The Mount Pleasant area is one of my favorite places to hike. I specifically kept the trip short on mileage since it's my first trip back out after injuring my foot. Ghani, Julio, and David all arrived at the trail head before 9pm and within about 15 minutes of my arrival. Such coordination!
We hiked the short mile down the Hotel Trail to spend the night. A heavy fog had settled in the valley and I was challenged finding the trail across the open, mowed field. A family was already set up and probably getting ready for bed when we strolled in. (We'd see them the next day at the saddle below Mount Pleasant.) We selected an area out of sight from them and folks were quickly setup. I headed to bed and the rest of the guys chatted a bit. The wind picked up and howled much of the night but we were well sheltered. I noticed the fog and clouds cleared by around 2am and watched the stars a bit before drifting off again.
Given our short mileage I figured we'd get up at 7am and hit the trail at 8. I got up at 7 to find Julio, Ghani, and David already done with breakfast and mostly packed up. I broke camp myself and were on the trail by 7:15. You gotta love a group like that! I should note that this was Julio's first backpacking trip ever.
Despite the dire looking weather forecast leading into this trip we had nearly ideal weather conditions. It never got too hot and cooled off enough in the evenings to be comfortable. We topped off water at Cow Camp shelter and hiked up to the top of Cold Mountain to enjoy the views and take a short break. The fields atop were also mowed fairly recently and the grass was short.
The descent went quickly and we made a quick stop as we passed the cars. Ghani dropped off about a pound or so of previous-visitor trash he'd collected at our campsite that morning - an array of burnt and rusted steel cans, glass, etc. We climbed Mount Pleasant, stopped by the spring for water, and arrived at noon - a ridiculously early hour for ending a hike but that's what you get with short mileage.
We had the mountain to ourselves and setup camp. We passed time enjoying the views, napping, taking photos, and generally just soaking in the outdoors. Some ominous looking clouds were building to the south/south east and blowing our way. I hope David's timelapse attempt turns out. The sunlight on the rolling hills below was constantly changing as the clouds drift our way.
There was the requisite camp fire, though it was never cold. I think Julio gets credit for his first fire, With an assist from David. Just another of the firsts for him this weekend. As we made dinner we chatted about gear, food, and heard stories of all the international travel Ghani and David have done. My sunset photos were a bust due to a lack of sun. The cloud cover was too great. I suspect David's night time time lapse was a bust too given that it started to rain around 10:30pm. That continued on and off until about 5am but fortunately was free of lightning and thunder. Sunrise was similarly cloudy and I stayed in bed until 7. I roused Julio and found David and Ghani deeply focused on their morning ritual: hot coffee.
During our descent I spied a large owl and tried to sneak up on it for a photo. The combination of a 50mm lens and lack of stalking skills eliminated any chance of nabbing the next National Geographic cover photo. We arrived at the cars around 9:15 just as the rain started again. The group decided to skip hiking Crabtree in the rain but was very keen on exploring the various beverage options at Devil's Backbone so we headed that way, arriving about 10 minutes before they opened their doors. The place was filling up nicely by the time we parted company and headed our separate ways.
Although a bit unorthodox in it's short length, I hope Ghani, Julio, and David enjoyed the trip. Everyone came prepared and able. I wouldn't have guessed that it was Julio's first trip. I tried to install some of the DC UL culture without proselytizing too much. I think everyone will take another look at their gear list with some scrutiny before their next hike.
The promised followup to some of our conversations on the trail:
Knorr sides - rice or pasta dishes. Cost about $1 at the store and come in lots of flavors. Add boiling water and let it sit in a cozy for 15 minutes or so. Examples: Red beans and rice http://www.knorr.com/product/detail/245761/red-beans-and-rice
Instant potatoes (many flavors, about $1 each): add boiling water. Ready to eat by the time it's cool enough to eat. Add salt/pepper/whatever to taste. Sometimes a full bag is too much for me so I often split it into two ziplock bags at home.
Couscous (usually in little cardboard boxes that I repackage into a ziplock): lots of flavors. Add boiling water and wait a few minutes. It'll fluff up a lot! I've had couscous lift the lid off a smaller pot before due to expansion.
Adding pouches of tuna, chicken, or salmon can spice things up. Don't smear on your face before bed if you're in bear country.
Note the list of sponsors on the DC UL meetup page. There are some really good deals available there for gear, including some fantastic hammock stuff for those drooling over David's setup.
Almost a must see for hammocking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7NZVqpBUV0 (Terrifically informative and entertaining - there are many to watch)
I find that the 11 foot hammocks are much more comfortable for sleeping in. My 9yr old daugter can get away with a 9 foot hammock just fine. Typically you'll see "gathered end" hammocks, but there are also "bridge hammocks" that are apparently very comfortable but heavier.
I have purchased a fair bit from dutchware.com He's got a lot of custom made titanium bits. I use a Dutch hook and Stingerz for my hammock tarp. Whoopie hooks for my hammock/whoopie slings. I bought a fair bit of line from him too: Dynaglide for my tarp line, Zing it/Lash it for my bearbag line, and Amsteel for my whoopie slings.
Loads of really nice illustrations/examples of various aspects of hammocking at: http://theultimatehang.com/
Some of my favorites:
More hammock info than you could absorb it at https://hammockforums.net/
Alcohol stoves are easy to make if you want to try them out. Most are made from scrap materials anyway (old cat food cans, soda cans, etc) There are a million combinations and they all generally work.
The one I used on this trip was a DIY clone of Zelph's "Fancee Feest" stove: http://www.woodgaz-stove.com/