How to set up a non free standing tent on a tent platform

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I love my tent, I love sleeping in the dirt. But in the White Mountains National Forest of New Hampshire you can’t just set up your tent anywhere. The (sub) alpine environment is fragile and rough so established sites have wooden tent platforms. For years I dreaded using the those platforms. How was I going to set up my non free standing tent? Normally I use ten tent stakes to get a taut pitch so I had my doubts I could pull it off. 

Last fall I had a trip planned to Nauman tent site for Redline Guiding near the Mizpah hut in the Presidential range so I had to bite the bullet. We arrived early and had plenty of time to figure it out. What I learned then came in handy last month when I backpacked with my niece and stayed at Kinsman pond, Liberty Springs, Garfield, Guyot and Nauman tent sites ($10 fee per person, discount available for AT thru hikers, ask the care taker).  All of these have wooden tent platforms and by the end of the trip we were pros at using them to get a good set up.

I’ve written down a few tips and included photos to share what I learned. If you have anything to add feel free to leave a comment. 

-You will often be asked to share a platform since space can be limited. It is okay to use the dirt around the platform to stake out your fly or guy lines ( I asked the caretaker). 

 

-Instead of using stakes to secure your tent you can use small sticks, rocks, or the metal rings on the side of the platform. Sometimes a triangular stake or thicker round stake will fit, skinny titanium ones won’t work. 

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-The biggest challenge for us was to get the back end taut enough. This didn’t always work because of limited space but we were able to secure the guy lines using sticks and rocks so the tent was secure even if the fly wasn’t tight. 

-The toughest set up was when we had to share a larger platform with two other tents with guys we’d never met before. Be patient, be friendly and share anchors and possibly stakes, it’ll all work out. We didn’t get the best set up but I could have tightened it up a bit if it had rained. 

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Dirt will always have my preference but the terrain in the Whites is fragile and challenging and now that I know I can get a good setup I no longer dread the platforms. And as a bonus there are usually bear boxes, privvies and a good water source! It beats having to dig a hole early in the morning. ; )

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PS The tents we use are ‘The One’ by Gossamer Gear. (I believe they are currently sold out but should be back in stock mid August). 

http://www.Gossamergear.com 

Clothing review time!

Lightheart gear has come out with some women specific clothing that I’ve been happy to try out. I received a skirt and shirt for testing and feedback and when the first dress came out I purchased it. I also tested the pack cover hoodie.

What I liked about the shirt:

-The material feels like butter when you wear it. It’s soft and stretchy, and has some merino wool in it so it retains warmth well and smells less.

-The sleeves and torso are long and roomy. The shirt almost covered my entire butt so it didn’t ride up and leave my back exposed. The sleeves have thumb holes. The thickness of the material is great for shoulder season, warmth wise in between a thin base layer and a thin fleece. These pictures are from late January at Blood mtn and the Smokies. I used it as my base layer and would layer a fleece and a down jacket over it when it got really cold.

What I didn’t like:

-Only downside I can think of would be the price, at $65 it’s not cheap. But it is made in the US by a small business catering to women of all sizes (it goes up to 3X). And I’ve worn it several 100 miles without noticing any wear or tear so in my opinion it’s worth it.

 

What I liked about the skirt:

-It’s made out of light quick drying material.

-It has lots of pockets! I was able to stash my hat and gloves in the large cargo pockets which was great for winter when I would heat up or cool down. You could also put snacks in them or maps! It has six pockets total, the smaller ones can still fit loads of stuff like your cell phone or wallet.

-It’s flared so you can hike and scramble without a problem.

What I didn’t like:

-The snap/zip closure. This is a personal preference. I never wear anything that’s tight in my waist and my backpack hipbelt pushes up my belly fat (oh yay!) so the snap was a little uncomfortable. I should have probably gone up a size but in general I prefer elastic waistbands.

-The price is high. I understand why, especially with all the details and how functional it is but it’s up there.

Now on to my favorite, the dress!

What I like about the dress:

-I seriously love everything about it. It’s made out of lightweight stretch material so it dries quickly and is comfortable to wear. The only downside to this material/cut is that it will show your belly fat if you have any. I have plenty at the moment so when I tighten my hipbelt it shows. I don’t really care but some people are self conscious about it.  The material is slightly heavier than some of the rayon dresses I’ve worn before but it holds up much better. After 350 miles I have only a little rough spot on the side from where my pack straps rub near my hip. No holes yet even though I got it caught on branches several times. I managed to undo some of the bottom seam by hiking some extremely overgrown trails but that’s it.

