a quick trip to the outlet stores in Pigeon Forge before we hit the road.

Once at Sugarlands Jenna had a chance to talk to a couple of the rangers that were able to tell her the locations that a couple of the historic photos that she had in hand were taken, one being along the nature trail behind the Sugarlands Visitors Center and the other near Newfound Gap on our route home.  After visiting those two locations and taking the necessary photos we called it a weekend and headed home.

As I mentioned in a previous entry, Great Smoky Mountains National Park it the most visited of the National Parks and unfortunately, it lived up to that billing.  It seemed that people were everywhere, even in some of the lesser visited locations.  Parking lots for Visitor Centers, trailheads, scenic views and points of interest were packed as were picnic areas and campgrounds.  I’m sure we’ll make it back to GSMNP someday and will even visit Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge again…but I think it will be during the week when the weather is cool or even cold rather than a summer weekend.

Photo creds:  Jenna Davenport

Posted in Cades Cove, Cherokee North Carolina, Clingmans Dome, Gatlinburg Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, GSMNP, Little Greenbriar School, Mingus Mill, Smokies | 1 Comment

The Adventurous Adventures of Lil Henz II:  Henz Goes Geyser Gazing

Or Lil Henz Goes to Yellowstone National Park…

Stop #2 on Jenna’s Honors Capstone project tour…Yellowstone National Park.  The very first National Park.  Established March 1, 1872.  The granddaddy of them all.

Given that Yellowstone National Park is nearly 1,600 miles from home, this trip would have its own challenges.  Fortunately those didn’t involve car troubles, all night partiers or severe thunderstorms.  OK, I take part of that back…there was a severe thunderstorm but it didn’t impact us all that much.

Backtrack to Wednesday, July 10, our departure date.  We arrived at the airport early in order to give ourselves plenty of time to get through security before our flight to Bozeman, Montana.  Much to our surprise we made it through security in about 10 minutes, possibly a record in ATL.  Since we made it through security much quicker than expected we had a bit of time to kill before boarding.  Books, games on our phones, and people watching provided plenty of entertainment.  What better place is there to people watch than at the airport, right?  OK, maybe WallyWorld but that’s an entirely different brand of people watching…or maybe it’s not.

As the boarding process began things began to get a little tense.  We were flying stand-by and ConnieLou was keeping track of how many seats were left for the stand-by passengers.  We ended up getting two of the last three empty seats…and everyone was greatly relieved.

The flight to Bozeman was uneventful.  Our next minor snag would come at the rental car counter.  Apparently three flights arrived at about the same time and it appeared that most everyone was renting from Budget/Avis.  Twenty people in two lines and none at the other counters…I was starting to have WallyWorld flashbacks.  Fortunately the line moved faster than a typical WallyWorld checkout line.  Once at the counter I was informed that there were no mid-sized cars available but we could have a Toyota Tacoma pick-up for the original price…and a potential snag turned into a bonus.  Once in the rental, we headed down the road to Bozeman to grab some supper, get our park pass and do a little caching before heading over to Idaho to our B&B.

Once at the B&B we took a little time to chill then began planning out the next three days.  Jenna had picked out historic photos from nine locations within the park that we needed to visit.  With one exception, all of the locations were in the western half of the park and in five general areas:  Mammoth Hot Springs, Midway Geyser Basin, Old Faithful area, and the West Thumb Geyser Basin/Yellowstone Lake area.  I, on the other hand, had picked out fifty caches, all EarthCaches and virtual caches, to attempt to log that were in close proximity to the places she needed to go.  We decided that on Thursday we’d try to finish everything that we needed to do in the Old Faithful area then if we had time head down to the West Thumb/Yellowstone Lake area and on Friday we’d hit the Midway Geyser Basin then head up to Mammoth Hot Springs.  There were two other photo location that we needed to try to find.  One of the locations was near the northwest corner of the park in the Tower area but after a bit of research we decided that it was unlikely that we’d be able to get to, much less find, that location.  We didn’t have a clue where the other location might be so we figured we’d try to ask at any Information Station or Visitor Center that we might visit.  If our plan worked out like we hoped we’d have most of the day Saturday to explore other parts of the park.

We headed into the park bright and early Thursday morning.  We’d decided to stop at the Madison Junction Information Station to see if we could find any information about our mystery location, a former ranger station.  Once we could see the Information Station we both thought that it looked very familiar.  We pulled out the old picture of the former ranger station and quickly realized that we were looking at the same building.  Mystery solved!

With one photo location in the books we headed on down to the Old Faithful area to work on the photo locations in that area, do some more caching and just play tourist for a bit.  On the way to Old Faithful we encountered out first, yet brief, wildlife traffic jam courtesy of a bison.

We got lucky in the Old Faithful area and got to see eruptions of three of the major geysers, Old Faithful, Beehive and Grand Geyser, as well as several of the smaller geysers within about a three hour time span.

We were able to find all of the photo locations that we needed to find in the Old Faithful Area with one with one exception, Black Sand Pool.  We decided to try to do some additional on-line research back at the B&B and ask around a bit then maybe come back to it if we were able.  At that point we still had plenty of daylight to work with to we headed down to the West Thumb/Yellowstone lake area in the southern portion of the park for one more photo location before calling it a day and heading back up to West Yellowstone to get supper.

Friday morning we headed directly to the Midway Geyser Basin to visit Excelsior Geyser and the Grand Prismatic Pool before heading up to Mammoth Hot Springs.

