My Hammock System (Version 1.0)

This year, my backpacking kit took an evolutionary leap that I never expected: I picked up a hammock. I’d always said I wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t imagine a hammock system that wouldn’t detrimentally affect my bottom line (read: “Base Pack Weight”). My friends’ systems seemed heavy, and some internet research didn’t yield very promising results. Sleeping on the ground under my Cuben Fiber tarp was lighter, no matter how you sliced it.

While planning my summer trip to the White Mountains, I started researching campsites for the Pemi Loop. The AMC Campsites were prone to filling up on summer weekends, and finding LNT-friendly “stealth” camping options (at least ones that were large and flat enough for our group to camp together) would have been tricky. One of my cohorts for this trip, “other” Dan, is a hammocker, and I began thinking that a hammock might be the answer. We wouldn’t need to find a flat spot to make camp, and that extra freedom would be lovely.

I began searching for a light and cost-effective hammock system. Either I’ve gotten REALLY good at gear shopping over the years, or I got really lucky. I had my entire system chosen and outlined within a few days. 

Hammock (17oz, $70)

I chose the Warbonnet Outdoors Traveler. This is a fairly straightforward gathered-end hammock. The 1.1oz Double-Layer version is rated up to 275lbs, which is plenty to support me(240lbs) and any stuff I may bring to bed with me. It also allows me to slide a CCF pad between the two layers for added bottom insulation in cold weather. I spent the extra $10 for the Whoopie Sling suspension, which is lighter than adjustable webbing straps, but still easy to use. The Traveler also has a Structural Ridge Line, which makes tensioning the hammock much easier. The SRL is also handy for hanging socks and things to dry. I picked up a few Metolius FS Mini Wiregate Biners (1.8oz for the pair) to connect the Whoopie Slings to the tree straps.

Tarp (5oz, $60)

I made out like a bandit on this tarp. I got a Mountain Laurel Designs UL Asym Hammock Tarp. I got this tarp at a closeout price because MLD wasn’t making the Spinnaker version anymore. This is just as light as their current cuben fiber version, but I saved a ton of money. This is a very minimalist tarp, which is designed to provide the best coverage when you are laying diagonally in your hammock. I made some slight modifications to save weight (cut off the LineLoc tensioners and switched to lighter guy lines. I haven’t encountered any real rain with this hammock yet, so I’ll withhold my opinions until I have a little more experience. 

Underquilt (12oz, $190)

I went with a Warbonnet Yeti 3-season under quilt. This torso length quilt weighs in at 12oz on my scales. It attaches very easily to my hammock (takes less than 30 seconds), and has kept me toasty warm down to about 40degrees with no additional bottom insulation. I used it in the 30′s once also (with a Gossamer Gear NightLight under my legs), and was also very warm. This quilt is very easy to reposition while laying in your hammock. 

This system seems to be working pretty well for 3-season use so far. I may need to adjust my bottom insulation when winter rolls around, but for now, it’s good. This setup is about a pound heavier than my old ground-based sleep/shelter system, but it’s worth it. I’ve never slept so well on the ground, as I do in my hammock. Do any of you hammock? I’m always looking for suggestions!

Another “Weekend” Hike

Yes, it was only Friday. Yes, I technically worked that night, but it was only an 8-hour shift! This was like a vacation day compared to the last week! I decided to head up and do an 11-mile out-and-back on the AT to Bake Oven Knob. This section alternates between relatively smooth “green tunnel” hiking and ridiculous Pennsylvania rocks. It’s not much to write home about, but I thought I’d share the pics. Enjoy!

My “Weekend”

After 8 consecutive nights on 3rd shift (one of which being 16 hours long, and another 12 hours long), I wasn’t particularly keen on the idea of spending my only day off in bed. I got home from work around 7:30 AM, took a 2.5-hour power nap, and then hit the trail.

I decided I’d just do a quick 8.5 mile loop, which utilizes an AT section and 2 blue-blazed trails. This takes you to Pulpit Rock and The Pinnacle vistas (arguably the two best vistas on the entire PA section of the Appalachian Trail). I’ve done it a million times, and I expected to be done in 2.5 hours.