-The skirt is flared and provides plenty of room for hiking and scrambling. The shoulder straps are wide to accommodate the backpack straps.

What I don’t like about the dress:

-Nothing. And at $35 it’s totally affordable.

Last but not least, the pack cover hoodie:

What I like about it:

-It keeps my head and shoulders dry in light rain when it’s just too hot to wear a rain jacket. I imagine it will also be great to layer over a rain jacket for serious winter hiking. It would cover that gap in your neck where the snow always dumps from the trees and keep the jacket from saturating. I chose the orange on purpose for possible hunting season hiking but there are many more colors to choose from.

What I didn’t like:

-When my pack was full the snap closure at my neck was a little tight but I believe that’s been redesigned to allow more room.

-It is heavier than just a pack cover but I like the versatility it offers especially combined with an umbrella.

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PS: There is now also a dress with pockets. It’s made out of a slightly thicker material so the pockets won’t sag but otherwise fits about the same as mine. It’s on my wish list.

Their website is http://www.lightheartgear.com

 

Braving the wilderness trails

A while back my talented weaver friend Jean told me about her adventurous daughter Anne and how she would love for me to meet her. Now that I’m working as a guide with Redline Guiding she came up with the idea of giving her a guided trip as a birthday gift. What an awesome mom!

I asked Anne what she wanted out of the trip and she mentioned that she had heard people talking about the challenging wilderness trails in the Whites. She wanted to explore those but didn’t feel confident enough to do so by herself. I immediately thought she would love the Dry River wilderness. I actually hadn’t hiked the trails in there yet when I came up with the idea so as soon as I could I planned a long day hike to explore the loop I wanted to hike with her. That day was challenging and wet with threatening thunder storms. How different this weekend was! Beautiful weather, a leisurely pace, and lots of laughter.

Day one started at the Dry river trailhead, we would follow the Dry river trail to Nauman tent site taking the Mt Clinton trail up. Along the way the trail was often obscured by fallen leaves and since there were no blazes to follow I would point out what to look for when you’re not sure where the trail goes. Various signs of human impact would give it away. Anne quickly learned what to look for, a great skill to have.

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At nauman camp site we found a platform in the back to set up our tents. I figured we would get there with plenty of day light left so I finally mustered up the courage to bring my single wall non free standing tent which normally needs ten stakes for a taut set up. Anne’s tent had a few more tent poles but also needed to be staked out. The strong gusts gave us an extra challenge but we both eventually figured out how to set up our tents securely. Success!! I was quite surprised how useful those metal rings on the side of the platform turned out to be. After dinner we enjoyed some reading in our sleeping bags. Having hiked in shorts and t-shirts most of the day we were now wearing most of our layers. We sure were glad we brought our hats and gloves.

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Day two had us pack up and stop by the Mizpah hut to scoop up some of the breakfast leftovers. Free pancakes? Well, if you insist…

We then proceeded to climb up to Mt Pierce. It was another beautiful day and the views were great. While I was trying to take a picture of my mascotte ‘Red’, Anne was striking an excellent ‘look at me on top of the mountain pose’ effectively upstaging Red. There were no hard feelings.

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We continued on to Mt Eisenhower with the beautiful new cairn. We were now catching some of the predicted wind force and didn’t linger. On to Franklin and Monroe we went! Monroe was a fun extra for Anne since she’s working on summiting all of the NH48 4000 footers list and this one would be number 30 on her list. Congrats Anne!

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At the Lakes of the Clouds hut we found a protected spot and enjoyed our lunch. I also did a brief map and compass overview. Topo lines, magnetic north, all that good stuff.

We then headed down back in to the Dry River wilderness. The trail got slightly more challenging with some rock scrambling and muddy sections and one or two confusing spots. Excellent training for Anne.

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We both loved this quieter wilder area. Sometimes we’d walk in silence mesmerized by our surroundings.  But there was also lots to talk about. Our conversation topics ranged from hiking the Appalachian trail to staying on trail to knowing when to turn around, to pee rags and whether to carry deodorant or not.

Since it had been so quiet on the trail we were surprised to see five men at the shelter where we planned to stay the night. Four were taking up all the floor space, the other had set up a tent. Luckily we found two spots for our tents and quickly settled in.

