Grand Trunk UltraLight Has Arrived

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I’m beginning to think that my obsession for hammocks isn’t far behind that of backcountry stoves. When I learned that Green Life Outfitters was having a great 40% sale on everything I found myself for no apparent reason looking at the Grand Trunk UltraLight hammock. It’s not like I need another hammock. Heck, I wasn’t even thinking about getting one. But it was 40% off! ๐Ÿ™‚ So I whipped out my card, selected my color, and ordered a camo hammock. Camo was a little more expensive but it still came in at $20. Not bad for a loaner I can use with friends.

So look what UPS delivered today. The first thing I did was open her up and throw her on the scale. The packaging says it weighs 12 oz. Mine was a little lighter.
Virgin Hammock

The second thing I did was gasp at the stock suspension…heavy rope and S hooks. I think I was actually expecting it though I hadn’t consciously given it any thought.
Stock Suspension

I headed to the backyard to test her out. It took some fiddling with the stock suspension and my straps to get it remotely hanging properly but it was good enough for a quick test.
Hanging
Well, it looks good. I had some material flopping around so I’ll have to figure out what to do with that. Doesn’t feel too shabby. Curses! Skeeters attacking in droves! Head for the hills!

Back in the safety of the driveway I quickly sat down with my fresh batch of Amsteel and got busy making whoopie while my son rode his bike and I nursed my new bites.
Whoopie Suspension

Alas, with 7/64″ I only shaved an ounce. Of course I gained a lot more flexibility. I might have to pull out the Dynaglide, though. ๐Ÿ˜‰
Modified on Scale

I hope to get it out in the yard again today or over the weekend. I need more time to determine if it’ll become something I take along with me or just loan out to others. For the price, though, it’ll be hard to go wrong. Time to find a bugnet too!

Saw Maintenance Time!

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Unfortunately I couldn’t make the re-cert course so my USFS sawyer certification has expired which means I can’t clear the blowdowns in the forest. ๐Ÿ™ However, knowing they’re there and having a friend with a tree that needs to come down inspired me to pull out my Echo CS-400 saw this weekend. Sometimes I wish I had a 20″ bar but so far the 18″ has been sufficient.

I wish I could remember where I picked up the 1-gal gas can I have but I haven’t found it at Wal-Mart, Home Depot, or Lowe’s. It’s nice because the spill-proof nozzle is finger-operated instead of having to pull down on the nozzle to release the fuel. Of course what I really want for the saw is a mini piggy which carries both fuel and chain oil. I grabbed the old can and added some fuel, Stabil, and 2-cycle oil. Then I filled up the chain oil.

Mini Piggy Oil-Gas Can

After adjusting the chain tension and checking the air filter I fired her up and she purred like a kitten. It only took two pulls (one with the choke and one without) to get her started. I was feeling a little lazy and didn’t really want to bend over to cut a log so I grabbed a small one and locked it down in my Jawhorse. She sliced through like warm butter. In just a few minutes I was covered in sawdust. It’s a great feeling. ๐Ÿ™‚

My Echo CS-400 Saw

Sorry, I didn’t realize I had the white balance set to fluorescent so it’s blue. ๐Ÿ™

I’m hoping the USFS will let me slide on my cert so I can get back in the woods to clear the trees that are blocking the trail and driving me nuts. Keepin’ my fingers crossed!

Osceola National Forest Work Hike #1

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Cooler temperatures not only mark the beginning of Fall but in NE Florida they also mark the beginning of trail maintenance season. We did a little maintenance before October in preparation for the FTA Regional Conference but the tough stuff started this month.

One of the tougher sections to maintain is within the Osceola National Forest starting at the historic Olustee Battlefield. The park commemorates the site of Florida’s largest Civil War battle, which took place February 20, 1864. It is also the site of a very large reenactment each February. In addition to its historical roots the forest is also home to red cockaded woodpeckers which can often be seen or heard as you leave the trailhead along the Nice Wander Loop.

We started early Saturday morning with a large group and quickly ran into a muddy, mucky mess several hundred yards from the trailhead. Fortunately it was short-lived and didn’t extend more than about 100 yards. The new DR brush mower motored right through it and didn’t bog down any.

