What’s A Hang?

A lot of eating, and we sleep in hammocks.

For this one at Harold Parker SP in Mass, we had three stoves, two grills, a gas smoker, ten pounds of mixed sausages, three racks of ribs, short-ribs, pulled pork, steaks, hot dogs and burgers, “cooler” corn, corn chowder, five salads, potato pie [with bacon], bacon apple pie, dutch oven pizzas, dutch oven “dump” cake, 35 year-old aquavit, three dogs, twenty-five people [ranging in age from 20-74]… and a whole buncha fun!

[Oh, yeah… we gave two newcomers the chance to try out nearly every hammock made, together with other gear, so they can make considered choices when they get ready to spend some money]

At the next hang, we eat lobster!

[Both “n00bs” are already planning on being there, too!]

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I Am Bald !

….Really, really bald. I claim it is just a solar panel for a sex-machine.

Most days I wear a cap. When I sleep out in the wild, my head tends to get chilly, so I mostly wear a toque.I have a couple, including a sweet down version from UGQ that pulls way down over your face and eyes for the really cold nights. Last weekend I didn’t take one, and I ended up with a tee pulled over my head and tucked into the neck of my shirt when it got windy and wet. I looked even more dorky than usual.

 

When I got home, I found a deal on “buffs” from Amazon. Rather pretentiously, they call them “Outdoor Multifunctional Sports Magic Scarfs”…. Great color selection though [35 different sets of nine patterned buffs each], and way cheap… $7.99 up the bunch. I got the “Totem2” set. Buy a set, get a free buff, so I ended up with 10 total. [As a note: The center left one in the photo wasn’t in  the set… I got some light green one that I don’t like as much] Anyway I’ll be taking a few extras to the next hang and up my karma by giving them away to the others.

If you don’t know what a buff is… look it up on the net. In short, it is a sleeve of stretch fabric that you can “wear” a whole bunch of different ways. Neck gaiter, dust mask, balaclava, headband, beanie, Foreign Legion neck cover… etc. Since it is a super lightweight poly-microfiber, you can also wet it down and use it for evaporative cooling when it gets hot. As well, one of them weighs next-to-nothing. Perfect in the pack.

I turned mine inside out, twisted the center part and pulled both halves back over my head to make a beanie. Perfect for summer night when there is a bit of a breeze, and I can pull it down over my eyes for a daytime snooze.

I really like these, especially at the price. Soft, light, colorful… just loud enough to make a statement [“This guy has NO taste!”].

They come nicely flatpacked, so it is easy to toss one or two into a pocket or in your clothes bag just to have on hand.

 

 

 

At the same time, and from the same maker [Kingree], I picked up one of the Shemaghs that the troops have adopted over in the Middle East to keep themselves both warm and cool. [Again… look it up for more detail].

My buddy Iuri (@brazilianguy) and his lady, Fey (@chinesegirl), both love theirs and bring ,and wear, them at every campout. Last weekend I thought longingly about what a difference having one would have been making to my comfort.

 

I have to work out the stylistic details of tying/wearing one without looking like an even more complete dork, but a lot of the others also have them and vaunt their usefulness. Again, multi-use, in that they can be used in a number of ways.  A bit heavy, since they are all cotton, however, that means you can also wet these down and get the cooling effects, or use them as a camp towel.

[$14… be sure to get one that is “heavy weight”. The light ones are like tissue, and fall apart quickly. Some also reportedly smell like chemical solvents and aren’t colorfast… read them-thar’ reviews first, folks]

Swing Into Spring

It was a year ago yesterday that I got the Reverend elfLiza off the ground for the first time. This was over at Kings Mountain Park in NC in my 11′ Dutchware Hexon 2.0. [Note that she figured out the diagonal lay for comfort right off]. Since then she has gotten in two nights at the New England Hammock Hangers Assoc. Lobster and Lighthouses Hang, won some gear in the raffle, and is excited that I just sold her Hennessy and a complete ENO setup for enough moolah to grab a new Dutchware “Chameleon” when he starts taking retail orders in June.

 

I took off to another hang with the NEHHA gang down at Ashby, MA over last April weekend. I think the total number was 43 folks. Wonderful to see what are now old friends and make a bunch of new ones. Group hangs are simply the best way to find out what you need to know to make your hammocking experience what it ought to be.

Here we all are on Saturday evening after consuming far more food than anyone should be allowed.[I’m dead-center in the back row with my full belly hanging out of the brown plaid] Five kinds of stew [including venison], a dutch oven full of chili, Penne Putannesca, about three other tubs of pasta casseroles, a couple of veggie things, fire-baked potatoes in their skins, a rump roast cooked right on the coals, bacon wrapped chicken hearts, breaded cod loins…. and we never got to the four pounds of burgers. Don’t start me up on the breakfasts, I’ll give out the hint that fresh made doughnuts featured heavily… and BACON.

