Monday, February 20, 2012

Henninger Flats with Son, James – “Guys Night”

January, 27-28, 2012

Packing the night before, James and I were ready and eager to hit the trail on Friday at 4:00PM. Our little dog Andy was part of our posse. 
Shortly before leaving, I checked the forecast, which called for warm temperatures (in the 80s) during the day and warm evenings In the low 60s. High wind advisory—30 to 45 mph winds. We weighed our packs before leaving and each pack came in at 11-1/2 pounds base weight. Pack weight was about 13lbs.

We parked on a local street, put Andy on his leash and headed down the trail into Eaton Canyon. With James leading, he kept a good pace into the canyon and across the dry stream bed onto the Toll Road leading to the trailhead at the bridge. Once we got started up the dirt road, we slowed down a little but still kept a respectable pace.

The day was warm and windy. The Santa Ana winds gave us clear skies allowing us to see well beyond Catalina Island. The road was full of people and cyclist—not exactly a “wilderness” experience. We eventually had to put Andy back on leash due to all the hikers.

The sun had set and our eyes were slowly becoming adjusted to the dark. James suggested that we let our eyes to adjust as long as we can. I agreed until we got to the campsite at Upper Campground at Henninger. I couldn’t distinguish flat ground. We walked to the edge of the hill, overlooking the city there was a group of mountain bikers drinking beer and laughing by a fire they built. We thought they were spending the night, learning later they were just there for the evening and leaving later.

I suggested to James to check out Fuji above us but he wanted to stay where he felt comfortable. I decided from the beginning that this was his trip and I wanted James to make most of the major decisions, so we stayed.

James found a site that was fairly flat, although we later discovered I was on a slant. By now the wind had picked up and we literally had to hold our packs from blowing away. Anything we pulled out from our already fairly light equipment would blow away if we didn’t hold it. I knew we were in for an adventure!

I asked James what our first task should be. He said boiling water, which I thought made sense, if it wasn’t so windy. I explained that we need a shelter set up so we can use the stove without it getting blown out. He agreed. I pulled out the Tyvek ground cloth and laid it on the ground, holding it down using large rocks on each corner. We were on a small knoll—a pine needle laden crown up against a pine tree. We chose this spot because it was positioned in a way that I could use the tree to pitch the tarp in an “A” frame, using a 9-inch nail on the opposite side. I strung up the Kelty Triptease by the light of my red light, and then pulled the silnylon tarp out and tried to maintain control of it in the wind. Just before leaving on this trip, I pulled off 3.5 oz of Velcro from its edges, bringing its weight down into the 13oz range.

I gave James a few stakes which, he used to fasten down the tarp. Once all four corners were staked, I pulled on the ridgeline creating an amazing “kite” effect! The wind was actually blowing from our 7-oclock, causing the windward side of the tarp to nearly collapse. I strung up an additional two guy lines from the center ridgeline out 90 degrees, which kept the side of the tarp up off our bags at night.
Winds whipping up to over 30 MPH!
  Once the tarp was up, I pulled out the alcohol stove, poured in about 1-1/2 oz fuel and lit the Super Cat. I placed the stove and its windscreen at the base of the tarp where our heads would be, yet outside the cover of the tarp. It was a risk with the winds, but to my surprise, there was only a light breeze inside the tarp, allowing the stove to work just fine. The only issue I had was that little wind actually did come into contact to the stove, cause minor flare-ups, which reduced its efficiencies. Within minutes, our three cups of water was boiling and we pulled out or chilimac/mashed potatoes/re-fried beans mix in a freezer bag and poured the hot water in. the meal tasted great!

Before I pulled the stove out, and began boiling water, I poured two cups of cold water into a bag of dried milk and butterscotch pudding, which I bought at the 99-cents store. I mixed the concoction for 2 minutes as suggested on the recipe, and then took a wet bandana and wrapped the bag. Since the air was relatively warm (65 degrees), and the wind was blowing, I would use evaporation to chill the pudding, instead of the recommended refrigerator.

After the chilimac, I pulled out the pudding, which set nicely and we had dessert!

Cleanup was simple: we basically used only freezer bags. We had hot tea and decaf coffee afterwards and then set up the bear bag adjacent from our camp. The mountain bikers were still partying as I swung the line over the branch, using my new chap stick tube and micro carabineer for the PCT method. James was busy cleaning his bowl since he didn’t want to use the bag.

Once everything was set in camp, James and I walked over to the edge of the hill and looked at the city lights. The wind was blowing pretty good, making our view especially clear. I checked the thermometer and it read 60 degrees. Not bad for February!

Back at camp, we removed all our smellables, found places on the ground for our packs so they would not blow way and turned in. I was on a hill, sliding to my right. Rather than make a big deal about it, I found downed branches and a couple rocks, building a shelf alongside and under my side. I laid down the Tyvek and then my Neo-Air, creating an almost cradle effect. It worked, and I slept sound without any sliding.

Morning came with calm. No wind; not even a breeze. Two deer caught the attention of Andy and eventually us two. It was about 6:30am. I got up and started boiling water. While the water was heating I took down the bear bag and pulled out our oatmeal bags and called James out from of his slumber. I made enough water for two cups of hot beverages and oatmeal. Cleanup was simple, as was the take down of the tarp. We did took our time, enjoying the mountain and each other as we talked about what weapons we would choose if we were being attacked by the enemy. Once we were packed up, we hit the trail and walk down the hill enjoying the morning sun.

My New Balance MT101 trail runners worked great, especially with the thin socks. No issues. I decided not to bring the Northface wind jacket, which was a good idea. I never used the long johns but I did wear my base shirt and Capoline long sleeve to bed, only wearing the “puffy” at night and in the morning. I brought three pair of socks: thins, light SmartWool (SW), and the thick SW. I only wore the thins up and down the hill, while wearing the thick SW to bed and early morning. I never wore the light weight SW. No camp shoes needed; I loosened the laces and was perfectly comfortable.

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