Just Jeff's Hiking Page

"Going to the woods is going home, for I suppose
we came from the woods originally."

- John Muir

Hammock Forums Annual Winter Hangouts, Mount Rogers, VA

Photo by Headchange4u

3rd Winter Hangout, 23-25 January 2009, Wise Shelter
Awesome campout! This was the 3rd year we've held the Hammock Forums Winter Hangout, and it was the biggest yet! About 40 people showed up, and aside from a few accidents (like pneumonia, broken ribs, and the ponies) everyone had a great time! The coolest part of the hangout was definitely hanging out with HF members...seeing the guys I haven't seen since last year and meeting all the ones at their first hangout. I wish I had time to talk to everyone individually but there were too many!

The weather cooperated, too...low temps were ~30F on Friday and ~10F on Saturday night. It was actually coldest about 1030 Saturday night, then about 16F at midnight, then around 1am it warmed up to ~20F for the rest of the night. There were a few sprinkles here and there but nothing significant, and a fog rolled in Saturday night that caused some condensation. Friday night was pretty windy but Saturday was pretty calm.

Joker and I got to the site around 10:30p Friday night, and Joker wanted to sleep in the shelter. This worked out well b/c I had some friends coming in and I wanted to stay around the shelter so I was there when they got in. Turns out they took an unplanned sight-seeing trip on the way to the shelter so they didn't show up until 1:30a! Joker was already asleep and Annette was ready for bed, so I set up their hammocks, and Erik, Nick and I had some whiskey and stayed up talking until 4a. It was great to meet Nick and see Erik again.

After Joker and I got settled and before they showed up, some coyotes began howling in the distance...but not the too distant distance, and they were getting closer! Not close enough to be scared, but since I was with Joker I wanted to be prepared. So I got out of the hammock to get my Buck knife...and on the way back in I saw the 3 hatchets set in front of the shelter. Haha...I decided that if the coyotes came anywhere near I'd go all Mel Gibson from The Patriot on them! 'Cept without the cool hat. The coyotes were there Saturday night, too.

I did get a cool hat, though. Thursday night I called JRB and asked them to bring me a hood to the hangout. I PayPal'd them the $$ and picked it up from Jack (already in bed when I showed up) on Friday night. This thing rocks!! It's so much warmer than the fleece beanie I normally use...it probably adds 10F to my setup for a mere 2 oz! I think this is now a permanent part of my late Fall to early Spring kit.

Discuss this trip HERE.

And be sure to check out John Hayes' Picasa album and Stormcrow's Photobucket page, too!

Friday, 23 January 2009
Here we are in the shelter. I used the HH Backpacker UL Asym, JRB Mt Washington (MWUQ) on bottom and the No Sniveler on top, and I was wearing Thermawrap pants and the REI Generator down jacket. Joker had the DownHammock v2 with a half-length pad under his legs, Sierra Designs Wicked Fast and JRB Stealth on top, and the Hammock Sock v2 with zipper.

The MWUQ was awesome. I had an odd feeling Friday night where my legs were pretty warm but my torso was cold on bottom. I hadn't connected the mid-point tie-out b/c I was positive the underquilt was snugged to the hammock, but I got out and connected it halfway thru the night and immediately got warmer. Pretty amazing how things tend to work better if you follow the instructions! Connecting the mid-point tie-out did give me a cool spot along my left leg...not cold, and not cool enough to worry about fixing it...I consider this night a success.

This was the first night in a hammock for Erik and Annette. Erik had the HH Ultralight Explorer with JRB Nest and pad underneath and his sleeping bag on top. Annette had a homemade gathered end hammock with a Speer PeaPod and a thin bag inside. Nick slept on the shelter floor.
So...Erik decided it would be cool to sleep on the bug net in the middle of the night. I looked over and saw green on top...that's not right! So I got out and told him he was upside down. "What do I do?" Haha...just like we were overseas again...no quibbling, no complaining, just ask for the solution and worry about the rest later. Loved it. So I helped him flip over and we were back asleep in no time.
Saturday, 24 January 2009
We found a site for all 5 of us Saturday night, about 300 yards from the shelter on the other side of the privy. Joker, Erik and Annette had the same setups. Nick borrowed Doctari's hammock, windshield reflector and tarp, and added his own pad and sleeping bag. This was his first night in a hammock.