We had tree-climbing rigs set up, a slack-line 35′ up in the air, map and compass training, I did an “instuctable” on making the Flaming Dragon T#rds fire starters, and we did a show-and-tell walk to see all the different hammock setups folks had brought.

I also got to use my Loco Libre Gear “Ghost Pepper” 30° top-quilt for the first time out in the wild.Worth every penny. The chevron baffling that they use to keep the down from shifting is just incredible. One of the best things about the 30° top quilt is that I can match it up with one of my Costco down throws and easily get down to 20° or below… likely to be a rare occurrence, but the option is nice to have.

 

 

A stream running behind the grove was our sound track for falling asleep.

 

 

 

photo by BranMayo

 

 

And then my friend Iuri [aka BrazilianGuy] did this highly professional video about “why” and “what”… check it out!  >> VIDEO <<

A Loose Affiliation of…. ??

NEHHA [New England Hammock Hangers Association]: Lighthouses and Lobsters Hang, Sept. 11th-13th, 2015, Phippsburg Maine.

Looking down the line from my Amok Draumr.

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Quite possibly the best thing I’ve done for myself in a very long time.  Met some truly wonderful people [for the first time in a very long time], had some truly great fun. and I’m going back for more next month over in New Hampshire at the Great Pumpkin Hang.

If you have any interest at all in hammock camping, these group hangs are a great way to see just about all the variations available in gear and the ways to rig it up before you take the plunge. Friendly folks, and nobody cares if you come in a tent.

Just go check out hammockforms.com for the regional listings of where and when.

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The Boy Scout Camping Merit Badge Adventure -c.1964

I promised in the early posts on this blog that I would bore you with geezerly reminiscences. This is one. [Shuddup! That’s part of a geezer’s job description]

 

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There were four of us. Geoff, Mark, Dougie and myself. We all needed to collect that camping merit badge to become 1st-class scouts. We were supposed to be dropped off in the woods, set up camp, cook our dinners, and generally survive until the scoutmaster would return for us the next day.

Our trip had been scheduled for a weekend in early November and it turned out to be truly shag-nasty weather. Cold, wet drizzling rain. The ground and woods were already soaked before we got there. The scoutmaster rubbed his hands gleefully, and informed us that we would really “earn” this merit badge.

“Back when I was a child”… camping gear was quite often old US military surplus. All were leftovers from the second world war and the Korean conflict. The stuff was heavy, leaky, inefficient, bulky, worn-flat-out, and in today’s world nobody would ever think of using it. Our sponsoring church thought they were doing the scout troop a big favor by having supplied us with anything at all, so, this was what we got. Our group didn’t have actual tents, we had pup tent “halves”. They were waxed canvas tarps that snapped together along what would become a ridgeline to make a tent for two unfortunates. Each Scout got to carry one half. These didn’t even have floors, and the “weatherproofing” had pretty much worn off. They were supposed to be our shelter.

Our troop did have the good fortune to have been given the use of  a private 150 acre tree-farm out along the Neuse River outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. Today the river has been dammed downstream a few miles, the river valley flooded 50′ deep and the area is now part of the Falls of the Neuse Recreation Area. Back then it was a wonderful place, up on a ridge with an oxbow the river running around three sides. Prior to the river being dammed up, there had been a fantastic 50 foot cliff projecting in a beak out over the river itself.  There was a “Hole-in-Rock” tunnel that you could crawl through, red garnets embedded in the cliff face that you could dig out with the Scout knife… In short, it was heaven for a kid. In the drizzling, November rain, it was as bad as anyplace could be.

The plan had been for us to hike down away from the old farmhouse and outbuildings area at the end of the access road, and go find a suitable location that met all the recommended camping criteria: level, well-drained, etc., set up our pup tents, build a suitable fire ring, collect a quantity of “dry wood”, build a fire, cook our meal, sleep out overnight, and enjoy ourselves. This last goal seemed fairly unachievable given the circumstances. But we set off [grumbling and whining] to survey the area and find a suitable place to camp.

As I said, it was raining constantly and the ground was already soaked. Mucking around in the underbrush in our futile search I, we ended up pretty well soaked too. The worst part was that with the dead-falls, all the wet brush and leaves, and the very heavy undergrowth, we couldn’t really find a decent place to set up both tents and safely build a fire ring.

