I decided that with two days off in a row, I needed to go play in the woods. I loaded up my smaller backpack with my overnight gear and some new items to test out for the season. Into the woods!
I took along a few of my favorite things: Hubba NX tent, Igneo sleeping bag, REI Flexlite Chair, ENO Hammock and Strap, ExPed sleeping pad and a backcountry tarp. I also took my knife, headlamp, journal and pen. I took a couple of new items for testing and my sense of adventure!
I chose the area around Elk Creek. It is a beautiful hike in the middle of nowhere along a rushing creek. There are creek crossings and more. I posted about this once last year. The hike is more advanced than beginner. It isn’t long, but there are many creek crossings that require some balance and stability. Hiking poles would come in handy, and a willingness to get your feet wet should you slip off a rock and end up splashing through one of the many creeks. I did see one hiker on trail who was out for a day hike. An older gentleman who has been hiking for many years who said it is his goal to get out and hike every day. I want to be him!
I brought along some new clothing to see how I would fair. I did quite well. I took my zip-away hiking pant/shorts. The zippers up the sides of the Saharas make the legs easy to get on and off and no boot removal is needed! I wore a smartwool t-shirt and underwear, merino wool socks and sported a pair of Solomon trail runners. They were light, easy to get on and off, but absolutely horrible on any wet rock or log. They were like slip-n-slide shoes. They also did not provide any ankle support or protection from hitting my foot on the side of fallen branches. Back to my trail hikers I go.
I ended up camping along the edge of the creek. A beautiful spot not too far from the creek crossing. There are amazing camp spots all through this area. The creek turned here and headed in a different direction. The area of the turn had a dam and a small island. A perfect eco-habitat for some woodland water creatures. I saw some ducks and plenty of other birds. I did not notice any fish in the creek or land mammals roaming about.
The Hubba NX tent is a single person tent. I picked it up last year at the end of the season. The design is sensational. Symmetrical dome shaped tent with a teardrop door. Sitting inside is like sitting in a little temple! The ruby red base is soothing to the eye, the tent can be set up quickly with it’s one pole system. No need to figure out which end goes to which end because either end will do. The system allows for a quick set-up, meaning you can drop the foot print and set up the fly on top, then get inside and set up the tent. Perfect for the rainy days we get here in the PNW. The rainfly also has a one-of-a-kind gutter that is over the door! Nice job MSR!
I wanted to test out their new Windboiler. I have friends who have had Jetboils, and honestly I was never a fan. Plastic and fire just do not go together. The windboiler is an all in one cook system, similar to the others out there. This one however rocks. It has a fully enclosed wind prevention system that keeps the flame burning hot. I boiled my water in under a minute. UNDER a minute. The amount of fuel savings is spectacular. The mechanics of this machine also make it quite easy to use. The materials cool down quickly and because the flame head is large and the system vortexes the heat up, the thing heats up in no time. I’d use this again any time I’m taking dehydrated food on my treks.
I didn’t bring my bear vault this time, but opted to hang my food. It is suggested that you hang the food at least 15 feet off the ground and about 4 feet from the tree. Tie one end of the rope to your bag, sling the other end up and over a branch, then hoist it up. Once it’s up, tie the other end off to the tree. If you’ve ever had your food taken by a woodland creature, you’ll know that it isn’t a pleasant experience. You have to leave where you are, cut the trip short and/or find a way to replenish. Though the bear vault is general bulky and heavy, it does keep your food safe. On my super short trips, I will hang food instead.
There was absolutely no one else in the area that evening. It was super quiet and a new moon, so at night it was exceptionally dark. The weather was the warmest we’ve had to date this season – over 70 degrees. Yes please! I also have one rule – when in nature, be natural (at least once/day). I generally can’t stand clothing, unless it’s keeping me warm. I needed to work on my overall tan anyway. It had been a long winter and my body hadn’t seen the light of sun in ages. Don’t be jealous. June 21st is the Unofficial Naked Hiking Day, so plan accordingly!
I usually do not carry my hammock AND my tent, but as I was only heading into the woods for one day, I figured the extra weight I am not carrying in food, I can easily carry the hammock. I love that I did. I took a nap in the sun for a while and listened to the creek float by.
The warm clothes I packed in my bag were my puffy Patagonia, smartwool 250 leggings, smartwool zip long sleeve top, my 15 year old wool hat and a pair of beat up gloves. They all came in quite handy after the sun started to set. I tend to get cold easily and having things that can keep me warm are vital to my wellbeing (aka, my happiness). As the evening temperature moved in, I put on my nighttime layers of clothing. The smartwool felt immediately warm and soft which I really appreciate. They are also great at keeping moisture off the body which helps to keep you warm. I wrote in my journal for a long while, made myself an evening snack and went for a walk around the creek.
Naptime came early. I say naptime because it is often that I do not “sleep” when I’m out in nature. I actively rest and take naps between resting. I’m totally okay with this. I did have one moment where I was in my tent and there was a large animal pressing its nose up against my tent walls. I thought it was a deer or moose type animal. I kept trying to tell it to go away, to scare it by saying things like, “SHOO”, but every time I did, nothing came out. I realized that I was actually dreaming and woke myself up. I was in the same place I was dreaming, but there was no animal.
There is something so serene and peaceful to me about the simplicity of a backpacking setup. I consider what I took on this trip “Luxury” packing. A hammock and a chair! It isn’t often that you are willing to carry extra weight. I could spend days out in the wilderness. I did notice that I was up early and “ready” to pack and move. It wasn’t that I wanted to get home, but that as a backpacker, there’s always the next place to get to. I enjoyed my morning breakfast of oatmeal, packed up most of camp and my backpack.
I lounged a while longer in my hammock and wrote a bit more in my journal. I wrote a long dedication to my buddy Tyler (my cat) who I lost a week ago. I think he was the reason I was out there anyway. I needed to say goodbye in a place that held a lot of magic and support, that wouldn’t give me opinion or enable me, but just allow me to be exactly where I was. Thanks Nature!
The trek back to my truck (Hank) was quite and brisk. I didn’t pass any hikers at all. I also made it through all the stream crossings with dry feet.