It amazes me how every year there are folks whose first night in a hammock is sub-freezing in someone else's gear...b/c HF members always bring extra gear to outfit others. (Or just to show it off, and loaning it out is a nice benefit of having it along!) Good crew of people here.

Joker and I hung under the JRB 11'x10' Cat Tarp...this is awesome b/c it's plenty big enough to put both hammocks under there without worrying about the ends or sides getting wet, or not being protected by the wind. The cat cuts made it easy to get a tight pitch, and it was pretty quick to set up even with that much coverage.

I used the No Sniveler and Exped Downmat 7 on bottom because I wanted to test the MWUQ as a top quilt. It worked awesome in that role as well. I was worried that it was too narrow, especially on that thick of a pad, but it was plenty wide even when I slept on my side. The only complaint is that it's so thick that I couldn't help but breathe on it when I exhaled. Not a fault of the quilt...I'll just have to wear a facemask when I'm concerned about condensation from my breath.

Some of the sites did have some pretty serious condensation Saturday night. I had ice crystals on both sides of my tarp Saturday when we went to bed. That quickly went away, but the MWUQ was wet down its entire length. At first I thought it was from my breath, but I could actually see the down sticking to the inside of the DWR so I think it was a combination of me being too warm and sweating into the quilt and the humidity preventing my sweat and breath from evaporating.

Here's a pic of Joker in the JRB hood, looking like South Park.

After we set up the hammocks, Joker and I hiked back to the parking lot to get the cider out of the car. We ran into Erik, Annette and Nick so we all hiked back together. Lucky too, b/c that means they got to see me slip on the ice!
Annette: "Jeff, your pack is dripping."
Jeff: "What's it taste like?"
Erik: "Yep, it's cider."
True story. I busted one of the three gallons of apple cider in my pack. My "waterproof" pack liner apparently wasn't, b/c the cider was pooling in the bottom of my pack! Not happy. But we still enjoyed two gallons of cider Saturday night.
We saw the ponies on the way back from the parking lot...the group had chased them out of the shelter b/c they tried to get into the food and beer. We got some good pics but the alpha-pony got pretty aggressive so we left them alone.
They came back to the shelter looking for food again and even got into someone's hammock near the shelter! We had a few stand-offs as we chased them away...they even tried to kick and bite a few times.
Erik drinking some spiked apple cider, Nick in background

Photo by John Hayes
Joker spent all day Saturday making two spoons by splitting a stick, putting a coal in the middle to burn out a depression, and scraping out the ash and soot. He had a really good one but the last coal he put in there was turned the wrong way and burned out the side...now his spoon won't hold soup! At least not much of it...but the other one still came out ok so he's pretty proud.
Jack Tier (JRB) starting the raffle. Big thanks to JRB, Ed Speer, and a few other members who donated gear for the raffle. We raised over $700 for HammockForums and Whiteblaze!
And as always, Joker is the official ticket drawing guy and got to announce the numbers.

Didn't get a good pic of all the food for Saturday's dinner, but we definitely ate well. Thorwren and Stormcrow brought some awesome veggie-beef stew, and we had the normal assortment of brats, hots dogs, sweets to keep the calories up, etc. Oh - and the venison dogs and venison bacon. Good stuff!!

Another pic of Joker drawing numbers.

Photo by John Hayes
Here's one of the many group pics taken around raffle time. This isn't everybody but still a lot of hammockers!
Joker wanted to go to bed early Saturday night, so I laid down with him around 9pm. he was out in about 10 minutes. Then Erik and Nick left the warm fire to come have a beer with me around midnight...we stood around in 16F for about 30 min to BS and finish our beers. Didn't actually feel that cold, either. Guess that's what good company (and a JRB hood) does.

The coyotes came back Saturday night...again pretty close but nothing to worry about.

So here's a funny story...never even heard of this happening before. Erik broke the shockcord on the underquilt suspension. Anyone else ever done that? I assume he tried to sit on the underquilt instead of making sure he was in the hammock. But he said, "I heard a snap and perfect timing...my headlamp went out right then!" Rather than wake me up, he just went to the shelter. And the ponies came back. So he chased them off. And they came right to our site. Brilliant! I actually didn't hear them but Nick said they wandered around for a while and went away.