Up closer to the farmstead, the pinewoods were quite a bit more open and the ground was covered with a thick layer of pine straw. This seemed a better alternative and we determined to give up on the hiking-in portion of the trip. Our scoutmaster had left. There was nobody to tell us what we had to do.

Now, in typical rural North Carolina fashion, any old working country place has a lot of old junk set out around the periphery. This one was no different. There was an old 40s model Plymouth up on its side, old wheel rims and rusted metal, car axles, cinderblocks and like scattered around throughout the trees.

Geoff and Mark locked in on the old Plymouth. They thought it would make a good windbreak, and they set to work trying to prop their tarps and the detached hood up to make a little roof and give them a dry spot. However, there was obviously only going to be room for two people no matter what they were able to achieve. Dougie and I cast around looking for something that we, too, could make use of.

October thru November was always the time of year when Carolina country people slaughtered a hog or three, and put aside their meat for winter. These tall pine trees with good high limbs had once been a perfect place for the slaughtering to take place. Since it was a couple of hundred yards away from the farmhouse, it was far enough off for the dirty work, but still was close enough to the house and smokehouse for convenience. By 1964 the property had not been a working farm for over 10 years, but there was still was a little fenced enclosure where the hogs had been corralled before meeting their fate. It included a low 6′ by 8′, cobbled together shelter to allow them poor, doomed hogs to get out of the direct sun. Pigs sweat and they do like their comfort.

To much mocking and derision from Geoff and Mark about sleeping in a”pigpen”, Dougie and I set about making some home improvements. The space was only about 3 1/2 feet tall, but was actually quite dry inside. We tossed out a few old, dry hog turds, threw a couple of old license plates over holes where water dripped through the tin roof, gathered up a crap load of pine straw to spread around inside and put down our tent halves as a ground cloth. The side walls didn’t go all the way up to the roof, but compared with sitting out in the drizzly woods it was pretty snug. Our big difficulty seemed to be that with all the pine straw we had gathered up and how narrow the front of the shed was, it was going to be kind of tough to build safe fire.

Remember I mentioned those old wheel rims and the cinderblocks? It turns out there was also a 5 foot section of old stovepipe. It also turns out that if two soaking wet Boy Scouts take three cinderblocks set up on edge, on an old wheel rim, together with a second wheel rim set on top, and a five foot section of old stovepipe covering the axle hole, it all can very easily be chinked together with some of that fine Carolina red clay mud to make a really fantastic, and very efficient little stove. We packed the bottom wheel rim with more mud and fired it up. In about half an hour it was almost too hot inside our little shed. Doug and I, together with our gear, we’re drying out quite nicely. Geoff and Mark had stopped snickering.

We had even set our stove up so that one of the holes in the rim was open through the clay and the flames could lick up from inside. We put one of the old license plates over the hole to cover the open flame, but we could pull it aside and have a place for a pot or pan to heat water and to cook our dinner. All in all, it was getting fairly luxurious. We were warm, we were dry, we had hot water for cocoa, and best of all our friends were out there by the old Plymouth still whining about how wet they were.

This was many years ago. My memory is not completely clear, but it’s perfectly logical that we were also trying for the cooking merit badge at the same time. I do remember that each pair of us had a whole chicken that we were planning to cook. Geoff and Mark were going for the traditional “put a stick up it’s butt” rotisserie method. They could barely keep their fire going in the wind and never had any success. I do remember vividly that they were basically eating raw chicken that night. Doug and I had discovered that old asphalt shingles and dried pig turds would keep our fire going really well no matter how wet our collected firewood was. We had cut our chicken up and were roasting individual chunks like you would marshmallows. It worked out pretty well. At least we didn’t get sick. When you’re 14 or 15 years old you can pretty much survive anything… at least once.

To our credit, I am quite sure that we did let Geoff and Mark into our shelter to warm up and dry out at some point. I know that they did live through the experience. We all would go on quite a few more camping trips and further adventures were to be had before we aged out of scouting.

[Actually, in all honesty, none of us ever aged out. Our scout troop was disbanded by the sponsoring church. They didn’t feel that we were taking the “good citizenship” part of the scouting experience seriously enough. As a group, we weren’t earning very many merit badges toward the end. They also got a little pissy because on a couple of the later trips as we got older, our hikes had mostly involved going down through the woods to the country store and buying beer, soda, snacks and cigarettes. There was also something about a couple of girls who drove out to keep us company around the fire one night… Oh, yeah. And I guess we did dose the Tenderfoot scouts with ExLax, but it was just that one time… ]

Next time I’ll tell you about that scouting trip where Wally slashed his knee so badly with a machete that… well, keep coming back..