For some reason I thought Mammoth Hot Springs might be somewhat less crowded than the Old Faithful area.  I’m not too sure why I might have thought that because it seemed to be just as crowded, if not more so.  If there were less people they were crowded into a smaller space which made it seem more crowded.  Having a small group of elk camping out in the middle of ‘town’ didn’t help things much.

Regardless, we pressed on.

As we were leaving the park Thursday evening we got an unexpected treat.  Jenna had been looking out the truck window across the Madison River when she saw something move on the opposite side of the river that looked like a wolf.  I got the truck turned around and then turned down on the road that ran along the edge of the river until she found the right location and she spotted it again.  Sure enough, a wolf came down to the river’s edge and began trying to catch something in the shallows.  We watched for a few minutes before heading on into town for supper.

We’d had spectacular weather so far during our trip but as we left West Yellowstone Friday evening to head back to our B&B we could see dark storm clouds and a lot of lightning in the distance.  We got a little rain but the worst of the storm passed by us and we were treated to a spectacular double rainbow.

Once back at the B&B I started doing a little more research to try to find Black Sand Pool, the photo location we’d missed from the day before.  If we could find it we would have found and re-photographed eight of the nine original planned locations before we had to leave.  It only took me about five minutes to find the location of the pool.  It turns out that we had been just across the street and a ten-minute hike away on Thursday.  At that point our plan for Saturday came together.  First we were going to back to the Midway Geyser Basin early in the morning before the crowds arrived and filled up the parking lot to walk up to the overlook over the Grand Prismatic Pool, then head back down to the Old Faithful area to the Black Sand Pool then spend the rest of the day exploring.

Once we were at the Grand Prismatic Pool overlook we realized that our plan had a flaw.  The morning air was cool and the pool was producing much more steam than in the warmer afternoons.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to see the colors of the pool all that well.  At least the steam was pretty impressive.

Another thing that was impressive after the previous night’s rain were the mosquitos.  They had come out of hiding and were plentiful and they did their best to drain our veins during the walk to and from the overlook and to and from Black Sand Pool.  Black Sand Pool?  Yeah, we found it…

With the rest of the day ahead of us we decided to head north up the Grand Loop Road then head east across the middle of the park at Norris Junction to Canyon Junction to try to see the Yellowstone River waterfalls and canyon.  Try would be the operative word as this area was also a sea of humanity and cars, trucks and motor homes vying for a limited number of parking spaces and, in some cases, creating new ones.  We did manage a few views of one of the falls and the canyon before deciding to leave the people behind and head south along the Grand Loop Road in the east side of the park down to Fishing Village then over to West Thumb and back up to Madison Junction before calling it a day.

The remainder of the drive wasn’t without sights to see.  We made a stop at the Mud Volcano where we found a bison camped out…

Then saw a buttload of bison along the road

We also encountered our worst traffic jam of the trip, although this one wasn’t cause by wildlife but by an ancient motorhome that was waaay past its prime and a driver who seemingly refused to pull off into one of the roadside pullouts and let others safely pass.

Sunday found us back at the Bozeman airport to catch our flight back home.  Fortunately there were several seats available and no tense moments this time around and we were cleared to board without any issues.

So how did things shake out for us?  25 miles walked during our three days in the park, more if you add airports and walking around in town, we were able to locate 8 of 9 of the photo locations that Jenna needed to find and I was able to log 30 of the 50 caches (20 EarthCaches, 9 virtuals and 1 traditional cache) that I had hoped to log in and near the park.

Next stop…Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

Didn’t get enough pictures:  OK, here are a few random scenery shots…

 

Posted in Earthcache, Geocaching, Hiking, National Park Service, Uncategorized, West Yellowstone, Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone NP | 1 Comment

The Adventurous Adventures of Lil Henz II – The Terrible, Awful, No Good, Very Bad Night

Or Lil Henz goes to Congaree National Park.

Jenna’s Honors Capstone project for college is a study of anthropogenic change (man-caused change) in our National Parks.  Part of the work is to research historical photographs taken within select parks then visit the parks for which photos were selected,  return as close as possible to the locations where the photos were taken, take new photos, and compare the two to identify changes caused by man over time.  An additional goal was to identify other small and large scale changes to the landscape and/or park features.  Due mainly to the time available to do the work, Jenna selected only three parks to visit:  Yellowstone, the first National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited park, and Congaree National Park, the second newest and possibly least developed park.  Of course Jenna needed an assistant for the project and that would be me.  Thus far my titles have included driver, navigator, camp cook and sherpa.

Our first destination would be Congaree National Park near Columbia, South Carolina.  Of course, Lil Henz II likes adventures and wanted to go with us so we took him along.  Wait, you don’t know who Lil Henz II is?!  Click the link to check out Lil Henz’ introduction in my entry from May 2017.

I took Friday off so we would have plenty of time to do all the things we needed to do.  Friday would be a travel day,  our day to set up camp, round up some maps to learn the lay of the land, interview some of the park personnel and just chill out for a little while before hiking in to two separate destinations within the park on Saturday.  We were out the door by 8:00 Friday morning.  We needed to get gas and decided to stop at our local Chick-Fil-A for breakfast and make one additional stop to get Jenna a hat.

It was probably a good thing that we added in the extra errands before we hit the road because Jenna’s car started acting up after breakfast.  Fortunately we were close to home and were able to shift our gear into my truck and keep moving.  Only problem, the AC in my truck doesn’t work all that well…it was going to be a long, hot weekend.  Despite being able to shift, adjust and get on up the road, something in the back of my mind kept saying “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”.

