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!

 

 

 

Backpacking 101 or 2

Some time ago I noticed several posts in a online women’s hiking group about wanting to go out backpacking but having no or limited experience. I thought it would fun and rewarding to take a group out and help them feel more comfortable to stay out overnight. I planned a beginners group and got a request for an intermediate as well.

The beginners group consisted of five women ranging in age from fourteen to late forties. I chose a mellow route of about four miles to the Eliza Brook shelter. Getting to the trail head was a little rough and we parked in the lot just before the actual trailhead because I knew there were big rocks at the turn off. Rachel was running late and I was afraid she wasn’t going to make it but she pulled in just as we were ready to get started. I don’t doubt she would have caught up to us being a pretty speedy hiker but having her with us from the start was much better. This being in the White Mountains there were of course a few steeper inclines but everyone did great. It seemed that all the ladies had looked at the pack list I had put together before hand and nobody was carrying a monster pack which is always helpful. I only had to give out one virtual penalty to Emma, the teenager, who was wearing a cotton t-shirt. Thankfully she did have other layers with her which were non cotton so we didn’t have to fire her from the group. We had one decent view on the ridge and just as we were about to take a group shot a gentleman walked by. We jokingly asked him to join in our picture and he totally seized the opportunity to photo bomb our shot. So funny.

When we arrived at the shelter we set up our tents on the group tent platforms, it was cozy but we fit them all in. Initially I had planned for those interested to go up to South Kinsman to tag a 4000 footer but the weather wasn’t great and it turned to drizzle and rain soon after we got to the shelter. Here’s where Laura and Dolores came in, our two social members of the group. They kept conversation going and Laura asked questions like which musical artist we would choose to listen to if we were stranded on a deserted island and had to pick just one. Other entertainment was provided by Appalachian Trail hikers stopping in for a break and others stopping here for the day as well. Most were fun to talk to but one of them was terse and later wrote in the shelter register that he stopped in to hear the sewing circle cackle. We thought this to be rather rude.

After dinner we continued chatting for while and figured out that the older man in the shelter wasn’t ignoring us on purpose, he just couldn’t understand us. Thanks to Veronica we found out he’s from Spain and hiking the AT. She had a nice conversation with him in Spanish while I added my lame basic phrases I remembered from college. Two other guys came in and decided to stay in the shelter for the night. They were very nice and changed our name from cackling sewing circle to Team Ovarian Steel. That sounded much more hard core, we liked it!

In the morning we were all happy to see that our gear held up in the rain and after breakfast we headed back down the trail. The down hill and creek crossings were no problem for anyone and we were back at the trail head in no time. The first overnight was a success! : ) (and no, we didn’t know we were all going to wear aqua shirts lol!)

 

The intermediate overnight was this past weekend and ended up just being my friend Anna who I had invited for fun and my facebook friend Rachel who I hadn’t hiked with yet but I knew she was a strong hiker. Rachel was the only one who hadn’t backpacked before so both Anna and I were telling her what stuff she could take out of her pack and leave in my car. I knew the two of them were strong hikers who could probably walk circles around me so I picked a redline for me and a challenging AT section for them. We were going to climb Goose Eye mountain and then hike the so called ‘hardest mile on the Appalachian Trail’, the Mahoosuc Notch. We were impressed with the view from the Outlook on the way up the Success Trail and had a nice break there.

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We continued on but took it easy and chatted up a storm. Before we knew it we were on the ridge and our ascent mellowed out a bit. I was sweating buckets because it was so hot and grabbed some emergency water along the way, it’s a fairly dry ridge but we found some water next to a bog bridge. I was happy when we found a better source a bit further on and I could dump the giant piece of moss that was floating in my bottle.

We climbed up to Goose Eye Mountain using ladders and metal rungs and again had amazing views! We’re so lucky! We only saw one hiker on the trail the entire day, and its pretty quiet at the shelter site.

At the Full Goose shelter we set up on the group site platform. Well, the girls did, I was too lazy and slept out. It didn’t seem too buggy but it only takes one buzzing insect to drive me crazy. Luckily the buzzing stopped and I slept well. In the morning Rachel tested out the different sleeping pad options and we discussed the pros and cons of hammocks and the different types of tents. After the luxurious morning coffee we set off to scramble through the Notch. We saw a several AT hikers and a few section hikers that day and had fun negotiating the boulders and caves. There was still some ice left which made it nice and cool for such a hot day.

We had a leisurely lunch at a stream, made sure to hydrate and started up the Mahoosuc Arm. We took our time and chatted away and before we knew it we were on top! After that we took the May cutoff and headed down the Speck pond trail back to Anna’s car.

