Stone Mountain Camping

Finally!  I finally have a camping trip under my belt where I stayed for the entire allotted time!!  UNFORTUNATELY, it still rained.  I think I may just be cursed to be a rainy camper.  Is that better?  Tell me it’s better 😥

I had plenty of time to set up camp. I had my hammock with rainfly, tent, and a shelter that I put a chair under.

Campsite
Campsite 1

Campsite from the other end
Campsite 2

Camp set up with shelter
Set up withno chair

Chair and table addedClean set up

It seemed to work initially, but then I was sitting in the chair after the rain started and my head was touching the tarp. Something happened, but I don’t know what. I ended up putting a trekking pole under to hold it up (bad cell photo below). It worked well enough.

Tracking pole

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stake my tent. There were rocks everywhere in the tent pad area. I don’t know who thought that was a good idea, but I bent a fucking stake trying to get it in. I finally gave up, threw my shit in and crossed my fingers. It stayed put, so that was good.

I was able to cook Saturday evening. I skewered some mini potatoes and onions for a side.  Some asparagus to be cooked in a ceramic skillet that I bought to use instead of the mini skillet.  I figure this would be better for cooking things like eggs.  I didn’t want normal non-stick just because of the high temperatures I would be cooking over.

Getting ready to cook
Dinner 1

Everything on the grill: Kielbasa, Asparagus, and a potato and mini onion skewer
Add asparagus

Dinner is served
Dinner served

Just as I was finishing eating, the rain came in. I was able to hang out in my chair and in my hammock. The only problem was I always underestimate how cold it is going to be. The hammock is REALLY cold. the good news is that I really didn’t get too wet.  With the hammock and the shelter so close to each other, it was really easy to move from one to the other

For breakfast, I had some extra egg salad leftover from the week.  Instead of cooking, I decided to just bring that.  I was afraid it would go bad before I got back.  You don’t want to take any chances with eggs!  The thing is, I think I prefer hot breakfasts.  Now, I know.  No big deal.

The next day, I did a small hike to the summit of Stone Mountain. I was warned by a friend that the rocks can get very slippery in the rain. He said not to try to hike in the rain. Since I had NO service, I had no idea what the weather was going to be. I risked it and headed out around 10am. I could see why it would be bad to get caught there in the rain.

At the summit, some idiot broke a tree branch to hang a flag, basically ruining the view.  I didn’t stay there long because it pissed me off how many people saw it and said “Cool”.  I went to a lower outlook that I preferred.  I like sandwiches when I hike, so I hung out here and ate my sandwich.

Favorite spot

I did see a storm coming in, so I went back the way I came instead of completing the loop.  Torrential downpour started as I pulled into my campsite.

I started getting a migraine, but forgot to bring my meds with me.  I accepted having to just deal when I said WTF? I can run to the store.  I fumbled around trying to find a signal so I could get maps to find a place for pills.  I finally got it, grabbed some Excedrin PM and hustled it back to the site before the gates locked.  This marks the first time I actually left to take care of something like that.  At Hanging Rock, I just kind of suffered through.  Not fun and unnecessary.  It was much more pleasant after taking the pills, but I didn’t feel like cooking what I had planned and it was still raining.  I decided to just make some soup on the camp stove.  It was tasty AND fun!

Fire stove

Monday was when I was leaving.  My friend had texted me the forecast the day before (I had ZERO cell service except for texting) and it was supposed to rain at noon.  I left 8ish to go see a waterfall.  I came back and proceeded to clean up everything but the hammock.  I didn’t feel like racing the rain to grill, so I had a snack instead and McDonald’s (SHAME) on the way home.  Apparently the forecast changed and I could’ve cooked with no problem.