The drive to Congaree was uneventful if not a little hot and uncomfortable.  We stopped to top off the gas tank and hit up a local sushi/hibachi restaurant in Augusta, Georgia for lunch where we found some surprisingly good sushi.  We arrived at Congaree NP around 3:30, stopped in at the Visitors Center to grab some maps, watch the video about the park and talk with the park rangers before heading to our campsite.

We got our hammocks and tarps set up then set about doing a whole lot of nothing other than enjoying a cool breeze in the shade at our campsite.

By 7:30 we were getting a little hungry so we decided to ‘cook’ some supper.  Nothing extravagant, just boil some water on a small camp stove to rehydrate a couple of freeze dried meals.  As we sat at the picnic table eating our supper we noticed two young ladies and their dog stroll into the campsite adjacent to us and begin setting up camp.  We didn’t think too much about it until an hour or so later when at least one guy strolled in dragging a cooler, which we’d later learn was filled with beer.  This is where things began to go downhill.

The Party

By 10:00 it was evident that the beer was flowing freely and our neighbors were feeling no pain.  They had also lost any awareness of their own volume that they might have had before they invaded the campground.  Ten o’clock is also supposed to be the beginning of ‘Quiet Hours’ at the park campground.  By 11:00 we had learned that their names were John, Elizabeth and Melissa and that their dog’s name was Hurricane.  John, was the loud, obnoxious drunk and lounge singer.  Elizabeth and Melissa were loud, needy/defensive drunks.   Hurricane was the quietest of the bunch and made little noise other than occasionally barking at something that needed barking at.  We found it a bit ironic that they would get on to Hurricane for making any noise louder than a whimper.   We also learned that Saturday was Elizabeth’s birthday and that their camping trip also doubled as her birthday party.  By 11:30 they were still going strong but we were trying not to be party poopers and hoped that by midnight they would start winding down.  It wasn’t to be.  Shortly after midnight they launched into a two-hour long conversation about the girls’ chest sizes and their insecurities derived therefrom.  It also sounded that there might have been a visual inspection/comparison between the two young ladies but can’t say for sure, I was in my hammock under my tarp and by this time I really didn’t give a damn.  The party continued for another three and a half hours with a brief intermission between 3:00 and 3:30 when Elizabeth made an executive decision that the group would gather up their chairs and head over to the parking lot to look at the stars.  It was at this point that Jenna managed to go to sleep and I thought that I might be able to as well.

Nope.  It would be my best shot at getting to sleep before daylight but alas, it didn’t happen.

By 3:30 the partiers were back and the party was back on.

The Storms

As we were setting up camp Friday afternoon I toyed with the idea of not hanging up our tarps.  We like to leave our tarps off whenever we can but that little voice in the back of my mind spoke to me again and said “Dude, set the tarp up, trust me on this”.  Fortunately I listened.  That little voice also told me to get the poly tarp out of the back seat of the truck to cover up the stuff on the picnic table for the night.  Again, fortunately I listened.

No weather forecast that I had seen for the weekend prior to leaving home Friday morning had called for rain of any sort, much less severe thunderstorms, but rain and severe thunderstorms we got.

By 3:30 I could hear the partiers coming back from the parking lot.  I also began to hear an occasional low rumble off to the northwest.  As time passed the rumble became louder but seemed to remain mostly to the north of us yet close enough to cause a bit of concern.  We finally got a few minutes of light rain and one very close lightning strike before the storm passed.  We began to breathe a little easier.  Our moment of relief didn’t last long as we once again began to hear low rumbles off to the west…but this time around the rumbles seemed to be coming from a more southerly direction.  Not a good sign.  By 5:00 the rumbles were getting closer and the wind was beginning to pick up.  I shined my headlamp over in the direction of the picnic table and noticed a corner of the tarp on the table had blown up and flipped over and part of the tables contents were uncovered.  Fortunately there was nothing on the table that rain could actually hurt but we still wanted to keep things as dry as possible.  I got up, fixed the tarp and put our folded up folding chairs on top to hold it down just before the rain started to fall.  The partiers simply got in their tent and pulled the beer cooler closer to the door.  I hadn’t been back in my hammock for a couple of minutes when the storm began to show us what it had in store.  It began raining sideways and the wind was blowing hard enough to pull the tarp on the table out from under the chairs.  Once again I got out of my hammock to re-secure the tarp on the table.  As I did, a Jim Cantore-worthy gust of wind whipped the tarp over my hammock hard enough that the stakes on the upwind side pulled free from the soft ground, exposing my hammock to the rain.  I had just managed to secure my tarp when another gust pulled them free again.  All the while lightning was striking way too close for comfort and the wind was tearing limbs out of trees and dropping them all around us.  At the height of the storm I began to hear something that sounded like a freight train approaching.  Fortunately the engineer finally blew the train’s horn at a crossing.  I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so relieved to hear a train horn before.  All during the storm there was a lot of screaming and thrashing about going on over in the party tent.  I’m assuming that was due to the storm.

By 5:30 the worst was over.  By 5:45 the partiers were finally quiet…and I was soaked to the bone.  Not wanting to get my hammock or quilts any wetter than they were, I pulled one of the folding chairs off of the table, opened it up, sat down, propped my feet up on the picnic table bench, turned off my headlamp and enjoyed the newfound quiet and the cool rain until daybreak when I could finally see well enough to begin doing damage assessment and control.  Fortunately we had no damage, only a bunch of wet gear which would need to be dried.

By 6:30 Jenna was awake and we began discussing our options to accomplish our goals for the day and to tackle our new goal of getting our gear cleaned up and dried out.  We ended up deciding to cut our trip short by a night, pack up early then try to get to the two locations that we needed to visit before heading home to begin the drying out process.

