Sunday, April 16, 2017

Fingerboard Shelter camping trip, Harriman State Park

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
4/14/2017 2.6 miles miles

Map: NYNJTC Harriman North
Parking: Tiorati Circle, Seven Lakes Drive
Directions: From the parking area, take the blue blazed Lake Tiorati trail. Turn left onto the AT/Ramapo Dunderberg Trail. Turn left at the sign for the Fingerboard shelter. Reverse route.

Glen and I are avid hikers, but we've hardly ever gone tent camping. We did a guided camping trip in California many years ago, but didn't have to carry a full backpack. I've also done car camping. I've been wanting to do some backpacking so that we could hike sections of the AT that are further from home more efficiently. And so that we could go on some dream trips - such as hiking Sweden coast to coast, and doing the Wonderland trail. I've read that on one's first backpacking trip, you should start out with a 5 mile trip. We started out with a 1.3 mile trip! We wanted something where we could take our older dog Moxie along. Her hiking days are pretty much over, but we figured she would love to do this. We started collecting camping gear a year ago, right around the time I started to have hip pain. So it's taken us a long time to actually decide to go camping. The hip pain is still here but tolerable currently, so I'm tired of holding off. We've been waiting for the weather to warm up. And wanting to choose a day without rain. Start easy. Well, the weather forecast was nice for the day, but chilly at night - dropping down to 39 degrees. I bought a sleeping bag rated for 20 degrees. Surely that would be fine. Or was it rated for 30 degrees? I don't remember. I swear it took us around 4 hours to get everything gathered for our trip. And that's with a list. I had never tried to fit all of that stuff in my pack. Glen had bought a larger pack for backpacking. I hadn't. Surely a 40 liter pack would be sufficient for just an overnight hike. I ended up being able to barely squeeze it all in. Glen carried our tent. I carried our stove & food bag. My pack ended up weighing in at around 19 pounds (including 2 liters of water), Glen's around 24 pounds (including 3 liters of water). It didn't feel to heavy, just the contents took up a lot of volume. We ended up leaving our house around 4 pm.

Our hike to the shelter was fine. Moxie did okay and didn't need any help. She just found the easy way around any obstacles. Hiking was fine. It's what we know how to do.

We arrived at the shelter area and were happy to see only 2 guys setting up a tent near the trail, and a father & 2 kids at the shelter. No crowd :) We walked around and chose a site which we decided was flat enough. Glen felt out of his element. We let the dogs off leash and went about setting up camp. First the tent. That was fine. We practiced once at home before leaving. That was part of the 4 hours to get ready. Blew up our sleeping pads (this makes me feel like I'm going to pass out). Trek and Moxie were very good about hanging out with us. They ran around but followed us wherever we went.

I had read advice that it is good to hang your rope for your bear bag as soon as you get to camp, so that you don't have to worry about doing it after it gets dark. Glen can throw much better than me, so he did it. With the rope hung, we returned to our tent. I asked the family in the shelter where the stream was and they pointed me to more of a puddle at the bottom of a hill. We got a little water and started filtering. Our filter was really, really slow. We have a Sawyer mini. Oh the patience needed for that thing. We didn't bring water bottles for the dogs. Which meant that we'd also need to carry up water for the dogs. One of our many lessons learned. The dogs were very thirsty by the time they got water. We tried feeding them but neither of them were interested in eating. Plus they eat out of their water bowl. Which meant their water bowl had to be hung along with all of their food items. Now I'm thinking they really should have a separate water bowl so that it doesn't need to be hung.

We brought bean/veggie soup for dinner - something we've made several times before for hiking. We brought 1 plastic bowl for eating (Glen used it) and I ate out of a ZipLock freezer bag - a new experience for me. We didn't have a cozy for the freezer bag. Oops. It worked adequately anyways. My spoon was kind of short for freezer bag eating. I've read before that many people get a long handled spoon for this. I was thinking about having evening tea, but I could tell Glen was anxious to get the bear bag hung. It would also mean that we wouldn't have enough water left in the morning. I had a protein bar and then brushed my teeth. Brushing my teeth in the woods just feels wrong! Glen hung the bear bag. He figured he's taller than me, so he can hang it higher (we used the PCT method). Part of our time before our trip was practicing our knots. We finished organizing our tent. It is pretty funny how long it takes for us to do everything since it is our first time. I was a bit concerned about the dogs being warm enough, so I brought 2 sit pads for them to sleep on. The sit pads are really small though. I also brought Trek's pack in the tent as another thing for them to sleep on.