Hammock sitting
Last view

My next camping trip is coming up next weekend (since I was lazy and waited so long to write this post) and my food is going to be wildly different.  There’s a short walk from the car to the camp site, so I am using it as an excuse to try some backpacking type food.  That means no grill, just the camp stove, and food rehydrated with water (and some back up soups.  Cause soup is awesome).  I mean, why not!  I want to make some food myself.  It’s so much cheaper if you can.  I am also buying some pre-made stuff because I’m curious.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even like the oatmeal!!  I’ve got to hit some REIs in the area to see what they have.  I mean, I’ll have a whole weekish to prepare, I should be fine right?  RIGHT?!?! 😯

 

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Death to the Winged Bitey Creatures of EVIL

As you may have guessed from my last post, I attract bugs like a magnet. I thought I wouldn’t stop me from hiking. I read the labels on the lotion I had, but it can’t be used under clothing. Since I got bit THROUGH my clothing, that wasn’t an option. I went to REI and got some advice. Picaridin spray could be used over the clothing and still had the same effectiveness of 100% Deet spray without all the bothersome melting of plastics and stuff. The helpful staff also told me to spray my clothes (BEFORE wearing!) with premethrin. Now, I was aware of the option – I used it on all my gear. My concern was the fact that my hiking clothes and workout clothes came from the same pile. He assured me that it wouldn’t be a problem He said he used it on his army clothes in the desert. Good enough for me!

I tried picaridin spray first, but I must’ve missed some spots because I still ended up with like 5 bug bites. Medoc Mountain State Park was not kind to me that day. I was miserable because I was basically being swarmed by bugs. Imagine Pig Pen from Charlie Brown, but instead of dirt? Bugs. Bugs in my ears. Bugs in my eyes. Bugs IN MY MOUTH! 😡 Needless to say, I didn’t do as much hiking as I wanted that day. The best part was getting my stamp and chatting with the gentleman that worked inside

Next, I sprayed my pants, shirt, and socks with premethrin a couple days before my hike. I also supplemented with picaridin lotion on the exposed skin. Morrow Mountain State Park was a MUCH happier day. There wasn’t a bug around me the entire time. It was the premethrin or the fact that there were no bugs in the entire park. I’m leaning to the premethrin. I still heard some buzzing around, but they didn’t stay long.

I am hoping that my luck holds out when I go camping this weekend. Yep, again. Third time’s the charm, right?

Here’s some pics from Medoc mountain. I was playing with a new toy I got for my camera. It’s called an achromat. It’s a cheaper way to get macro photos than buying a whole lens. It’s basically to hold me off from buying a third lens

And no, there’s no one else in this picture. Creepy.

Rocks

Mushroom

Forest

Hope this helps someone! I’ll be back to post my success and/or failures from the camping trip this weekend 😀

Camping fail #2

Whelp, another camping fail under the belt. At this rate, I’ll be an expert at what NOT to do soon. 🙂 It’s all part of the adventure, right? Well, two good things happened. I got to set up my hammock with the rain fly and I got to use my stove!

I’m telling you. Sitting in that hammock in the rain was the most relaxed I have been in a LONG time. In fact, I am looking for a place to hang my hammock without having to camp. I may have found a place! I’ll report back

Here’s my set up at Pettigrew State Park

All set up

During the rain – it was POURING

River

After the rain – I think this set up has the rain fly a little higher

After the rain

Surprisingly, it wasn’t the rain that drove me out. It was the bugs. I was getting bit through 3ish layers of 30% DEET spray. AND through my clothes! I ended up with 11 bites before I left. If I had a bug net for my hammock, I may have stayed. Since I didn’t, I knew it was only going to get worse at night. Who knows how many bites I would’ve ended up with

Before making the decision, I made some dinner! I boiled some water to cook some bulgur and reheated some chicken and broccoli from home. It worked out well, just lacking in flavor a little bit. I forgot the soup base for the bulgur water.

Pettigrew

In addition to forgetting the soup base, I forgot the following

  • Butter for cooking
  • Clothes to sleep in
  • Extra clothes for sweat relief
  • Tent (pure laziness)
  • Chair to sit in
  • The non-deet bug spray alternative
  • A bottle of water to use with my NUUN
  • Drink coozie
  • Cooking utensil
  • The big stove
  • ALMOST forgot my hiking shoes

Not a lot of things, just essential ones. I am pretty sure there was more, but I can’t remember, so they must not have been important, right? Basically, I need to prepare instead of packing the morning of the trip. It should be an obvious thing, but not for me! Well, the next trip isn’t until close to the end of July. This will be to the mountains, so the bugs should be better. I hope the rain will hold off, but as long as I can get my hammock and rain fly set up.