As we headed to the first of the two locations, we ran across a couple of park rangers clearing a tree that had fallen across the road.  It was then that we began to understand just how dangerous the storm had actually been.  One of the rangers told us that trees were down all over and when we told him where we were going he told us that a tree and power lines were down over the most direct route and that we would have to detour around.  He asked us if we were camping in the park and we told him that we were but we were awake at the time the storm hit thanks to the party going on next door.  The ranger called the second ranger over and asked us to recount the events of the night.  The second ranger, who I noticed had a government issue pistol on his side, said that he would have a word with them after they got the road cleared.  As we left the rangers, I noticed that the second ranger was driving a Park Service Law Enforcement pick-up.

Getting to our first destination, the location of a former cabin that was present before the park was created, for the morning was no easy task.  There were trees down over nearly every road that could take us to the site of the cabin.  Needless to say, it took some creative navigating in an unfamiliar area until we got lucky and found that the last road that could have possibly taken us to our destination was passable.  A short hike took us to the spot that we finally convinced ourselves was the location of the cabin.  A brick fragment found in the path leading from what we believed to be the former cabin site to the creek below gave us another hint that we were in the right place.  Jenna had brought old photos of the cabin and its surroundings and we were able to match up a few existing trees to the trees in the photo…taken nearly 40 years ago.  We later further confirmed that we were in the right spot by reviewing USGS topographic maps from the 1970s and 1990s online.

New photos were taken and we were on our way back to the truck and back the park Visitor Center to try to get to our second destination, the site of a former hunting camp.  Unfortunately we would not be able to make it to the location of the hunting camp.  Parts of the boardwalk below the Visitor Center were closed due to storm damage and the damage assessment along the park’s trails was not yet complete.  The ranger at Visitor Center told us we could try to get to the site of the old hunting camp but it would be at our own risk.  We debated for a few minutes but finally decided that it would be best to head on home to start getting our gear cleaned up and dried out.

We never knew what happened to John, Elizabeth, Melissa and Hurricane after we left.  The rangers that we had talked to at the fallen tree saw us back at the Visitor Center later that morning and stepped over to tell us that that they had taken care of the issue that we had mentioned earlier.  He didn’t say exactly how the issue was taken care of, just that it was, and we left it at that.  Hopefully Elizabeth didn’t spend her entire birthday nursing a hangover…

Photo Creds:  Jenna & Steve Davenport

 

Posted in Camping, Congaree, Congaree National Park, Congaree NP, Flagler College, Hammock, Hammock Camping, Hiking, National Park Service | 1 Comment

TGGEQ Update No 7 – Moving Targets

Last September when I set out on this little quest I had a suspicion that the endpoint would become a moving target…and it certainly has.  Not really in a bad way, mind you, finding more caches is always fun.

When I got started, my Quest consisted of a total 259 caches, of which I had found a whopping 13.  Now, around eight months later, my find count has gone up to 70 but my list of Quest caches yet to find has increased to 231.  For those that just did the math, you’ve noticed that the total number of quest caches has gone up to 301 and will probably continue to go up, or maybe even down a little, until I declare this little effort finished.

So what happened?  Well, for starters, eight additional Earthcaches have been published over the past eight months.  Next, all of the Georgia Historic Sites Geotour caches were archived early this year and were re-published in late March…and five additional caches were added.  Then, just a couple of weeks ago, as I was driving out to Greensboro, Georgia for work, I passed a couple of the Georgia Rest Areas along I-20 and remembered that more often than not there is a cache or two in each rest area and that nearly all of the rest areas would be along the routes I would need to travel to complete my Quest.  I spent some time looking at the Geocaching.com cache maps to see how many caches we were talking about and where they were located…and…I did it, I took the plunge, I bit the bullet, I figured what the heck, what’s 30 more caches among friends?  OK, I’ve already found 4 of the Rest Area caches so make that 26 more of those to find.  If (big if) I’ve done the math right, I have 257 total Quest caches left to find.  Sure, no problem.

Of course, now things will slow down a bit.  Why?  Largely because the remaining caches are a bit more removed from my normal travel routes.  Many of the remaining caches will require a special trip rather than just a detour.  All part of the fun, right?!

Want a few highlights from my efforts since my last update?

For starters, I knocked off Murder in Coweta County (GCB461), a six-stage virtual that starts in downtown Newnan that I’ve wanted to do for a long time but just never took the time to do.  My Young Harris College roommate Mike Z and his wife were in town for a weekend visit.  ConnieLou and Mike’s wife, Michelle, were heading out to run some errand on the north side of Atlanta, so I asked Mike if he was interested in going caching and he said he was.  I told him about the cache and told him that it was going to take most, if not all afternoon and we’d be driving all over west Georgia.  He was still interested and even offered to drive and let me navigate.  Let the fun begin!  We made it through five of the six stages and got within 20 miles of the final before we ran out of time.  I made a trip to the area to log the final stage and to log a new EarthCache that popped up nearby a few weeks later.

Flat Rock Potholes (GC7Z66Z) took me to a cool little park in Columbus, Georgia where a creek flows over the bedrock creating a series of pools and slides and one can actually see the contact between ancient marine sediments and crystalline rock of the Georgia Piedmont (sorry, I’m a geologist and EarthCaches cause me to nerd out a bit sometimes).

Last but not least, I picked up Southbound Rest Area TB Birdhouse (GC6ZCZ1) on I-75 south on our way to St. Augustine to move Jenna home from college for the summer.