It was dark by 8 pm. We ended up just trying to go to bed. No staying up reading or visiting the campfire the family had at the shelter. Another pair of campers arrived and camped above us. We still felt like we had reasonable privacy. We bought a 3 person tent. Both of us have wide/long sleeping pads. That means the only free space in the tent was lengthwise next to my sleeping pad. Moxie happily settled on the tent floor next to me. Trek didn't know what to do. He was walking over the bottom of my pad, walking over Moxie, pacing in the tiny area. I was waiting for the sound of his toenails popping my sleeping pad. He eventually lay down at my feet, but didn't stay there for long. He moved around lots at night. I barely slept all night. My sleeping pad is an insulated one and my sleeping bag should have been warm enough. I started out with a long sleeve shirt and long underwear bottoms. I got cold so I put on my down jacket. Then I put on my hiking pants over my long underwear. Then a second pair of socks. Then my raincoat. Then my fleece hat and gloves. At one point I was comfortable but it didn't last. I was wide awake. I got up 3 times to pee. The first time I used my headlamp. I had read that you are supposed to use a red light at night so as to not disturb other campers. Well, I couldn't find the red light on my headlamp. I've used my headlamp plenty before, but never had a need for the red light. And trying to figure it out in the dark was not happening. I wanted to make sure the dogs didn't come out with me, so I rushed trying to zipper up the tent. The zipper got caught. And stuck. I fumbled my way into the brush to pee. The brush/leaves are very noisy. I wondered if I'd be waking up the hikers camped above us. Then I looked up and saw the stars. Which made me happy. Back to the tent, and cold again. Glen wore ear plugs. I did not. I was concerned about the dogs barking in the middle of the night. I had no idea how they would react to camping in the woods. I brought bark collars just in case, but didn't have them wear them. Moxie did alert twice in the night. No barking - but her head went up and her eyes were alert because she heard something. Then I went out twice more to pee. Each time I had to do an acrobatic maneuver to get out of the tent with the stuck zipper. Again lots of noise fumbling around. I didn't bother with a headlamp because the moon was so bright. We bought Nemo Tensor sleeping pads. There are lighter weight pads, but they are known for being noisy. I'm a very light sleeper, so I knew having a quiet sleeping pad was important. I do move around a lot when sleeping - switching between lying on my back and lying on my side. Every time I moved it was noisy. Ack. I need to notice if its the pad slipping on the tent surface or just from me moving on it. I would do much better with ear plugs. I knew I wouldn't freeze, but I was miserably cold all night long. Moxie had no issue with the cold. Trek ended up partway on my sleeping pad. He didn't seem bothered by the cold either. Glen told me later that he had to put on a fleece, hat, neck warmer and gloves, but he was comfortable at night. My jacket doesn't have a hood - and I think a hood would have helped a lot. I think I might have slept one or two hours before I was woken up by birds chirping.

I was feeling pretty miserable. I tripped and fell twice walking around the area the day before - getting water and looking for a tree for our bear bag hang. Lots of leaves covering rocks when you get off the trail. So I have a couple of big bruises. We brought inflatable pillows that we used at night(a luxury item). I hated mine. Inflated all the way it felt too hard/big. Partially deflated - it just felt like it made "waves" too much. And then it would slip off my pad. I ended up trying to put it inside my sleeping bag. My neck was really sore when I got up. Then my shoulders and back were sore. I don't know if it was from falling yesterday, from carrying a heavy pack (for just 1.3 miles), or from the sleeping pad. I ached all over. I was dehydrated and had a headache. I tried twice to get the bear bag down by myself while Glen was getting up. I couldn't get the thing down. We didn't pack a knife. I was thinking we might have to cut the rope to get it down. I couldn't release the clove hitch from the stick no matter what I tried. Glen went and had no problem getting it down. I need to have him show me at home what he did. The bear bag line was cutting into my hand too much and I just couldn't get the rope loose around the stick. We had enough water for oatmeal but not for my coffee. So back down to the stream to collect more water to filter for coffee. Neither of the dogs was interested in eating in the morning. Moxie overdid it running around yesterday. I had to help her get up in the morning :(   It took us 2 hours to eat and pack up. I had been thinking about spending some time in the morning collecting & packing out trash we saw in the area, but I was just too exhausted. We hiked back to the car and headed home. Once home, the first thing I did was go to bed for a 2 hour nap! I was exhausted all day, and ended up going to bed at 8 pm.

We learned a LOT from this trip. It felt like so much went wrong, but we learned so much. Next time will be easier. Next time, we'll probably also go without dogs, or with only 1 dog. And I'll wait until it gets warmer. After we got home, I tried feeding the dogs again, but no luck. I wanted to give Moxie some Metacam as well as her usual Proin. Moxie wouldn't even take her meds. Shortly after getting home, she vomited up a huge amount of deer poop. On the bright side, this happened in our house, not in the tent!

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