Work Crew

The forest grows back quickly and sometimes it was hard to follow the trail because things had grown over so much. The abundance of rain had helped the vegetation do a good job of hiding the trail. Unfortunately we only had a single mower running and while we started off doing multiple passes we would have been there all day. We ended up switching back to a single run of each section. We’ll have to go back later to widen the cut but it was considerable more efficient. In addition to overgrowth we also had to deal with a number of blowdowns.

Overgrowth

Blowdown

The crew did a great job with some heinous overgrowth. The vines were insane and at the end of each day we were wiped out. As hard as the work was it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to look at the finished product and see the visible results of your efforts.

Ocean Pond Before

Ocean Pond After

Mowin'

Unfortunately we also have some serious boardwalk repairs to make.

Ocean Pond Boardwalk

Ocean Pond Boardwalk 2

Over the course of the weekend we covered about 14 miles as we worked on the main Florida Trail as well as side trails. We also cleaned up around Osceola Shelter to ensure a nice experience at the only shelter in this section. This work hike ended at the Turkey Run trailhead. We’re done for now while we move to other areas not affected by hunting season. We’ll be back in January to finish the forest. Hopefully we’ll have a much larger group as we look to partner with the University of Florida and other colleges in the area.

Big Picture

FTA Regional Conference

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Saturday I spent the day at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park near Keystone Heights, Florida. The regional conference was an opportunity for the NE Florida chapters of the Florida Trail Association to get together and share information. The day kicked off with a short wildflower hike which was followed up by various presentations.

The FTA leadership was well-represented along with our USFS partners. The Park Service also lent a hand through a very informative presentation by the Park Manager for Gold Head. Sue Turner gave great insight into her backpacking choices and what’s allowed her to cover over 7,000 trail miles. Unfortunately I missed the presentation by the Master Naturalist since I was setting up for my own presentation.

Due to the heat the other outdoor presentations had all moved to the air-conditioned recreation hall. I decided to brave it, though. I felt that I needed more space and I certainly needed more time to setup which I couldn’t do with another presentation in the same space. There was a gorgeous view, too, and a nice breeze that cooled it off a little.

I managed to cram three hammocks under the pavilion. Of course no sooner had I done so the skies opened up and it began to rain. This wouldn’t have been a problem for me, but it was a problem for the poor folks that had to walk 100 yards to get to me. A few brave souls made the trek in the rain but fortunately it was short-lived and the others weren’t far behind.

L-R Light Hiker, BMBH UL, Explorer Ultralight

I would estimate I had about 20 in attendance. I think it went very well and we had some good dialogue back and forth. They had some great questions and hopefully I got them on the right track. I have to give major props to Brian at Butt In A Sling. After an 11th-hour rush he provided me a special Weight Weenie hammock for me to raffle off. I couldn’t believe it when I put it on the scale and it read 9.1 oz! The woman that won the hammock in the raffle was part of my audience and I think she got the questions she had answered. She was excited about the opportunity which made it even more enjoyable.

Hammock Array

Things were going so well that I ended up talking an extra 30 minutes. I called it quits and let everyone head back to the rec hall for dinner while I packed everything up and loaded the truck. When I arrived at the rec hall I was stopped by the FTA’s Trail Resource Coordinator. She told me that folks were talking about my presentation and asked if I’d be interested in doing it again. So I’m thrilled to say that I’ll be speaking at the FTA State Conference on March 16, 2013!

I also had an opportunity to discuss the State’s pilot program for hammocks with the Park Manager. I was surprised that following the site survey conducted in June no sites had been designated for hammocks. However, the PM is new and was open to my assistance in conducting another survey. He had done the survey at his previous park and supports the pilot. More good news for hammock hangers!

Day turned into night as several of us landed around the campfire and enjoyed fellowship, old stories, and even some pirate jokes. After a long day I turned down the numerous offers to stay and hit the road for home. I pulled into the driveway shortly after midnight and, as much as I love my hammocks, it felt good to be showered and in my own bed.

SC Fall Sprawl 2012

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Things have been crazy with work and family issues so I really wasn’t expecting to get away over this past weekend. I decided I needed to get away, though, and get away I did. My truck has been in the shop so I bummed a ride with some guys from work and we headed north to Santee, SC. Santee is about 4 hours from Jacksonville.