Until then, the hiking and passport stamps continue!!

NC State Park Passport

I mentioned previously that I am doing the NC State Park Passport challenge.  It was something to do while I pay off my travels from last year.  Little did I know it was going such a big expense!  It is definitely cheaper than spontaneously planning trips across the country 🙂 Anyways, it’s a little booklet that you can get from any visitor center in a state park.  You can also send away for it, too.  Every time you go to a park, you go to the visitor center and get a stamp.  Like a passport – get it?  😉

That’s why I started looking for all the information on camping and started getting out there.  I’ve got 13 stamps so far.  I never got the one from Hanging Rock, but I’ll get that on my way to camp at Pilot Mountain.  Every time you complete 10 stamps, you get some “stuff”.  For the first 10, I got a pen, a sticker, a bracelet, a tube of insect repellent, and a packet of sunscreen.  I’ll get something at 20, 30, and 40 parks.  If I complete all the parks plus a part of the mountains to sea trail in one year, I get other stuff.  I don’t remember what, but that’s part of the fun for me.  Now, you don’t have to complete it in a year.  It’s just a goal that gets me out of the house.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but I also take pictures when I go.  I love to take pictures.  Basically, the only reason I started hiking was because I bought the camera 😀  I’ve started taking enjoyment in seeing all the little things along the hike.  Bugs, flowers, snakes, birds, everything!

I’m actually thinking of doing a series of posts about my hiking, but I discovered something – I DON’T HAVE ANY PICTURES OF MY FIRST STAMP!!  The HORROR!  I don’t know what happened!!  I guess I’ll have to go back to the Eno 😮 😉

Here’s a picture to hold you over while I get some thoughts together.  This is from Kerr Lake State Park.  It was the second park I went to for a stamp.

Kerr Lake

Attempts at Camping Food

The biggest problem I have run into, surprisingly, is food.  You can find plenty of information on solo hiking food or solo backpacking food, but apparently no one in the world has ever posted about solo camping food.  It’s a enormous information gap.  I can’t even get those pre-made dehydrated meals because even those have 2 servings.  There are some with a single serving, but very, very few.  There’s nothing out there for making food for one.  Personally, I am not into just eating nuts and jerky for three days.

I thought about buying separate dehydrated or freeze dried ingredients to make my own meals, but since I’m not backpacking, that’s a HUGE expense.  I was really surprised at the price of it all.  Same with dehydrating my own food.  I think it’s a good idea if you backpack a lot, but I won’t be (for now).

That leaves a cooler and regular food.  Still, no recipes for solo meals.  Everything is for families and groups.  Well, ESCUUUUUSE ME for not having a gaggle of people to go into the woods with!!  It’s really quite sad.  How many people out there that are looking for solo cooking info and can’t find it?  It can be a little depressing to try and take this great big tasty looking recipe and make it for one!  I will not be deterred, though.  Screw you guys.  Hopefully I can help all the people out there who want to go camping on their own.

The only thing that can easily be adapted for solo campers is hobo packets.  If you’ve never made them, they are basically a protein, vegetable, some fat, in a foil packet that you throw on a heat source to cook.  Open and eat.  Easy prep, easy clean up, and completely customizable.

The other thing is canned soups and such.  I know canned soups are usually for multiple servings, but there are so few people that exist who actually follow the serving size on soup cans.  I mean, really.  Basically anything you can cook in the little pot from my last post can be an option.

I like to stock up on food that I think will be good to use with the pot and stoves.  For example, Bear Creek Soup is easy to portion out, light weight, and only needs boiling water.  I figured have that, with a can of chicken, maybe some cous cous?  The only thing missing is vegetables (I’m still researching different options for this).  Random canned soup.  Basically back up food.  Or food to use when I have to hike in and can’t necessarily bring in the whole cooler.

On my very first camping trip, I went with a friend, so it’s not exactly to the tone of this post.  I’ll write about that another time.