So what’s coming up?  For starters Jenna and I have trips to Congaree National Park in South Carolina and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee  planned this summer to work on portions of her Senior Honors Capstone project for college.  At a minimum these two trips will take us by half a dozen or more of the Rest Area caches and there may be a few other Quest caches that we can visit without straying too far from our route.  Also, we’ll be moving Ashley to Brandon, Florida so there are possibilities along I-75.  And…while not related to The Great Georgia EarthCache Quest, Jenna and I will also  be taking a trip out to Yellowstone National Park for her project and I hope to add Montana, Idaho and Wyoming to my list of states that I’ve found caches in and hopefully a few of those will be EarthCaches.

Posted in Earth Cache, Earthcache, Geocaching, Geotour | Leave a comment

TGGEQ Update No. 6 – Collect All Four

Plans change.

I had all intentions of heading down to southwest Georgia to log several of the TGGEQ caches more or less located along the state line between Georgia and Alabama.  However, weather forecasts, up to and including Saturday morning, were predicting heavy rain and possibly severe weather for Saturday night and most of the day Sunday (today).  Now while I don’t mind camping in the rain all that much, cleaning but drying wet gear afterward is a pain and something I’d rather not have to deal with if I don’t absolutely have to.  With the forecast in mind I decided to switch gears and fortunately I had a back-up plan.  I knew there was a group of five caches that I needed to log down around Warm Springs and Pine Mountain, Georgia, about an hour or so from home.  I also knew that that group of caches included at least one of each of the four types of caches that make up TGGEQ and this would be one of only a handful of opportunities to log at least one of each type in one trip, much less in one day.

With my back-up plan in mind I left the house Saturday morning and headed toward Warm Springs.  I knew there was one of the Downtown/Main Street USA series caches (Downtown/Main Street USA: Greenville, GA, GC1MBAH) right along my route in Greenville, Georgia so decided to make a quick stop to hunt it up.  My Geocaching app brought me to an interesting old building which I learned was the old Meriwether County Jail.

I later learned that the jail was built in 1896 and used up until the middle 1980s when it was finally ordered closed.  The jail building was a prominent feature in “Murder in Coweta County”, Margaret Ann Barnes’ novel, and subsequent movie adaptation, which told the true life story of the murder of Wilson Turner by a corrupt Coweta County sheriff in 1948.  After the jail closed the building was purchased and renovated to be a residence and museum.  After posting a picture on Facebook a friend told me that the building is currently for sale for $325,000…just peanuts really.  Unfortunately I don’t have any peanuts to spare.

On to Warm Springs…

My first TGGEQ cache of the day was an Earthcache, Warm Springs (GC1JY3P), at the historic Warm Springs Treatment Pools.

Warm Springs, Georgia came into being as a resort town in the middle 1800s and is named for the warm water springs that flow from the lower flanks of Pine Mountain.  From the middle 1800s until the turn of the twentieth century, Warm Springs was ‘the place to be’.  Wealthy tourists came by rail and by stagecoach to enjoy the resort life which included swimming in pools created at the springs which were long known for their therapeutic properties.  By the early 1900s the railroads had expanded to reach other ‘exotic’ locales and interest in the resorts in Warm Springs began to decline.  Things changed in 1924 when future U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had been stricken with polio learned of the springs and began coming to visit the pools in hopes that the he would find relief from his condition.

Onward to Roosevelt’s Little White House (GC80HPA), a Georgia History Tour cache.  The Little White House is a vacation cottage built by F.D.R in 1934 as a place to stay during his trips to Warm Springs for polio therapy until his death there in April 1945.

As I entered the museum I was met by this rather creepy likeness of F.D.R.

Among the items on display in the museum was his 1938 Ford convertible.

The car had been fitted with hand controls so that onlookers could not easily tell that he was unable to use his leg to control the car.

Leaving the Little White House I headed over to Dowdell’s Knob in FDR State Park for a pair of virtual caches including F.D.R.s Pine Mt. Valley Vista (GC5690) and This War is Over, I’m Coming Home (GC7B66Q).  It’s very easy to see why Dowdell’s Knob was F.D.R.’s favorite picnic spot.  Views for days…

A short walk down the Pine Mountain Trail took me to another historic spot along the trail…

I think I’ve mentioned it in a previous entry but the Pine Mountain Trail is one of the best marked and best maintained trails that I know of thanks to the Pine Mountain Trail Association.

With my Earthcache, History Tour cache, and virtual cache out of the way I headed toward F.D. Roosevelt State Park (GC26FJZ), the State Park cache that I needed to round out my collection.  I parked at the park office then took another little walk along the Pine Mountain Trail to the GZ located at Buzzards Roost Overlook.

Spring was definitely beginning to pop along the trail…

Once at the GZ I was glad I had my trusty old GPSr with me as cell service was down to one bar…

Even the Garmin was a bit bouncy below the overlook but I still managed to find a well hidden cache, stamp my State Parks Geotour passport and complete my TGGEQ efforts for the day.

As I walked back toward the truck I began to feel rather smug that I hadn’t tripped or taken a spill on the trail.  Yes, I’m one of those folks that can trip all over a flat surface, much less an irregular rocky, rooty surface like a trail through the woods.  Needless to say it didn’t last as I hung the tow of my shoe on one of the steps leading up to the office lawn and practically face-planted up about half of the remainder of the steps.  Fortunately only my pride was damaged and when I’d gathered my wits I found myself laughing so hard I was crying.  I’d loved to have known what the little girl that was walking down the other side of the steps with her dad and brother was thinking after she stopped to ask me if I was ok.