The Sprawl was being hosted for members of hammockforums.net (REV in particular) and was my first out-of-state hang. We arrived around 3pm on Friday and were surprised by the large number that had already arrived. We all found some trees and setup our hammocks before it got dark. More people arrived throughout the evening and our numbers continued to grow. In an attempt to keep things simple some of us went into town to a local BBQ joint for dinner.

Hammock

Unfortunately the group ended up dividing into two with each hanging out on either side of the group camping area. Our group turned out to have several former Navy guys so we spent the evening sharing sea stories and having a great time.

Saturday was pretty hot and the gnats were horrible. My friends Chad and Ryan along with Ryan’s son Spencer went kayaking. I spent most of the day relaxing in or around the hammock reading. The guys were gone for quite a while and I couldn’t take the bugs anymore. I decided to join the rest of the group in the lake. Lake Marion is the largest lake in South Carolina and covers close to 110,000 acres. We didn’t explore much of it but the water was cool, felt wonderful, and more importantly kept the bugs away.

Lake Marion

The other half of the group camping area was inhabited by a Scout group but we didn’t mingle much. Too bad. I bet we could have won some hammock converts. As it was we ended up with over 30 hammocks in the area!

Group Hammocks

Saturday evening was supposed to be a group dinner. Unfortunately the rain started to fall hard and fast and while it didn’t end the festivities it put a damper on them. We crammed as many as would fit under the 10×10 canopy covering the food. Fortunately it didn’t last long but the grill never fired up again and people drifted back to their own activities. Before the dinner we did have a nice raffle with prizes donated by various gear manufacturers as well as some of the members.

Raffle Table

Our group gathered around the campfire again and tried to dry the chairs out. It became pretty comical. We had a great time and shared a lot of laughs. With the rain beginning to fall again most of us called it an early night and turned in.ย I awoke early Saturday morning to a wonderful sunrise upon the lake.

Sunrise

Aside from the gnats I hadn’t really experienced any issues with mosquitoes. In fact I was quite shocked that I was able to sleep both nights without the netting. It felt great! I did end up with a few bites so I guess they were there. I just didn’t seem them. The evening was warm but there was an occasional breeze. At 5:30 Sunday morning that changed dramatically. The wind really kicked up and it turned the hammock into an ice box. I sat there in my shorts and t-shirt wishing I had my insulation. Luckily for me the rain let up and I was able to run to the van. A quick trip later my underquilt was snug against the bottom and I wrapped myself in the top quilt. I was instantly toasty and quickly fell back asleep.

This was the first time I’d had my JRB tarp in inclement weather and it did a great job. It provided plenty of coverage and despite the hard wind and rain all of my gear was dry. The only problem I had is that I’d faced the ends to the lake to enjoy the view. When the wind came the tarp turned into a wind tunnel. Fortunately my top quilt made a great deflector shield and protected my face.

Hammock

The biggest drawback to my site choice was that I didn’t think about the boat ramp. I had to contend with people coming extremely early which kept waking me up. I also had to deal with a street light (which I hadn’t noticed during the day) but it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared.

I finally got up around 8:30 and started breaking camp. After a mountain man breakfast from the Dutch oven we loaded up the van and were on the road about 1. Hopefully next year we’ll be a bit more cohesive. Regardless, I had a great time and I’m already looking forward to the next hang…wherever that might take me.

A Beast of a Tarp

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Since adding the Jacks R Better Bear Mountain Bridge Ultralight hammock to my gear closet I’ve been in need of a new tarp. I absolutely love my OES MacCat Deluxe tarp but it has two downfalls with the bridge style hammock. First it’s just a little short. I haven’t been in the elements with the combination but I don’t think I want to try it. There’s very little coverage extending beyond the end of the hammock. Second, the spreader bars push against the tarp unless you pitch it high. I have acquired some tarp pullouts to help alleviate the second problem but that still leaves me with the possibility of getting wet.

Over July 4th the Jacks had another sale and I took advantage of it. Yesterday my new 11 x 10 cat tarp arrived.ย The 11 foot sides have dual catenary cut edges to trim weight and allow for a taut pitch. The pitching options are almost endless with a total of 21 tie-outs. Of course the first thing I did was drop it on the scale and it weighed in at 19.1 oz. That’s only 1/10th of an ounce above the advertised weight so I’ll chalk it up to the scale. ๐Ÿ™‚

Packaged Tarp

I have to say I don’t see any way I’ll run the risk of getting wet under this thing. One perk with the sale is that the price included seam sealing which is normally an additional charge. I quickly setup the continuous ridgeline (CRL) from my MacCat and pitched the tarp in a regular A frame style.