The second trip was the rained out one.  While that sucked, I still got to cook two meals – both on my portable grill!

First was a lovely dinner of asparagus and hot dogs.  I tried to make some flat bread, but I forgot how much water I needed and added too much.  I was disappointed, but also hungry.  I tried to salvage it, but it turned out to be like a tasteless pancake. 😛

 

CookingFriDinner

Oh!  And watermelon!  Almost looks like a normal dinner, right?FridayDinner
The next meal was breakfast.  I went with a hobo packet type deal like I mentioned above.  I portioned everything out at home.
SaturdayBreakfast2

I created a pocket and lined it with oil.SaturdayBreakfast3

In first was the potatoes and ham.  I added a little butter for flavor and a little salt and pepper.  I let that cook until it looked good to me.
SaturdayBreafast4

Then, I added the eggs on top and cooked to my desired consistency.  Then, I put the cheese on top, closed the lid of the grill, and turned off the heat.  Voila, breakfast
SaturdayBreakfast5

Add a book and call it good.  I would definitely make this again.
SaturdayBreakfast

I had a pre-made sandwich packed for the hike.  And as you know, I got rained out before I made any other food.

I just made a reservation for next weekend for a simple overnight stay.  That’s going to pose some unique challenges of not over packing OR under packing.  I’m nervous and excited all at the same time!  Stay tuned for more food adventures!!

 

Throwing in the towel

See this spot?  This is where I was going to write some huge uplifting post about my first solo camping trip.  I’ll still write about it, but it was not some huge triumph or anything.  I didn’t stay the whole weekend.  I didn’t even make it a full 24 hours.  I got rained out.  Yep – beaten by rain.  I was hoping to be saved by the famous North Carolina sudden weather change.  I was not.  Sun shining, promises of warmth, that the rain was over, and BAM – the bitch poured on me.  Lured me into false comfort!!

It started easily enough.  I was hiking and saw the storm move in.  I got soaked – accepted it and moved on.  Got the picnic blanket and put it in my wet hammock and relaxed.  The sun was shining, birds singing (literally), and I decided it was the perfect time to do the dishes.  I put on the last warm thing I had and headed to the utility sinks.  Skies opened up and I started getting wet again.  Waited it out after finishing the dishes and finally walked back to the site.  Took all the doubly wet clothes off the fence they were “drying” on and threw them in a garbage bag.  Of course, it started to pour down rain again.  I got soaked.  Again.

I sat there, in my tent, after getting soaked the THIRD time, looking at the wet hoodie, I wondered what I was doing.  What am I holding out for in the rain?  Why am I still here?  What am I trying to prove?  There is no one with me.  There are no demanding plans I needed to get to the next day.  So, what was stopping me?  I’m only 2 hours from home!  A bit of pride, I suppose.  A bit of shame.  Expecting people to judge me if I left because of rain.  Would I be a failure because weather forced me home?

I finally said fuck it.  I’m miserable.  I’m not going to stay here, hiding in my tent, miserable.  I want camping to be enjoyable, not a chore.  So, I packed it all up (badly) and left.  Screw what anyone else thinks.  None of them want to go camping with me, why should they be part of my decision to leave??  Nope.  Not at all.  Now, if they had come with me, it would be a different story.  I may not have left.  We may have waited it out, maybe even been more prepared by having the tarp up.  But, until there are more people with me, I don’t give a shit what they think.  If I’m not “a real camper” because of it, then maybe I don’t WANT to be.

The sad part is that I even got a tarp to help protect against the rain.  I just never hung it.  Friday night was a race to get to the I got a tarp to hang up to protect me from the rain just in case.  I got all packed up (late, of course) and left.  I got there and set everything up.  The original plan was to get some hiking in on the first day, but I was so late, I just wanted to get camp set up.

That all being said, I did have a few enjoyable moments 🙂  I had a good hike.  I got to try out my hammock and my grill.  I got to sleep on my new sleeping pad.  I would say that it is definitely not the worst camping trip that can happen.  I’ll write about the food and the good things soon.

Last note: camping solo means you make ALL the decisions.  Never be ashamed to bail early.  If you are miserable, go home!  Who cares what others think?

