Thursday, July 1, 2010

Spring Run Camp

The Pinchot Trail Chronicle, Part 8
Sunday June 27, 2010

A short climb out of the stream valley brought us to the camp site, which consisted of a large cleared area around a central stone-lined fire pit and a few rocks to sit on. We found the three best sites for tents and Dave and I each claimed one. I quickly pulled out all my new gear, and found that pitching my tent was as easy as it had been practicing in my basement. So far so good.
Before long, camp was ready, and all we had to do was wait for Leo to arrive. I didn't want to use my cell phone much, but I had good reception, and we were able to keep tabs on Leo as he got closer. When we knew he was on the trail and should be arriving shortly, I went back down to Spring Run to listen to the water and wait for him. Within 5 or 10 minutes he showed up, and we went to join Dave. When multiple people are coming separately to something like this, it is always a relief when nothing goes wrong and the group is all together, and I definitely felt that relief.
After Leo got his tent set up and gear settled we purified some water with Leo's Steripen. The Steripen is a neat little device not much larger than a pen that renders bacteria and other small bad guys in water harmless by using UV light to render their DNA unable to replicate. Trace amounts of these things in your system won't affect you if they can't reproduce themselves and go bonkers inside your body. Once we had replenished our supply of good water, we prepared some dehydrated food and had a nice dinner. Mountain House brand's Mexican Chicken and Rice was surprisingly good; highly seasoned and fairly spicy. Re-hydrating this stuff with boiling water is very easy to do, but the food sometimes re-hydrates unevenly, with some chunks staying pretty chewy or crunchy. I was expecting worse.
Journal, 8:55pm - Almost dark. Writing by headlamp. Fireworks in the distance. Saw one mouse. Need to hang the food. Flies getting bad. Now many mice running around.
There are black bears in these woods as well as a multitude of other smaller critters, so some nighttime prep was in order. All food bags and other "smellies" were gathered together and suspended from a tree branch 12 feet or so off the ground. Because of the chance of rain, and to keep mice and the like out of it, I hung my backpack 4 feet off the ground on a branch near my tent and tied the whole thing up in a large black drawstring trash bag. The only things in my small tent with me would be my sleeping gear, a few valuables, a journal, and my boots. Boots need to stay dry at all costs, and away from things like porcupines that will apparently eat them down to the soles.
It was getting dark at this point, and I felt a little silly pulling out my headlamp like I was about to go down into the mines, but without some source of light we would very quickly have been sitting in the dark. It turns out the headlamps were very useful (and fun to play with too - I just might start wearing mine around the house). We chose not to light a fire in the fire pit, and just sat around and talked.
Soon after darkness came, so did the mice. They were very curious, and liked to come out of the bushes and into the rocks around the fire pit, from which they would play hide and seek and make runs at Dave, who was sitting on the log closest to them. Leo and Dave switched places so that Leo could play with the mice, and he had fun making sudden motions and watching them jump straight up in the air and then run away. For whatever reason, after maybe a half hour of mice coming at us from all directions, they all just disappeared and we didn't see them again.
We knew we had a long day tomorrow, so we decided to head to bed. As I zipped myself into my tent, I made sure that the rain fly was on properly but left open slightly for ventilation. The whole upper side of my tent is nothing but mesh, and the rain fly layer over top of that is what would keep me dry in case of rain. Lying down to sleep, I was curious as to whether the unaccustomed night sounds would keep me awake. More importantly, I wondered if the rains would come.
Journal, 10:35pm - Bed time. Nice to sit around and talk with the boys but we have a long day tomorrow and everyone wants to try to get a good night's sleep. A very good start. I hope I sleep well. ... I turned out the headlamp to sleep, looked above me through the netting, and was greeted by a beautiful sight of the tree tops against the night sky. I think I am going to like this!

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