Sunday, 25 January 2009
Here's all five of us. They left ~9am to drive to Nick to the airport and we weren't too far behind them.
Joker tried making another set of spoons on Sunday but he didn't have time to finish them.
All four HF mods in one place - headchange4u, slowhike, Just Jeff, angrysparrow! First time we've met angrysparrow.
We left Sunday morning so we could have breakfast at the Log Cabin restaurant. Joker loved the view as we stepped out of a rhododendron thicket so we stopped to get this picture.
Then he took the pic of me.

We got to the restaurant just as the Jacks and a few others were leaving, and we ended up getting burgers instead of breakfast anyway....good, fresh burgers, too. We ate with GrizzlyAdams, 2Questions, and I don't remember the trail name of the third person (sorry!). Slowhike showed up just as we were leaving.

All in all this was a great trip! Got to meet some new folks and see some old friends again, and we had the biggest hammock hangout yet! Can't wait to do it again next year (if I'm still on the east coast!).

2nd Winter Hangout, 25-27 January 2008, Wise Shelter
Only attended Saturday night.
Saturday, 26 January 2008
Joker walking in Saturday morning
Me in the stylin' Packa on the hike in
Joker climbing a snow-covered rock while we were collecting firewood.
Hanging out in the shelter...Joker huddling in the sleeping bag in the back
Group dinner is always nice...Marta and family
Sunday, 27 January 2008
Freezing fog rolled thru Saturday night...beautiful scenery
Joker and I hung in the shelter b/c he wanted to sleep on the floor, but he ended up climbing into the hammock with me. Both of us were breathing into the hammock sock, and the fog didn't help with the condensation...we had ice crystals lining the entire roof of the hammock sock! Usually don't have any problems but this time it was pretty bad.
Joker playing Fire Commander again. I got him some new Columbia boots since his feet were so cold last year. He was pretty proud of them and they did a much better job keeping his feet warm, but I melted the plastic part of the tongue by the fire trying to dry thsem out.
Joker and me.
Hog on Ice had a pretty big pack...with a front pack as well.

1st Winter Hangout, 26-28 January 2007, Wise Shelter
This was a great campout and lots of people from Hammock Forums made it for at least one of the nights. Let's see if I can remember them all...
  • Jack - Peter Pan
  • Jack - Smee
  • Top
  • Blackbishop
  • Hog on Ice
  • Me
  • My 7 year old son...he just decided his trailname is gonna be Joker
  • Doctari
  • PandaMan
  • The Breeze
  • Slowhike
  • Double B
  • Bird Dog
  • Headchange4u
  • NCPatrick
  • Please email me if I forgot anybody!

I didn't get there until late Friday, but I heard the Jacks put on a good demo of their new pad-NS coupler, complete with a demonstration of the head hole ventilation/access system. Saturday night was the gear raffle...lots of happy folks there. Thanks big time to the Jacks for donating all that new gear...the proceeds went to ATTroll for running Whiteblaze.net and HammockForums.net.

Saturday night was also the hot dog dinner...we had so much food that someone took home a whole bunch of hot dogs on Sunday. Lots of good stuff...thanks to everyone who brought something (and sorry I didn't realize we needed marshmallows until it was too late).

And we were going to have a show-and-tell with everyone's hammocks on Sunday, but MAN it got cold. Almost everyone left early...it was forecast to keep getting colder throughout the day, so some folks wanted to get out before the roads got worse. I only hit one patch of ice on the way out.

The vitals...

  • Friday Night:
    • Low of 22 F by my Brunton ADC
    • Crazy high winds...like 50 kts. It sounded like a freight train in the treetops. Our site was pretty sheltered but it was still cold.
  • Saturday Night:
    • Low of 14.8 F by my Brunton
    • The winds weren't as bad so it didn't feel as cold that night, but Sunday morning was much colder than Saturday morning after we got up.
Yeah yeah - I know we said it was -3 on Friday and -6 on Saturday...but I said that was the "agreed upon" temperature...not the measured temperature! I bet it would have been close if we added in the wind chill, though!

The Gear

  • Mine:
    • Regular homemade Speer-type hammock
    • New descending ring, webbing and carabiner support system
    • Exped Downmat 7
    • Target CCF torso pad...just used it for my shoulders
    • Sierra Designs Wicked Fast
    • JRB No Sniveler top quilt
  • Joker's:
    • DownHammock
    • 15 F Big Agnes kid's bag
    • 1/2" CCF pad (just to keep the BA's shape, really)
    • TravelPod
  • And we shared the MacCat Standard
    • I brought the JRB 8x8 as an extra windblock but didn't need it

Click Here to discuss this campout on Hammock Forums, and don't forget to check out the pics everyone else posted to the HF Gallery. Also see Headchange4u's Photobucket Page and Jacks 'R' Better's Page for this trip.