Creating home base

Home base!  Basically the stuff I want to take on every single trip (excluding the kitchen box).  I had an idea to put it in a container (of course) and leave it in the car.  Then, I remembered I live in the south.  Not gonna happen.  It’s still in a container for ease of car loading.

One thing I want to (re)mention is that you don’t have to spend a whole lot of money at first.  See if you can get things on sale or get basic versions until you decide if you actually like camping or not.  Look into stores like REI that have a great return policy.  If you go once, decide you HATE it, you can take it all back.

First, a tent (obviously) – I got a 2-person tent for just me.  It has plenty of room for the sleeping pad, bag, and some other things.  Make sure the one you choose has some venting and mesh areas.  The mesh on the roof should be covered with a rain fly.  This should add ventilation when it gets warmer (to be determined on my second camping trip).
EssentialTent

Next, a sleeping bag (rated to the temperature that you will be camping ) – Depending on the time of year you go, you may be able to get away with just using a quilt or blanket.  Remember, you are only limited by the size of your car.  I decided to get an actual bag.  It was a really good idea for the first trip.  It was FREEZING at night.  The bag I bought is rated to 20 degrees.  Plenty low for NC……hopefully!!

A sleeping bag’s partner – a sleeping pad (helps to protect from cold coming from the ground and provides cushioning).  I really struggled with this.  I didn’t really think I needed one, but my online peeps convinced me to get one.  Let me tell you, I was SO happy I had it.  While it wasn’t thick enough for a side sleeper like me, it provided much needed insulation from the ground.  One night, I put one leg on the pad and one leg on the ground.  Even in the bag, there was a HUGE difference.  Get one.  Thank me later.  I actually ended up upgrading to an inflatable sleeping pad to provide more support so I can sleep on my side.

Tarp/footprint for under the tent – In conjunction with the sleeping pad, this helps to insulate the tent.  I think it also does something with moisture?  🙂  You could buy an expensive footprint or just get a tarp that does the exact same thing.  I went with a tarp.  A silver one.  Cause it’s cool……and because it was the only size that matched my tent footprint 😛  Since it’s calling for rain, I also got a large tarp to try and set up some cover so I can still cook.

Recently, I picked up a hammock, too.  I got an extra large rainfly just for it (see rain note above).  I am going to try it out to see if it’s an option for sleeping in the hot weather.
EssentialNoTent

Camp chairs – Get one.  Love it.  I have a few since they were going to be on the back porch, but I stopped going out there (it’s a whole other rant/story).  The ones I have include a cooler in the arm!  Perfect 😀  (There’s only 3 in the picture because one is still in the car :/)
EssentialsChair

Changing shelter – Ok, so this is a huge splurge, but nothing I could find actually told me how to change in the woods.  I mean, it’s a bit easier for guys – all they have to worry about is below the belt.  Us women have to worry about top and bottom.  The idea of changing in a tent REALLY didn’t appeal to me.  When I saw a lightly damaged one at the REI Garage Sale, I snagged it for a quarter of the price.  I may not set it up every time, but it’s damn convenient.  I think it could be really good for changing in the rain, but I need to check and make sure it isn’t a mesh top.
EssentialShelter

Rope – Essential for many different things.  I plan on using it to hang a clothesline and also hang up the cover tarp.  I could also use the stakes from the changing shelter (if I don’t use it) to anchor it.

Some odds and ends that I have: bug spray specifically for gear, solar powered light/charger (I also have a regular charger that is getting charged), single-player logic game (not pictured….cause….I’m, um, testing it out.  Yea, testing it out), book(s), duct tape, extra head lamp, flip flops in case I want to shower, and bite/sting kit.  I am not sure how practical the bite/sting kit is, but I wanted to give it a shot in case I get bit.  Those damn mosquitoes LOVE me.
EssentialsRandom

That’s the bulk of it.  I am sure that there is more that I am just not thinking of at the moment.  It’ll come out in the posts about the actual camping trip, I’m sure.  I hope this was all helpful.  Looking forward to more posts 🙂  Maybe food next?