With my task for the day complete I headed home.  Of course I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to hunt for a couple more nearby caches my way.  I’d DNF’d Callaway Gardens: Country Store (GC1KBW2) late one evening after dark during previous trip to the area.

After working my way down to its hiding spot I decided that I was glad that I waited.

Last cache stop of the day was in Pine Mountain to hunt for Where’s the Train? (GCCT219).  Unfortunately it’s either gone missing or I didn’t look for the right thing in the right place so I had to log a DNF.  Was a pretty neat place to visit though.

With my caching day done I headed back toward the house, making one last stop for a Mountain Dew Slurpee.

Note, as I was writing this entry I happened to notice that a new Earthcache was posted just last week at Dowdell’s Knob (Mechanical Weathering at Dowdell’s Knob, GC84E11).  WHAT?!  Fortunately I’d had enough of a look around to answer the questions and claim the find.  Make that six TGGEQ caches for the day!

So how’s the TGGEQ cache map looking?  Slowly but surely turning more and more yellow.  Check it out…

BTW, remember all that rain that was forecast?  Yeah, didn’t happen.

Posted in Day Hike, Day Trip, Dowdell's Knob, Earth Cache, Earthcache, FDR State Park, Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park, Geocaching, GeoQuest, Georgia State Parks, Geotour, Little White House, Meriwether County, Meriwether County Georgia, Pine Mountain, Pine Mountain Trail, Virtual Cache | 2 Comments

Hammock Camping on a Budget Revisited: OK, What’s Next?

Back in June 2013 I posted an entry to this blog titled Hammock Camping on a Budget in which I described a few ways to assemble a ‘starter set’ of hammock camping gear without breaking the bank.  To my surprise, that post has received nearly 9,500 views to date (March 4, 2019).  Hopefully it’s helped a few folks jump into the world of hammock camping and saved them a few sheckels in the process.

I’ve re-read that entry several times lately and I remembered that the post leaned heavily toward ‘make-your-own’ or ‘do-it-yourself’ gear.  That’s not a problem for some but let’s face it, not everyone has the time or resources for DIY.  BTW, no, I’m deliberately not including ‘ability’ here.  I think that most anyone without some significant physical impediment can learn to run a relatively straight line of stitches and a backstitch on a sewing machine with just a little practice.

Also, each time I re-read the entry I found myself wondering “OK, what next?”  I realized that since I wrote that post, my own set-up has evolved and has been upgraded and I’ve dropped a bit more coin on a few items but I’ve still managed to make nice upgrades and I’ve made those upgrades by purchasing from reputable cottage vendors without spending stupid amounts money.

Rather than giving a bunch of links to specific products which might come and go or change over time, I’m going to describe a few of the strategies I’ve used to find good quality gear at good prices and then give a few links to the home pages of vendors that I’ve used or have been recommended to me.  Keep in mind, in this entry I assume that you, the reader, have at least a little hammock camping experience and have a pretty good idea of what pieces of your set-up that you may be looking to change or upgrade.  You don’t have any hammock camping experience?  No worries, you can benefit from what I have to say too…

Here we go:

1) Know your needs. I recently found myself in need of a new tarp and had a couple of specific requirements.  I wanted a silpoly winter tarp (a tarp with ‘doors’ that could be pulled closed on the ends), I needed an 11-foot ridgeline and I wasn’t all that concerned about color.  Knowing exactly what I needed enabled me to narrow my search to a few reputable vendors fairly quickly then it was a matter of comparing specs and prices.

2) Do your research. I could easily call this 1A.  As soon as you start thinking about purchasing a new piece of gear, do some research, both on-line and by visiting your local outdoor outfitter.  Find out what variations and options are available.  Remember, ordering from a cottage vender isn’t like ordering from REI or Outdoors.com.  There are often options that can be customized to suit your specific needs.

3) Be patient! Just like large retail store, nearly all of the cottage vendors that I buy from run some sort of sale periodically.  Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Independence Day, Black Friday…even Valentine’s Day.  You know the drill.  Heck, sometimes some of the small cottage vendors will run a flash sale for the heck of it on a random day.

4) Get plugged in. Tip number 3 doesn’t help much if you don’t know when these sales are going to be or if you don’t have the vendor code that you need in order to take advantage of it, does it?  Follow the vendors on social media.  Every cottage vendor I can think of has Facebook and Instagram accounts and you can bet that they post the information you need there.  Want to get ahead of the social media followers?  Go to the vendor’s website and sign up for their newsletter.  OK, yes, you will have more email in your in-box…but that’s mail you actually wanted, right?    More often than not that email will hit your inbox a full day or sometimes two before the rest of the world knows about a sale or whatever special the vendor is offering.  One more thing, occasionally one of the cottage vendors will offer an item thats been sitting on their shelves for an extended period of time at a pretty good discount.  Why has it been sitting on the shelf?  Could be one of a number of reasons but its still top quality gear.  If you’re not picky about colors this can be a great way to go.  I picked up a Hammock Gear Incubator 20 underquilt for about 75 clams less than it would have cost if I had had one made to my specs.

5) Lastly, take advantage of those times when someone might have a need to buy you a gift and you might have some input as to what that gift might be…you know, a birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, an anniversary, Father’s/Mother’s Day, etc. Not surprisingly, the vendors’ sales often correspond with such events.  I don’t know about your spouse or significant other, but when given a choice, my wife would much prefer buying me a new piece of outdoor gear than say, a new pipe or a box of cigars.