My timeframe didn’t exactly hold out, but I still had a really enjoyable hike. I kept getting drawn into conversations with thru-hikers and day hikers, which slowed my pace considerably (the hike took an extra 1.5 hours). I didn’t mind the slow downs, though. It was nice to interact with people on the trail and enjoy some lazy time chatting at sun-drenched vistas. I hadn’t really seen the sun in over a week, so the extra time outside was welcome. This little loop rarely disappoints.

My “Weekend” is over now. On to 6 more days of work (at least three of which will be 12-hour shifts). Maybe next “weekend” will be even better!

Trip Report: Backpacking the Pemi Loop

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OK OK OK… I know I’ve posted like four of these this week, and I promise this is the last one. The final hike of my New Hampshire vacation was a 3-day backpack along the route known as the Pemi Loop. “Pemi” is short for “Pemigewasset”, which is the name of the wilderness area that this hike takes us in and around. This loop isn’t a single trail, but rather a route made up of several different trails. At my best estimation, I hiked about 36 miles with an elevation gain around 10,500 feet (please correct me if i’m wrong) and summited eleven 4000-footers.

Day 1

The “other” Dan and I began our hike at Lincoln Woods Visitor Center along the Kancamagus Highway near Lincoln, NH. After making final adjustments to our gear, we headed out along the Lincoln Woods trail. This trail appears to have been constructed on former railroad grade. It is perfectly flat and straight as an arrow, which was kind of nice for a little warm-up. After about a mile and a half, we hung a left onto the Osseo Trail. The first few miles of this trail was a fairly gentle ascent towards the Franconia Ridge. Eventually, this trail became very steep and actually had wooden steps built into it at one point.

After 4 miles on the Osseo Trail, Pickle and I were standing on the summit of Mt. Flume. This rocky, cliff-like peak had some great views, but was exposed to a cold wind. I pulled my wind jacket on while I waited for Dan to catch up. After a half-hour of waiting, I decided to go back to look for him. It turns out that he was very near the summit at that point, but was moving a little slow because of the rocks and steep grade. We agreed that there was no need to stick completely together for the entire hike, as long as we caught up every now and then. We agreed to head towards Liberty Springs Tentsite, so that we could replenish our water supply.

Pickle and I continued onto the Franconia Ridge Trail. We reach Mt. Liberty in short order and scrambled up to the rocky summit. After snapping a few pictures, we continued on our way. Before long, we had reached the Liberty Spring Trail and diverted downhill a bit to the spring near the tent site. I filled up my two 1-Liter Smartwater bottles and then filled my 2L Platy bottle for Dan. I figured I would save him the trip down the rocky trail, if I could. It turns out that Dan wasn’t too far behind me, and met me on my way up from the spring. He took the water, and we hiked back up to the Franconia Ridge trail, getting separated along the way.

The dog and I continued on our way, climbing the alpine ridge over Little Haystack to Mt. Lincoln. When you combine the 5089′ elevation with with crystal clear, sunny weather, the views from Lincoln were pretty outstanding. The cold wind left a little to be desired, but that’s all part of the experience, I suppose. I once again donned my wind jacket and continued hiking along the Franconia Ridge towards Mt. Lafayette.

Lafayette is taller than Lincoln and has similar beautiful views. I waited for Dan on the summit, but eventually I got too cold to sit there anymore. Pickle and I hiked on.

Our route took us down off of the Franconia Ridge and onto the Garfield Ridge Trail. This was the most demoralizing three miles of the entire weekend. The entire time we hiked through the woods, we’d get glimpses of the summit. It didn’t seem that far, but the trail never seemed to start climbing. Finally, when we reached Garfield Pond, the trail started a steep climb up to the summit of Mt. Garfield. The summit had the remnants of some sort of concrete structure. Since it was getting close to dinner time, Pickle and I headed towards the Garfield Ridge Campsite.

At the site, I got water and paid a fee to the caretaker. I had just finished hanging my hammock, when Dan arrived. I ate my dinner and hit the sack.

 

Day 2

We left camp fairly early, grabbed some water, and hopped back on the Garfield Ridge Trail towards Galehead. When Pickle and I reached the hut, I secured him outside with a leash and went inside to top off my water. Dan caught up shortly thereafter. Pickle and I left our packs with Dan on the porch of the hut and made a quick run up to the summit of Galehead (Dan decided that morning that he was only going to summit the mountains that were directly on our path). We were back at the hut within 20 minutes, grabbed our packs, and began the single hardest mile on the entire loop.