It was so much fun hiking with all these ladies, I may have to make this a yearly tradition. And I’ll definitely hope some of this years’ participants will join me again, or organize their own trips. : )

Gordon Pond and Dilly Trails

In my quest to redline the White Mountain trails I set out to hike the Gordon Pond trail on Friday. By biking down hill from the Beaver Brook trail parking lot to the Gordon Pond trailhead I planned to make a loop connecting up with the Kinsman Ridge trail and descending the Dilly trail which I also still needed for the redlining. This was a great plan except that I couldn’t quite figure out where the trailhead was from looking at the map. I naively plugged in Gordon Pond trail in the google app on my phone and started biking towards it. If my morning brain had been a little bit more functional I would have realized that going uphill towards the trailhead really didn’t match the map at all but I continued walking my bike up (because who bikes up hill anyways?) until Google said I was at the trail.

I was a little confused not to find a parking lot and headed left. I crossed underneath some powerlines, saw a few confusing signs and proceeded to park my bike behind some trees. It was then that I checked my Gaia app and realized I was supposed to head uphill and that I had missed the bottom part.  Oops!

Still slightly confused I follow the Gaia track, and ignoring the trail signs at the powerlines again I continue straight across the road, park the bike and come to another trail junction. I turn left but that doesn’t jive with my map or the Gaia track (downloaded forest service map, which isn’t always correct btw) so I turn back and continue straight. I’m following some blue blazes and think I’m on the right track now (I’m discarding the Gaia track at this point because it’s nonsense). I turn left onto a road bed and soon follow along the creek. It’s pleasant walk to where I have to cross the creek. It’s a fairly easy boulder hop across just below where the trail crosses and I continue on. It’s starting to climb a bit now but it’s all pretty gentle. I’m enjoying how green everything is.

I don’t enjoy the little garter snake when I see it at first because snakes always startle me at first. It’s not moving at all so I can take a nice picture of it and hike on. Poor guy is probably cold.

I can hear Gordon Falls as I get closer and enjoy a nice view from the top of them. Crossing right above you have to watch your step since the rock is pretty mossy but it’s a pretty sweet area. Not too much later I cross it again and a little further it gets  muddy with some eroded trail and a mud pit. My poor shoes are getting sucked in a few times. Eventually I make it to the spur trail to Gordon pond. There is a big boulder with a small cairn on it marking the turn to the left to stay on the main trail but if you continue straight you’ll get to a nice spot to view the pond and if you’re lucky you can see Mt Wolf. There are some mediocre campsites in the area as well. I enjoy a little break eating some cookies, testing out my rain jacket in the drizzle. Just past the pond I startle a porcupine waddling up the trail, he climbs a tree to get away from me. They’re such cool animals!

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I soon make it up to the Kinsman ridge trail and have a fairly easy jaunt over to the Dilly trail. I meet four thru hikers along the way and wish I had brought more extra snacks to hand out. One of them had taken a picture of my car in the parking lot with the excessive hiking and triple crown stickers. Haha.

The Dilly trail is listed as a very difficult trail so I was wondering how hard it would really be. I would have preferred to do it uphill but with the way I made this into a loop I didn’t have that option. In the end it wasn’t all that bad. Yes, the trail was steep, rocky and rooty. But it was dry and I just stashed my poles and took my time. I had an okay view from the ledge and made it down to the closed sign at the trailhead safely. I even walked the nature trail at the bottom but it wasn’t all that exciting. I thought about visiting the lost river gorge but wasn’t willing to pay the $19 to get in so I walked up the road back to my car.

Of course there was still the mystery of the missing mile on the Gordon Pond trail so I finally did what I should have done in the first place and pulled out my White Mountain Guide. It perfectly described where the trail starts and where you can park. It isn’t odd that I missed it since it’s unmarked parking next to a restaurant (don’t park there after 4pm) and you have to walk up a private driveway past a garage to turn onto a rail road grade. You’ll eventually see a gate, walk around it and get to the powerlines I saw in the morning. Instead of continuing straight like I did, the trail actually turns where the signs are which I didn’t pay attention to in the morning. It then continues uphill and turns again to join the trail I followed in the morning. Now the confusing junctions all make sense. Haha. I guess that White Mountain guide book is pretty useful if you actually read it! Duh.

Grafton Loop Trail

May 28-29, 2016

To avoid the Memorial Day crowds we decided to head up to Maine and hike the Grafton Loop Trail. It’s a 38.6 mile loop going over Bald Mountain, Stowe Mountain, Sunday River Whitecap and Old Speck on the western side of the loop and going over West Baldpate, East Baldpate, Long and Puzzle mountains on the east side. It’s a lightly travelled loop and we saw about 30 hikers the entire weekend of which most were on Sunday River Whitecap and Old Speck mountains.