The next morning we headed out to complete the Dry River trail. We stopped to admire the Dry River falls and explored some spur trails that led to old shelter sites. We looked at our map and discussed the pros and cons of bushwhacking. From one site we could’ve done a short cut back to the trail but the steepness of the little ravine separating us combined with a number of blow downs made us decide that in this case following the spur trail back was the smarter way to go.

We had our lunch break next to the bridge, on the side of the river. Soaking up the sun, enjoying the scenery eating tasty snacks, what more could we wish for? We lingered but eventually had to move on making our way back to the car. I’d say we had a pretty good time. It was cool to introduce someone to new experiences. Anne had never backpacked more than one night out, crossed her widest river yet and had always planned her trips to not include high wind days. Teaching new skills and seeing someone gain confidence is great fun!

 

 

 

Hayduke day 62

Day 62, 7 miles or so, Lee Pass
I lazy around in the morning. I know none of the other hikers will wake up early so no need to rush if I’m to have a ride from them. I’m still the first to leave the campground and discover there is a big variety in campsites. Number one to three are far away from the area I’m at and much dryer. I think mine was pretty stellar. 
The sandy trail makes way for more firm trail and it’s easy walking again. I’m going against the grain as day hikers and backpackers are starting their trip down to the creek. I chat with one girl who has hiked the PCT and is now doing a Zion traverse. I ask her to say hi to Brenna and Nicole if she sees them. 
After my climb up to the road I’m trying to hitch for a bit but no dice. Three ladies are enjoying the view and taking a selfie. As I’m not doing anything I offer to take their picture. We chat for a bit and they are on their way to the next viewpoint. 


Suddenly I hear Brenna and Nicole! Hurray!!! We all made it!! It’s so good to see them and to celebrate!!! 


We are now three hitching which may not be the best number but at least it helps me from having a hitching meltdown. A nice guy offers to drive us to the visitor center where there may be more cars and at least cell service so we could call a shuttle company if needed. 
After trying to hitch together for a bit Nicole says it’s probably smarter to hitch separately to have smaller numbers. Of course she’s right but hitching alone is less fun. They move down a little ways and as luck would have it, the ladies I took a picture of pull over and are willing to take me to St George. Hurray!!! Unfortunately there is only room for one so my friends will have to hitch for a bit longer. 
The nice ladies drop me off at a motel but they’re not checking in yet so I go to the Denny’s for a breakfast skillet. Yum! While I’m there I’m able to figure out travel plans. There are no early morning shuttles available from St George to Las Vegas so I decide to take one of the available evening ones today and stay in a motel in Vegas instead. Greenleaf moves up my flight a day and huzzah I’m all set to go home! 
Brenna and Nicole got a ride about twenty minutes after I did and are staying in a motel a few minutes away from Denny’s. I ask if I can use their shower so I won’t stink up the shuttle bus. Luckily they say yes. They are the best! 
The it’s really time to say goodbye and Brenna drives me to shuttle bus location (they picked up Nicole’s car). I’m grateful not having to walk the .8 mile since it’s so hot out. I would have been frying! 
Since this is the cheap hour of travel I splurged and got the front seat for $5 extra. So much more comfy than the last time I took this shuttle! 
I walk from the airport to my motel which is less than two miles away. I’m in Las Vegas. Very odd. Home tomorrow!!!

Hayduke day 61

Day 61, 18 miles, La Verkin creek
I awake early and check out the Lava point overlook again. The sunrise isn’t amazing but the viewpoint is still very cool. I chat some with two guys and then am on my way back down to the trail. 
The first section is smooth sailing. Beautiful trail, good views, nice water sources. 
I talk with a lady who is taking a break next to the trail and she mentions that the ‘subway’ is nearby. It sounds like a cool place to hike to. I decide to check it out but I’ve already descended quite a bit when I realize it’s a lot more downhill and distance so probably not a good idea to add that to my day. The 1/2 mile I did hike got me out on a neat white slope with some nice views so it’s all good. 


I continue on the so called ‘connector trail’ and it’s so cool. A little bit more red rock formations now with grass and some snowy peaks in the distance. So different from this morning’s pine forest. 


I cross a road and the trail becomes very sandy. I’m descending into Hop Valley now which is beautiful but the trail continues to be very sandy and it’s getting warmer out. I have to cross a little stream several times. I’m getting pretty tired. What happened to the beautiful easy trail? Haha. 