Friday, 26 January 2007
We didn't get on the road until way later than I wanted to, so we pulled into the parking lot near the campground at 11pm. The thermometer said it was just over 40 F but it felt much colder...and it was VERY windy. Since it was so late and he was asleep when we pulled into the parking lot, I was going to stay at the campground and hike in on Saturday. The campground was gated, though...and he woke right up and said he was ready to hike, so we got started...
But of course we couldn't get started without a snowball fight first!

And while we were taking these pictures, the wind dried out my contact and it popped right out...so the rest of the weekend I had to wear my glasses. Grrr...

We rolled into the campground at midnight and set up right next to Slowhike.

Pic of me in the hammock...it's kinda creepy, like that movie where the ghosts come through the computers...
Saturday, 27 January 2007
He carried this ice all weekend, eating it when he needed a snack and putting it in the shade so it wouldn't melt while he fulfilled his Fire Commander duties.
Frozen river where we got our water and where his ice chunk came from.
Here's home - I slept in the homemade hammock on the left, and he slept in the DownHammock with the TravelPod on the right. We both fit pretty well under the MacCat.
JRB Self-Tensioning Lines on all four corners. These things are great. Unlike the Winnemucca trip, one of the STLs froze extended like this. It returned to almost-normal once it warmed up, though.
This was the first time I used the descending rings...they worked fine. I just ran the webbing around the tree one time and clipped a biner onto it, then tightened the buckles. Setup took about 30 seconds, adjustment was very easy, and it didn't slip a bit.

See the Ring Buckle page for more details.

My neighbor Slowhike.
The JacksRBetter tarptent based on the 8x8 tarp. No wind under the hammock with this baby!
Model 2 of the JRB tarptent. Looks like an A-Frame barn!
And version 3...everybody seemed to like these, so JRB is considering manufacturing them.
Doctari was one of my neighbors on Friday night. This is the SG 9x9 "Neo's Tarp" pitched as an A-frame. He pitched with so the wind was coming right into the end of his tarp, though...and it was a pretty vicious wind that night. So Saturday afternoon he moved sites and said he was much warmer.
This memorial was in the field on the other side of the river. It was even next to a big mound of dirt...not sure what was under there. Kind of a neat find, though.

Photo by Headchange4u
The hot dog cookout on Saturday night. Joker was the Fire Commander.

Photo by Headchange4u
And he got to draw the tickets and announce the numbers for Saturday night's JRB raffle.
Sunday, 28 January 2007
I woke up to a rat-tat-tat of an icy snow falling on the hammock at about 3am Sunday morning. I listened to it for a bit, then fell back asleep. I didn't knock it off the tarp b/c I thought it would make a good picture...but I woke up an hour or two later and the tarp was almost on top of me! So I knocked the snow off and the tensioners pulled the tarp back up to where it was supposed to be.

The wrinkles on the back side are where the STL froze in the extended position.

Top went to get water at about 7 or 8 in the morning...and got co-opted into taking pics of peoples' hammocks so we didn't have to get out ourselves...what a guy!

I really like how this one came out, too...Thanks, Top!

It was about 24 F in this pic...

Cooking in the shelter Sunday morning. I'm wearing the No Sniveler underneath the Packa...not much for fashion, but it saved me from carrying a heavy coat. The NS is one of the most useful pieces of gear I've ever seen.

I used the JetBoil, but I tried the BPL trick about wrapping a copper wire around the cannister and putting it into the flame. It's supposed to keep the cannister warm, but I'm not sure it really made a difference. The JB worked just fine, though.

It was 24 F when we woke up Sunday morning, and immediately started to get colder. The cardinal rules to hiking with kids are to keep them fed and keep them warm, and it was 21 F by the time I got everything packed up. He wasn't warm...and he started to get pretty grumpy.
I guess everybody felt about the same, though...instead of having our show-and-tell, most of us just packed up and jetted out of there.

My boy was pretty warm except for his feet, and it was a pretty miserable hike back to the car. But I promised to get him warmer boots and thicker socks next time, so even at the worst of it he still wasn't turned off to hiking.

But as soon as we got to the Jeep I had to turn the heater full blast onto his feet!

And on the drive home I found the street I want to live on...

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