The Twinway climbs from 3780′ at Galehead Hut to the summit of South Twin (4902′) in a short, rocky 0.8 miles. From the top of South Twin, I made a 2.6-mile out-and-back side trip to North Twin (Dan decided to skip this portion as well). Upon returning to South Twin, Pickle and I continued south towards Guyot Campsite.

We arrived fairly early in the day (maybe around 2PM), and saw Dan already stringing up his hammock. The caretaker collected my fee and pointed me towards a very unfortunate looking slope behind the shelter to set up camp. I could barely stand on the angled ground, so getting my hammock set up was a challenge. The ground was also to soft to stake out my tarp, so I had to tie my guy lines off to some nearby debris. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.

Pickle and I went down to Dan’s area to hang out, since our spot kind of sucked. We got a little chummy with a pair of hikers from Connecticut, who eventually came up and ate dinner with us. The campsite was starting to get pretty full, so Pickle and I retreated back to our slanted campsite for the night.

Day 3 

As I was packing up, Dan came up to me. He was ready to leave uncharacteristically early and laid out a plan that he had for the day. He was going to leave camp ahead of me and skip the side trail to West Bond (knowing that I was definitely going to take it). Since he assumed that I would inevitably catch up to him at some point, we agreed to say our goodbyes at that time and just text each other when we were safely back to the car. I agreed.

I left camp about 15 minutes after Dan, catching him a tenth of a mile before the West Bond side trail. I made the quick 1-mile out and back to West Bond, which had spectacular 360-degree views and gave me a good look at Mt. Bond and Bondcliff. I turned around and headed back toward the main trail, hitting the summit of Mt. Bond pretty quickly.

After Bond, I had a nice alpine ridge walk over to Bondcliff. I could see people on the summit, so I was hoping that someone would still be there when I arrived (to take one of those famous Bondcliff summit photos that we have all seen online). Unfortunately, I was all alone when I reached the summit. I took my obligatory selfie and started my descent on the Bondcliff Trail. I bumped into Dan after a mile or two. We hiked together for a short bit, and then we said our goodbyes and I ran off ahead (I still had an 8 hour drive ahead of me).

I kept a very fast pace for the last few miles. The trail was flat railroad grade, and I was on a mission to get out of there at a decent hour. I passed quite a few trail runners and day hikers as  cruised down the home stretch on the Lincoln Woods Trail, and I arrived back at the parking lot around 11:15.

This trip kicked my ass in many ways, especially the elevation gain. We are just not used to that kind of thing in Pennsylvania. That being said, it was an absolute blast. The Franconia Ridge and the Bonds are two areas that I wish I would have discovered much, much sooner in life. It’s an area that every hiker should check out at some point. Don’t miss it!

Trip Report: Mt. Osceola and Osceola East Peak

 

The third hike of my vacation in New Hampshire was an 8.4-mile jaunt up to the Osceolas. I met the “other” Dan from Berks-Lehigh Hiking and Backpacking at the Mt. Osceola Trailhead on Tripoli Road on Thursday morning. The hike up to Osceola was mostly gentle and moderately rocky. The 3.2 miles and 2000 feet of elevation (approximately) seemed to pretty much fly by…

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Pickle on one of the rockier sections, as we hiked up to Osceola summit.

Speaking of things that flew by… About halfway up to Osceola’s summit, we were buzzed by some sort of low flying aircraft. It was pretty loud and obviously close, but neither Dan nor I could spot it through the trees. It seemed to circle a few times and then left.

In no time, we were standing on the summit of Osceola. The sun was shining and there was a nice breeze blowing. This was perfect weather by any standard, but, after the hurricane I’d endured in the Northern Presidentials the day before, this seemed like a paradise.

A view from Osceola summit

A view from Osceola summit

From Osceola, we headed off to East Osceola. This section of trail was a 1-mile rock-scrambling festival. It was just challenging enough to be fun, without actually being hard. We had to scramble down from Osceola as well as up to East Osceola.

The summit of East Osceola was wooded, so there were no vistas. There was simply a cairn marking it’s location, and that was it. It was so nondescript that I didn’t even remember to take one of my signature summit selfies. Dan and I lingered for less then a minute and then headed back to Osceola to hang out in the sun.

After making our way back to the parking lot, Dan and I enjoyed a quick adult beverage and then headed off to enjoy the rest of our day.