There’s a First Time for Everything…

It’s hard to believe I haven’t taken either of our girls backpacking before now. I used to spend a fair amount of time backpacking and camping in the boonies with friends while I was in college. A couple of nights off somewhere in the Chattahoochee National Forest or Cohutta Wilderness with whatever we could carry on our backs weren’t unusual back then and it seemed to make a pretty good dent in the stress of college life. But, for whatever reason, I haven’t taken either of the girls and come to think of it, I haven’t been in years myself. Now I’m not saying we haven’t been car camping or day hiking…we’ve done quite a bit of both but we haven’t managed to combine hiking and camping…until now.

I’ve been hoping for the past couple of months for a cooler weekend that we could get out for a little trip. October is always a crazy month for us and this year more so than usual. In the past six weeks Connie and I have celebrated our 25th anniversary, celebrated Ashley’s 20th birthday, celebrated Jenna’s 16th birthday, took Jenna to get her driver’s license, made two trips to Young Harris, a trip to New York City, gone to a college basketball game (GO MOUNTAIN LIONS!), sold a car, bought a car and dealt with a car wreck…and that doesn’t even include everyday stuff like going to work, school (and all that goes with high school in the fall), both of which have been crazier than normal.

After a wet Friday we finally got a weekend with clear, cooler weather that we didn’t have anything major going on so I decided it was time. I dug out my old Kelty Super Tioga backpack, the one that shrank and doesn’t quite fit me anymore, for Jenna to try on. It didn’t fit great but it fit her well enough for a short weekend trip so we packed up our gear and headed out. Destination: Chattahoochee Bend State Park.

C Bend SignOnce in the park we paid our campsite and parking fees, packed up the last few odds and ends we picked up at the grocery store on the way, made a quick restroom stop and headed out.

Jenna

For the first couple of miles the trail parallels the Chattahoochee River. An observation tower marks the first mile and is usually about as far as most people venture away from the parking lot.

TowerNot too far beyond the tower the trail passes a large wetlands area…

Wetlands

We happened to stumble onto a geocache on the edge of the wetlands area but neither of us had anything to write with to sign the log so we passed it by. Just past the two-mile point the trail leaves the riverbank and heads into the uplands through hardwood forest and past rock outcrops…

OutcropThe trail passes former open fields…

FieldAnd meanders through areas of planted pines…

Planted PinesAs we reached the end of the trail we thought we might have a problem…

EndTurn around? After walking six miles…I don’t think so. Fortunately, the walk-in campsites weren’t far beyond the sign. One might not be able to camp just anywhere along the trails in Georgia’s state parks but at least they give the backcountry campers a few amenities…

RestroomSure beats other backwoods alternatives.

As usual at The Bend, there was plenty of wildlife to be seen. The deer, turkeys and squirrels weren’t too interested in sticking around for a photo op but an armadillo was willing…

ArmadilloUnfortunately the platforms in the walk-in area aren’t conducive to hammock camping but finding a few trees that were wasn’t a problem.

Camp BackgroundAs daylight was fading into darkness we finally got our hammocks and tarps situated. I showed Jenna how to pitch her tarp using a trekking pole at one corner to form a ‘porch’ that she could see out from under.

Camp 2Camp 1We cooked and ate supper by headlamps and a candle lantern. Rehydrated red beans and rice with a strawberry Pop Tart for dessert and water to drink never tasted so good. An after-dark trip to the restrooms gave Jenna the chance to experience another first on the trip – her first chance to actually get a good view of the Milky Way. There’s just too much light to see it where we live but since Chattahoochee Bend is a pretty good distance from any sizeable towns and there was no light in the platform campground other than our headlamps and my candle lantern, we got to enjoy dark skies and a galaxy worth of stars.

We’re usually night owls but by 9:30 Jenna and I had both given up keeping our eyes open and settled into our hammocks for a good night’s sleep…or so we thought. While I was mostly warm, my feet had gotten cold before I hit the sack and they never quite warmed up all night. Jenna also reported being cold during the night but at least she seemed to have slept a bit better than I did. Fortunately I had some entertainment while I was awake thanks to a couple of armadillos foraging nearby and a barred owl that perched up in a neighboring tree and gave me a good scare when it started hooting just before daybreak.

With the sun finally up we gave up on sleeping and started packing up then took a last look at the river from the campground before starting our hike back to the truck…

Fog6.3 miles and 2 hours 51 minutes later we were back at the truck. We were pooped, dragging and in serious need of some ibuprofen but we’d made it and we were happy campers…literally. In fact, we so happy with ourselves that we treated ourselves to an ice cream sandwich at the first convenience store we came to on our way home. Now to make some gear adjustments and replacements and give it another try.

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This entry was posted in Alcohol Stove, Backpack Stove, Backpacking, Camping, Cat Stove, Chattahoochee Bend, Chattahoochee Bend State Park, Georgia State Parks, Hammock, Hammock Camping, Hiking, Super Cat Stove. Bookmark the permalink.

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