Eventually I climb up and over a hill and make it to La Verkin creek valley. I got a permit for a camp site here yesterday and it’s lovely. I get there at 4 pm and crash for a few hours before I check out Kolob arch nearby. After all the arches I’ve seen on this trip it’s not that impressive but hey, I guess I’m pretty spoiled. 


I’m hoping that Nicole and Brenna will show up this evening. I must have passed them sometime yesterday without realizing it. I haven’t seen their footprints today. I’m bummed they’re not here. Would have been fun to celebrate our last evening on the trail. 

Hayduke day 60

Day 60, 20 miles
The girls leave early this morning. It was very windy last night and it still is. I pass them later cooking breakfast on the trail. 


Apparently it’s a thing to run across Zion. I saw some runners yesterday and this morning as well. During the last descent towards the weeping wall there is a big group of them hooting and hollering. It’s quite obnoxious. 
The first part of my descent this morning didn’t always have obvious trail and cairns are scarce but the last part is almost like concrete switchbacks. Lots and lots of day hikers come up as I walk down. I must have said ‘Good morning!’ at least fifty times. 
It’s weird to finish in such a busy area. I get to the weeping wall trailhead which is the official end of the trail and take a selfie at the sign. It looks kind of dumb. I walk over to check out the wall and there is quite some water dripping down. A few teenage girls are checking it out too. 



Back at the trail sign I ask some other hikers to take a picture of me and it’s a little better than the selfie haha. It’s still weird not to finish with others who share the experience. 


I cross the road and hop on to the shuttle bus to the visitor center. There is one couple on the bus and they ask all kinds of questions. It’s fun to talk about the hike. The bus driver is very interested in what I’ve done and we talk all the way to my stop. 
At the permit center I ask if there are any permits for the west rim and there aren’t. I do get a permit for a camp site in the La Verkin creek area which is 7 miles or so from Lee Pass for tomorrow. I guess I’ll just camp outside the park tonight.
On my way to buy some more snacks I surprisingly run into Janos! My Hungarian friend from the Grand Canyon. I knew he was going to be in Zion at some point but didn’t think our dates overlapped. He’s chatting with Tour Guide another thru hiker who just hiked through Zion and will do some AZT to get ready for the CDT this year. We all chat for a while, it’s so fun! 


Tour guide makes me do the happy finishing pose for a picture. I oblige. Haha. 

When she hikes on, Janos and I buy some snacks and a coffee. We catch up, he had a good hike out of the canyon and has visited Bryce. He also tells me that there is camping at Lava point campground even though it’s closed. Maybe I’ll head there tonight, distance wise that might work. 
After some phone calls it’s back to the trail for me. I want to hike the Zion extension since ending at Weeping wall just feels a bit weird with all the tourists and this way I get to see more of the park. Also the hitching might be easier. Springdale is a complete zoo with cars and tourists everywhere. Lee pass should have fewer cars but they’ll all be hikers. 
The line for the shuttle bus is insane! At least fifty people if not more. I decide to walk the half mile to the next stop and get on there. A guy behind me has the same idea and we walk together. There is no line at the next stop and the bus slowly makes its’ way to the Grotto stop where the trail to Angel’s Landing and the west rim starts. 
The Angel’s Landing trail is packed! I lose most of them after Scout point where I hang a left and they go up the cables to the right. I’d hike it again if it weren’t so busy but at this point I’m passing. A little bit further on I hear my name. It’s Brenna and Nicole! Yay! They did go up Angel’s Landing and it took them a long time because of the other hikers. I join them on their break and we head up to the rim together. When it gets steeper I have to let them go on since I can’t keep up. 
The trail is so cool! The views are awesome! On top there are some pine trees and it feels a little bit like Yosemite. A very different feel than in the valley. I don’t see Brenna and Nicole and assume they’re still ahead. I’m thinking they were headed for Lava Point as well and push on to get there. I didn’t quite realize how much out of my way it is to go there but once I’m committed to it I continue. I never do see them up there but the view is really cool. The sun has mostly set but there is still enough day light left for me to see. I leave the viewpoint and just as it’s getting dark I lay down my pad underneath a giant pine and sleep comfortably. I wonder where Brenna and Nicole are. 