Hung Tarp

One thing I realized I need to get busy with is making new tie-outs. I also need to take some additional stakes since I’ll use at least a minimum of two more. Depending on the way I pitch it I may need more than that. I can only imagine this thing will be interesting to setup on a windy day!

I think this is going to be the perfect match to the BMBH UL. Stay tuned for a full-blow review!

Thank You

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Thank you to all of the brave men and women that have given so much. To those that forged this great nation and to those that are on the front lines protecting and defending it today, thank you. To the families that endure long absences wondering if their loved ones will return and to those that have had them return draped in the stars and stripes, thank you.

Cedar…Snake Killer

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If you’ve been reading this blog for any time you probably know the story about Cedar and Pumpkin. There have certainly been ups and downs with them and today was no different. While getting ready for work I let Pumpkin out to go to the restroom. She came back inside without incident. Things turned when I let Cedar out.

I hadn’t seen it until it was too late. A water moccasin was on the window sill by the back door. Cedar was checking it out. I tried to grab him and pull him back. I don’t know if he attacked to protect me or just from instinct. Either way the fight was on and the snake struck back. It was all over in a matter of seconds. The snake was dead and Cedar was foaming at the mouth and shaking.

Dead Snake

Having grown up in the country I’ve had several pets suffer rattlesnake bites. All of them survived. The cat was the most amazing but I won’t gross you out with the details here. I called the vet and was told there wasn’t really much they could do other than provide an IV drip with some antibiotics. I knew this would be the answer but had to call regardless.

It seems that we’ve dodged a bullet. I stayed home from work and Cedar has been in my lap or nearby all day. I have no idea how the snake could’ve missed when he struck or how Cedar could have been faster but perhaps it’s true. No breathing problems. No pain or tenderness. No muscle issues. No symptoms at all. Perhaps the snake didn’t envenomate him. It looks like he’s got two pink marks on his chest but perhaps he didn’t get bitten after all. Perhaps the foaming and shaking was simply an adrenaline dump. I’m keeping a close eye on him, though, and the ER vet is close just in case.

I’d heard that snakes were being driven from their habitats by the torrential rains we’ve had. I guess now I believe it. I’m not in a rural area by any stretch of the imagination.

Dead Snake Measured

The snake was bigger than I originally thought when I saw it coiled to strike. It measured in at 31″ and was pretty thick.

Dead Snake Measured Close-up

I’m amazed that Cedar took its head clean off.

Dead Snake Head

Lord, keep my pooch well.

Bushwackin’ and Flagin’

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Wow. This morning several of the Trailblazers met up at Long Island (part of the Talbot Island area) to continue working on a new section of trail for the State. Long Island is a narrow strip of land running between Simpsons and Myrtle Creeks.

We started early at 7:30 to beat the heat of the day but it didn’t work out so well. We re-flagged the section we did a couple of weeks ago and split into two teams working towards each other to bushwack and flag new trail. The mosquitoes were bad again, my brand new Fiskars lopping shears snapped in two, and the heat was oppressive. Somehow, though, we managed to make it until noon but it was a long, hot walk back to our vehicles.

Long Island at Big Talbot

I was really looking forward to putting my new Suunto clinometer to work to check the trail slope along the way. Unfortunately I’m going to have to make that and recording a solid GPS track a separate trip. Hopefully we’ll get everything ready for final review by the biologist on the 14th and we’ll get the approval to mow. That’s what I’m waiting for. I need some special time with the new 16HP DR the Park purchased. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hasta la vista, Debby

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Well, Debby is offshore again and we only have a 20% chance of rain today. Things might be looking up. Now if only I can get the roof fixed before the next storm.

Debby Track

It looks like I registered just under 2″ of rain yesterday. I actually had more, I’m just not sure how much. My transmitter quit working and I didn’t get it swapped out until about 11am so I missed recording all of the morning rain. This morning I’d registered a 17mph gust. I’m diggin’ the weather station!

Debby Rain Reading