Sunday, July 04, 2010

North Country Trail Journal -- June 17, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010
I woke up in my tent just before sunrise and saw streaks of purple and red just above the conifers. Since I camped on a lawn, condensation was heavy in my dratted single wall Tarptent. I don’t mean to put down this tent. It is super light and roomy. After careful seam sealing and proper staking, the TT kept me dry during the last t-storm. When its beaks/vestibule is deployed, getting in and out is difficult. This can be obviated by separating the beaks. They are joined by a foot-long Velcro tab. But putting this back into place is a pain and I don’t want to wear out the Velcro. So I do the TT vesty belly crawl.
In these moments, and when I’m wiping up condensation, or accidentally knocked over the hiking pole keeping the front end up, or have bounce-in rain on the sides or front, I long for a three to four season two wall, free-standing tent. Steve used the double-wall Kelty Zen. Its seen its better days. Its been through an AT thru-hike and another 10 years of sporadic use. It weighs about 5 pounds. For the PCT thru-hike, we took an 8x10 sil-nylon tarp sewed by my mother and an OR double bug bivy. This combination weighs about two pounds and worked well. I still like the versatility of the tarp. Although the bug bivy is also nearing the end of its life (the floor is wearing through, and many small runs in the netting are nail-polished), it is still serviceable.
When times are less tight, I will replace the Zen with another 1-2 person, two-wall non-freestanding tent, get a 3-4 season two-person, freestanding, two-wall tent, and someday a 4-season bomb-proof freestanding tent. More often than not, I like to use a tarp. This is because my preferred method of camping is cowboy style. It’s great to wake up in the middle of the night and look up at the stars for a few moments. Also, if anything is stalking about, I can see it. A ground cloth and maybe some bug netting over my face. What I often do is before bed scout out a nearby tree conducive to tying the tarp to. I have a way of setting the tarp up, taught to me by PCT hiker Wicked, so I call it the “Wicked” method, where you tie the front end of the tarp to the trunk of a tree and just stake out from there. I tried this in the pine grove a couple nights ago, but wasn’t very successful. I’m out of practice.
Yesterday afternoon I sprayed the tents, packs, and hiking clothes with permethrin. This morning I noticed how well it works. For the first time in memory, no bugs crawled on the tent or mosquitoes hovered outside. A slug worked its slimy way along one tent wall. The sun illuminated it in such a way I could see the browner blob of its inner organs. I hate handling chemicals, but they’re a necessity up here.
Doug’s shooting buddy Jay joined us for breakfast at a restaurant in Hawthorne (Doug’s treat). Doug flirted with the waitress, who knows him by name. He said he can get away with a lot more at his age. I listened to the voices of the people around us, hushed grunts, a throaty guffaw. This is right off Hwy. 53. The diners are all men, working men on their way to work, contractors, loggers, energy and utility guys, truckers, lonely men who respect the silence of their trade by not being loud over breakfast. They wear their camouflage caps low and drive diesel pick-ups with heavy deer grills.
After breakfast, Doug took us down to the pond to feed his fish. I saw some huge bluegills. When I asked Doug if he caught any, he said he didn’t because it wouldn’t be fair. The fish gather at the sight of him. Steve made a pass around the pond on Doug’s ATV. I tried it and was too quick on the throttle, spilling Abby, Doug’s dog. I then drove fast around the pond, too fast according to Doug. He ribbed me about it, but wasn’t mean. No man likes to see his dog get thrown off an ATV.
Steve has decided to go home. This is a good decision. I’d rather he go home than see him hobbling along in pain. He’s gotten a taste of the adventure and enjoyed a little trail magic to boot. I hope this experience whets his appetite for more.
We spent the rest of the day resting and watching TV -- a couple episodes of The Twilight Zone, some NFL highlights, District 9, a couple hours of UFC, and then game seven of the Lakers-Celtics NBA finals. The Lakers came back from 13-points down in the third quarter to win their second championship in a row.
Steve’s dad and grandma showed up around 11:30 p.m. When I greeted Steve Sr. at the car, he was worried about a pair of eyes he saw in the headlights on the way in. I didn’t help his worries when I told him Doug has seen bears and wolves cross his land. Doug brewed a pot of coffee. Steve Jr. said a groggy goodbye, and I stood in the dark and frog peeps and watched the headlights retreat up the long drive. Abby the dog sulked for awhile after Stevie left.

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