Hayduke day 59

Day 59, 16 miles.
I dreamt about stealing someone’s pancakes because Greenleaf wanted some and then I had my familiar dream about having to go to the bathroom but not being able find one that works. At that point I woke up having to go pee. Obviously. 
We’re not looking forward to getting in the cold water but there’s no way around it. The east fork of the Virgin River will have to be forded. Many times. Most of the time it’s no deeper than our knees but it’s not particularly warm out yet so my feet are very cold. I’m still wearing my down jacket and warm hat and wish I hadn’t stashed my gloves in the bottom of my pack. 


The canyon is beautiful especially when it narrows. At some point there are some big boulders and a log jam. Notes from other hikers and the guidebook all describe different ways off getting around it. None of these seem workable for us. The water is too high to get to a scramble described and another scramble seems too sketchy. Brenna scouts the sketchy scramble and the first part is doable with a rope but then it’s a jump and I’m not a good jumper. The other option is to just go for it and swim part ways. Chilly but no risk of slipping and falling. 


I volunteer to swim first and ferry the packs to the other side. I leave my merino wool long sleeve and rain jacket on for warmth. The water is so cold it takes my breath away but I manage not to hyperventilate. I try to get to the shallower side as soon as I can but the current is pretty strong so that’s easier said then done. I’m relieved when I can stand up. My rain jacket has filled up with water and is soaked inside out. Note taken: do not swim in a Frogg Togg rain suit. 
Brenna and Nicole lower the packs with a rope and I carry them to the other side. Then they take the plunge too. Poor Nicole, she was already pretty chilled. We now climb over the boulders and lower ourselves to the other side. The water is pretty deep there too and we end up taking the plunge again. Nicole pulls her pack with a rope behind her and Brenna hangs on to a shoulder strap. I keep my pack on with the buckle undone. It’s okay but it’s hard to keep my head up, I think the pack wants to float and pushes against my head. Luckily it’s a very short swim but still have about a mile of cold water to ford and wade through and Nicole is definitely struggling to keep warm. I’m cold too, especially my arms where the wet fabric is tight around my skin, and my hands are getting slightly numb. Every time we have a patch of sunshine we soak up the warmth as much as we can trying to keep hypothermia at bay. 


The guidebook has us exit at Fatman’s misery but notes from another hiker mentioned an easier and more scenic route out of the canyon. I found more info on Jamal’s ‘Across Utah’ site and we find the exit no problem. Thanks Jamal! 


Now that we’re more in the sunshine I’m feeling much better. We all agree that was one of the most challenging things we’ve done on this trail. That and Bull Valley gorge. Craziness!! If only we’d had a Go Pro to film if all. Haha. 
We climb some more and find a good spot for lunch where we can warm up and dry out. Glorious sun. Bothersome clouds. It’s the weirdest weather now. One dark cloud even spits some white stuff at us. 
Luckily most of our stuff was waterproofed well. I just had a bit of leakage through my not so new pack liner onto my sleeping bag but am able to dry it out. 
We continue on following cairns on beautiful sandstone. The variation of colors and patterns is gorgeous. Sunshine, clouds and formations make for some interesting pictures. I’m having fun trying to capture it. 



After climbing steeply to a saddle we have a steep sandy descent to a canyon which we follow to the highway. Brenna and Nicole have a cache there and I mosey on along. We’re really in Zion now! Almost done with the hike!
There is another flurry of white which passes quickly while I’m taking a break. I follow a small drainage which actually has some water in it. The temperature drops and I layer back up. When the drainage hits the trail which I’m supposed to pick up I take another snack break. I’m seriously moseying. Not surprisingly Brenna and Nicole catch up as I’m talking to a passing hiker who hiked the PCT last year. They move on along as I pick my tired ass up and follow way behind.
I don’t have much energy left so I slowly walk on. At some point in the climb I have cell service and call Greenleaf to share my epic morning story. We’re both excited that I’m going home soon. 
The trail is an old road and pretty easy walking but my nose is running faster than I’m walking. I’m also sneezing a lot. 
As I’m gaining elevation the views are really cool and I’m surrounded by pine trees. It’s getting really chilly now and I pass up a spot to camp at Stave spring because it’s windy and grassy. I’m aiming for a spot in the trees a bit further down but when I see Brenna and Nicole set up before that I join them. It is pretty close to sunset after all. 
This spot is grassy and windy too but at least a bit further down from the saddle. It’s promising to be a frosty night. My nose is still running and I’ve started using my shammy as a hand kerchief. 
We can’t believe we’re almost done!!!