Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Backpacking Front Country Camp Style

For the past few weeks I've really been bugging about going backpacking, and last week was no different. After two weekends of having to do things around the house instead, this week I wasn't taking "No" for an answer. Everyday since last Monday I'd check the weather forecast to see what the weather was going to be like and it was looking promising. Finally by Friday morning I had Robin convinced of the idea. That afternoon she started gathering up everything we were going to need. By the time I returned home from work that evening it was time to head out to Bass Pro Shops for a couple things we still needed. When we returned we started packing our packs with everything we were going to need for a night and two days in the woods.

A couple of hours later and we were trying on our packs and weighing ourselves. Our packs were both too heavy (although I think I can do 30lbs. no problem. Robin, on the other hand, is one of those gram weenies :P and wasn't going to settle for anything much over 15lbs.). So there we were going through our gear trying to lighten both loads and still have what we needed. I think I eventually got my weight down under 30 pounds and Robin had got her's down to about 18lbs. This is where things went south for the backpacking trip.

As Robin continued to make adjustments it was becoming evident, that the pack wasn't designed to accommodate a 5 month pregnant belly. No matter what Robin did from adjustments, weight reduction, etc. the hip belt was only going to fit around under the baby bump and this caused all the pack weight to rest on her shoulders instead of her hips and we all know that when it comes to wearing packs, it's best that the load be on the hips instead of the shoulders.

It was finally decided that in the best interest of Robin's and baby's well being, that instead of trying to backpack and make due, we would camp in the front country and dayhike all weekend instead. So off to bed we finally went so that we could rest before heading out to Frozen Head State Park in the morning in hopes that a campsite would be available to us.

The next morning I awoke to find Robin already in full swing. She didn't sleep well (with the pregnancy she doesn't sleep very well most nights) due to the stress of the night before, etc. She already had most of our stuff ready to go. Considering our backpacking packs were already mostly packed, there were only a few tiny things left to take care of; like getting dressed, loading the car, and a couple other small odds and ends. In no time we were out the door and on our way. Of course we stopped to get a bit of breakfast on the way. We knew we'd have to get camp set up and gather wood for the evening before we could do any hiking.

It was about 10am when we arrived and in no time flat we had the tent pitched, pool floats sleep pads inflated, sheets and blanket in the tent, wood collected and other various odds and ends necessary for having camp set up and ready for our return from a wonderful day hike. By noon we were heading out to town to pick up some sodas and a sweet snack, and came back to park the car at Shelter C in the park (this is where our day hike would end for the day). From there we packed up and did a 6.25 mile loop hike starting at the Shelter C parking lot, walking the main park road all the way up to Panther Branch Trail. From there we hiked Panther Branch trail up to North Old Mac trail, back down North Old Mac trail to Old Mac trail and back to the Shelter C parking area where the Old Mac trailhead is located. The hike was absolutely gorgeous after having a lot of rain in the area just a day or two before we arrived. Of course we will have complete trail reports in separate entries after this post.

After the hike, we settled in at camp, starving and tired. Robin got out our MSR Pocket Rocket to boil water for Clover's Mountain House Beef Stroganoff and then got our Heater Meals ready for consuming (I had the Pasta Italiana and Robin had the Green Pepper Steak). Meanwhile I set up the Eno Double Nest and relaxed until supper was ready. We all ate our dinners and soon we were sitting around the fire pit relaxing until the night was closing in on us. Before night fall I started up the fire. Luckily we has some small fire starters as it might have been tough to get a fire going otherwise with all the wood being wet from the past week's rains. We sat around the fire relaxing and talking and really enjoying the experience.

We were in bed by 11:30 (early by our standards) and slept quite nicely, the three of us in our backpacking tent. I believe Robin woke up a few times to the sounds of the raccoons doing their thing with the trash cans, and we only woke up once for a early am trip to the bath house. We eventually got up for the day around 9:00am and lazied around for a few minutes before Robin got water boiling for coffee. First was some instant coffee, then we had two amazing cups of Dr. Drip coffee (review on this forthcoming as well). After the coffee was made it was time for breakfast. Robin and I both had Mountain House Granola with Blueberries and Milk meals and Clover ate about a quarter of her Mountain House Lasagna.

Shortly after breakfast was over, we were dressed and ready to break camp so we could get another hike in before heading home. We had the pool floats sleep pads deflated, the tent broke down and packed away, chairs packed, and all other miscellaneous items broken down and packed back into the car in no time. After this we journeyed out the park as Robin, Baby Bird, and Clover were still hungry after breakfast. We picked up a couple of burgers and sodas, and headed back to the park. We stopped in at the visitor center to ask about the trail we were hoping to hike. It's the Frozen Head Loop, which includes the Bird Mountain trail up to Bird Mountain, part of the Cumberland trail, and then back down to the visitor center. The map we had, doesn't have the trail marked on it as this is a newer trail than our map, thanks to the folks and volunteers of the Cumberland Trail Conference. At the visitor center, the kind lady in the office was nice enough to print us out a map from the CTC's website. For those efforts and because I wanted one, I bought a park patch, which I hope to put on one of my packs (I just need to decide which one).

We decided to leave the car at the visitor center since that was where we had planned on coming off the loop at. After gearing up, we were on our way for another epic 6+ mile hike to finish out our weekend. It was a tough but wonderful hike and maybe a little disappointing only because we had to change our route half way through it, but that will be saved for the trail report in another post. Regardless, it was indeed a nice hike and a wonderful weekend all around. It's always great and refreshing to spend some time in the woods. You forget about the day to day stuff and unwind. On the trail, all that extra baggage seems to melt away as you focus on the trail and the nature around you. I had been yearning for a backpacking trip and because of that so did Robin. What we got instead was an extra long break in the woods with more time doing what we love than we would have if the pack had fit properly.

So what epic trips, getaways, hikes have you taken this summer?

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

PS... it wasn't until we got home that we realized there is something seriously wrong with the point-and-shoot. Please excuse the unusually poor quality of photos.