We had an early start on Day 1 and soon were huffing and puffing up Bald Mountain. The scenery was lush and pretty and the trail wasn’t too rough but the unexpected heat combined with the exertion of climbing rather steeply near the summit made me feel pretty miserable and slightly nauseaous. After making a conscious effort to hydrate and eat a small snack I started feeling better and we eventually made it up the Sunday River Whitecap. We only saw two other hikers on their way down and two adults and two kids and dogs on the summit. We were wondering how many people would be on Franconia Ridge right now.

The views from the summit were amazing. We enjoyed a nice little break and looked around at what we just hiked and what was up ahead. We could see our entire loop from here.

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On our way down the black flies came out in full force and I hadn’t planned for them. I made do with my fleece lined buff tucked underneath my visor so at least they wouldn’t buzz my ears. In one of the worst sections they were dive bombing my face and I wished we had brought a head net or Deet. Near Slide mountain campsite we met another hiker who offered us Deet and even though I hate the stuff I happily put some on my arms.

We tanked up on water and continued hiking up Old Speck. We were both feeling poorly and low on energy. Greenleaf stopped to snack and drink some more and as a last resort put some music on. I passed him but sat down on the trail not much later. I suddenly felt really miserable. Downing some more water and trying to eat another snack I just sat there for a while hoping not to get nauseous again. When I finally got up I didn’t feel all that much better and even a little shaky but I didn’t have that much climbing left to do and figured I’d stay on the summit until I felt better.

At the summit I found Greenleaf taking a break. It was clouding over a bit but he was still sitting in a semi sunny spot and it was hot. I laid down knowing I should be in the shade but I was too out of it to move. We added Nuun rehydration tablets to our water and ate several electrolyte bites. I  felt some energy coming back but my body still needed to cool down so I finally did what I should have done earlier and moved over to a shady spot. This instantly helped. I didn’t care that I was laying in wet dirt with some possible moose poop. I felt a hundred times better than I did 30 minutes ago. I even felt ready to climb the fire tower but I didn’t feel the views were worth the effort at this time. It had gotten pretty hazy and the view from the last summit had been so amazing it wasn’t really going to add much to our hike. Plus we’d already been up there several times before.

With renewed energy we hiked to the junction with the AT and met a thru hiker on his way down. He started mid February to stay ahead of the crowds and had had a rough time through the Whites. I noticed that he had a PCT patch which prompted me to start up a conversation about the different long distance trails. I love talking trail! Greenleaf and I pulled off for a second to grab some more snacks and I discovered an extra brownie. Now the chase was on! I wanted to give it to the thru hiker. I needed to catch him soon since we were planning on hiking the Eye brow trail instead of the AT. Luckily I caught him just in time. The brownie was successfully handed over and we continued on our separate ways.

The Eye Brow trail was an interesting little trail. It had a few slab sections with rebar and cables and  a steep down hill lined with cables too. It had some nice views along the way but we were glad when we made it to the parking lot and sat down for dinner. It was a buggy spot but we covered up and ate.

We continued going up to the Baldpates with the idea to get over East Baldpate tonight to enjoy the cooler temperatures. Instead of staying on the AT we took the Table Rock side trail which had a short bouldering section. I thought it was fun but Greenleaf was a bit grumpy because it was slow. The view from Table Rock was cool, we could see all the peaks we climbed earlier today.

Making our way back to the AT we concluded that going any further than the Baldpate Lean-to wasn’t in the cards for us tonight. The heat took a lot out of us today and pushing any further would have just been miserable. At the shelter we found the AT hiker fast asleep so we set up our tent and called it a night. It had been a tough hot 20 mile day with over 7000 ft of climbing.

Day 2 was a very different story, we woke up in the clouds and it was so much cooler. We loved it! Sure we didn’t have amazing views but these temperatures were such a relief from yesterday. We climbed easily up to West and East Baldpates to the junction where the AT and the Grafton Loop trail split up.

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This section of the trail was much softer and felt not as well traveled as the other side. There were multiple stream crossings but they were all rock hoppable. At times it felt as if we were hiking in Vermont, it was so green and lush. There was even a nice section where we could totally cruise. I loved it! It was only when we got closer to Puzzle mountain that the temperatures rose and the bugs came out again. They made me very grumpy for a bit but luckily disappeared again and my mood improved. The trail only hits the west peak of Puzzle mountain but it has some decent views. We couldn’t see the tops of the mountains we climbed yesterday but we had that view yesterday from Table Rock. I’m glad we did that little side trip after all.

Descending Puzzle mountain was indeed like a puzzle, following small cairns and occasional blazes we found ourselves descending steep slabs and rocky sections. We were relieved when it mellowed out and we could hit a stride again. After about 18 miles and some 5000 ft of climbing we found ourselves back at the car, eating snacks and planning our next adventure. This was a great loop and besides the near heat exhaustion and annoying bugs we really enjoyed it.