So now you have my favorite strategies to save some of your hard earned cash when purchasing outdoor gear.  Hope they work as well for you as they have for me.  Now about those links I promised…

DutchWare

Hammock Gear

Dream Hammock

Jacks R Better

Arrowhead Equipment

2QZQ Hammock Specialties

Loco Libre Gear

UGQ Outdoor Equipment

Warbonnet Outdoors

Simply Light Designs (Recommended by Hammock Forums member rweb82)

Don’t see your favorite cottage vendor in my list?  Shoot me a comment with their name.  I’ll check ‘em out and if they have a good reputation and I like what I see, I’ll add them to the list.  Have your own tip that you’d like to share?  Send me a comment and if I like it I’ll update the entry and drop it in.

Hammock Forums member GillyGilligan had a couple of good tips to share:

Try before you buy.  While it may not be practical for everyone, if possible get yourself to a ‘hang’.  Basically, a ‘hang’ is a gathering of hammock hangers.  They’re a great opportunity see and even try out many different pieces of hammock camping gear.  More often than not, one or more of the cottage vendors will be attending and might have some of their wares for sale.  Don’t know where to find a hang?  Check out thye Hangouts, Campouts and Trip Planning section of Hammock Forums.

GillyGilligan Tip No. 2:  Don’t be afraid to trade.  Have a piece of gear that you’re not crazy about?  Offer it up for trade.  Sure, it  can be hit or miss but when it does work out its pretty sweet.  Check out the ‘For Trade’ section of Hammock Forums.  You have to be a Hammock Forums member to trade.  BE SURE TO READ AND UNDERSTAND THE ‘FOR TRADE’ FORUM RULES BEFORE YOU ATTEMPT TO TRADE.

Gunner 76 of Hammock Forums reminded me of something that I forgot this in my original post:  Check out the ‘For Sale’ section of Hammock Forums.  Once again,  You have to be a Hammock Forums member to buy and sell.  BE SURE TO READ AND UNDERSTAND THE ‘FOR TRADE’ FORUM RULES BEFORE YOU ATTEMPT TO BUY OR SELL.

If you like this entry or if it was helpful to you, please give me a like.  Also, please feel free to share it with others who might find it useful.

That’s it folks, see y’all in the trees…

Posted in bug net, bugnet, Camping, Dutchware, DutchWare Gear, Hammock, Hammock Camping, Hammock Forums, Hammock Gear, Hammock Gear Incubator, Hammock Gear The Journey, Hammock Gear Underquilt, Top Quilt | 1 Comment

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together…

I’ve been trying to get this entry going for a week or so.  I’ve started and stopped three or four times but never really got going quite in the direction that I wanted.  I think I’ve got it now.

You may remember reading my First Impressions entries about the Tensa Outdoors’ Tensa4 hammock stand and Hammock Gear’s ‘The Journey’ winter tarp…well, a week or so ago I finally had a chance to use them together as intended.  In this entry I’ll tell about a few of the tweaks I had to make so that all of the bits and pieces would work harmoniously together.

First let’s talk about my hammocks and the Tensa4 stand.  I use 11-foot hammocks most of the time.  The first couple of times I set up one of my hammocks on the stand, I simply slipped the open ends of the continuous loops at the ends of the hammocks over the ends of the stand poles.  The height of the hammock was about right so I didn’t worry too much about it at the time.

So far, so good…  Now let’s add the tarp to the equation.

I knew that the tarp, even at 11 feet end to end, would be a little too long for to use with the stand with the hammock attached directly to the stand via the continuous loops so I had to add in some sort of suspension.  My normal hammock suspension consists of polyester straps, along with cinch buckles and Dutch biners so I knew it should work fine.  As I mentioned in my First Impressions entry for the tarp, my tarp suspension (ridgeline) consists of Dutchware Stingers and Reflectit.

Once I had the hammock connected to the stand via my regular suspension, had the tarp connected to the stand via the Reflectit and Stingers and had the sides of the tarp staked out I noticed that something was amiss.  My hammock seemed awfully low, and when I sat down then stretched out in the hammock, I quickly realized that it was not just a little too low, it was a lot too low…my butt was on the ground.  Time to rethink this just a bit.

I knew from reading posts on the Hammock Forums bulletin board and comment on the Tensa Outdoors website that the stand, an 11-foot hammock and a tarp with an 11-foot ridgeline were compatible.  When I took a step back to look at the situation I realized that the Stingers/Reflectit ridgeline combination was too long.  The geometry just didn’t work.  The question became how could I shorten the tarp ridgeline, thereby reducing the interior angle of the hammock stand which would allow me to shorten the hammock suspension to pull the hammock further up off the ground.

The solution to the problem eluded me for the rest of the day and for that evening but stopped me dead in my tracks while I was making coffee at 6:30 the next morning.  OK, don’t ask me why I was up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning when I didn’t need to be.  I just was.  The solution…simple…tie a loop that was just big enough to larks-head to the D-ring at the corner of the tarp and slip over the end of one of the stand’s poles in a piece of Reflectit.  I wish I could say that I ran out to the back yard before daylight to give it try. But no, I waited until I finished my coffee and the sun had come up to go.

Once installed, the Reflectit loops shortened the overall length of the distance needed between the ends of the hammock stand to accommodate the tarp by 5 to 6 inches and closed the interior angle of the stand enough to allow the suspension to be shortened and pull the hammock up off the ground several inches to a comfortable height.

A night in the hammock afterward convinced me that the setup was going to work pretty well for my purposes.  Oh, and for what it’s worth, the tarp got its first little weather test the next morning when a brief rain shower rolled through shortly after my morning walk to go mark my territory and the patter of rain on the tarp sang me back to sleep for a little while.

Posted in Camping, Dutchware, DutchWare Gear, Hammock, Hammock Camping, Hammock Forums, Hammock Gear, Hammock Gear The Journey, Hammock Stand, Hex Tarp, Tensa Outdoor, Tensa4, Tensa4 Hammock Stand | Leave a comment

First Impressions – Hammock Gear ‘The Journey’ Winter Tarp

Ready for another First Impressions entry?

After trying out the Tensa 4 hammock stand that I received as my anniversary present from ConnieLou for our 30th Anniversary last year, I realized that my 12-foot Wilderness Logics Big Daddy tarp was going to be a bit too long to use with the stand.  I knew Christmas was coming up so, of course I did what most anyone in that situation would do…I put a new tarp on my Christmas Wish List and began to look at options for shorter tarps.

I’ve been happy with my Wilderness Logics tarp so initially I began looking at an 11-foot version of the Big Daddy tarp.  But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if I was going to shell out the bucks for a new tarp, I didn’t want to just buy a smaller version of a tarp that I already have.  There really needed to be something about it that set it apart from the Big Daddy.  Enter the ‘winter tarp’.  What’s a winter tarp you ask?  Simply said, it’s a tarp with extra material, i.e. ‘doors’, at each end that can be closed off to provide additional protection from the elements.

As with nearly all things hammock related, there are quite a few options to choose from and I spent a fair amount of time researching options from a number of cottage vendors including Wilderness Logics, Dutchware, Hammock Gear, Warbonnet Outdoors and others.  I had almost convinced myself that I wanted an Old Man Winter tarp from Wilderness Logics when I learned that Marty Gallimore, the owner of Wilderness Logics, had passed away and they were closing down.  The search continued.  Ultimately I narrowed my search down to two vendors, Hammock Gear and Dutchware.  One thing to keep in mind here, by narrowing my search to these two vendors is in no way saying anything against any of the other cottage vendors of hammock camping gear.  I just happen to have other pieces of gear from both and have been pleased with the quality and price point.  What made me decide on Hammock Gear over Dutchware?  Honestly, it came down to Hammock Gear having a better Black Friday offer.

So what tarp did I ultimately decide on?

I went with the 11-foot version of Hammock Gear’s ‘The Journey’ winter tarp.  I went with the 11-foot version to meet my length requirements and opted for coyote brown over olive green.  How did I rig it out?  To keep things simple, I decided to rig the tarp pretty much the same way that I have my Bid Daddy tarp rigged.  The more familiar, the better, right?

Here’s the low-down… For a ridgeline I went with a pair of Dutchware Stingers with 12 feet of orange Reflectit spliced to each, Dutchware Tarpworms with orange Reflectit and 3/32-inch shock cord for tie outs, orange reflective guy line for panel pulls, a one-piece mesh tarp sleeve and 3/32-inch reflective shock cord with 3/8-inch side release buckles for the door pulls.

Unfortunately the tarp and rigging weren’t waiting for me under the tree on Christmas morning…but that’s OK, we knew ahead of time that it wouldn’t be.  Hammock Gear typically has a two to three week lead time for made-to-order gear but add in the Black Friday special and the run-up to Christmas and the lead time stretched to nearly six weeks…as was expected.

Finally, with all of the pieces in place, I was able to get outside this afternoon, get the tarp rigged and hung for the first time.  Ready for a few photos?  Check ‘em out…

First the Goodie Box with all of the bits and pieces…

Like I mentioned earlier, with the exception of the side panel pulls and the door pulls, the set-up is identical to my Big Daddy tarp…Dutchware Stingers and Reflectit for the ridge tie-outs and Dutchware Tarpworms and and Reflectit for guy lines at the corners…

While there are a myriad of options to rig the tarp doors, I decided to go with a method utilizing shock cord and side release buckles that I’d seen on a YouTube video and in a related blog entry by Alan Dixon.

Views from the side and the end with the doors open and closed…

I’m not sure how much I’ll use the side panel pull-outs but they do add a good bit of room to the interior when they’re used.

Compare the amount of room beneath the tarp with the side panel pull-outs in use versus without.  Keep in mind that it’s pitched fairly low…

And finally the tarp skin wrapping the whole thing up…

It took a little tweaking to get the shock cord door pulls set just right but that shouldn’t be a problem down the road.  The tarp is a foot shorter than my Big Daddy and isn’t quite as wide the increase in coverage and protection from wind as well as rain should make the difference insignificant.

I’ll add a few more photos down the road after I have a chance to spend a few nights under it between the trees and in the Tensa 4 stand.

All in all I’m quite pleased.  If I just had to find fault with something it would be the stuff sack.  Yeah, you read that right, the stuff sack.  The tarp fits just fine without the cordage and tarp skin but once everything is added, not so much.  Increase the diameter of the sack by an inch or make it a couple of inches longer and it would be perfect.

Want more First Impressions?  Check out my other First Impressions entries for these products:

Tensa Outdoors’ Tensa4 Hammock Stand

Dutchware Chameleon Hammock and Chameleon Accessories

Solo Stove Lite and

Hammock Gear Incubator 20-degree Underquilt

Posted in Dutchware, DutchWare Gear, Hammock, Hammock Camping, Hammock Forums, Hammock Gear, Hammock Gear The Journey, Hammock Stand, Tensa Outdoor, Tensa4, Tensa4 Hammock Stand, Uncategorized, Winter Tarp | 8 Comments