Monday, September 30, 2013

Recommended Reading.

I just got finished reading a post over at Bible Portal.  It tells the story of a monk who lives in that tiny little house on top of that pillar of stone.  I recommend it as a good read.
It got me thinking about why I go into the woods by myself.  Lots of times I'll go with a bunch of other guys, but sometimes it will be just me or me and the dogs.  The author touched me with this paragraph in particular:

I once spent a week at Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, a Trappist Monastery open for solitary retreats of prayer and contemplation. It was a stark rupture from my life: simple, never sterile, structured but never over-formal, quiet, but filled with kind awareness. And once I went back to my typical routine, my relationship with all the stuff of modern life was a little different at its root. I could feel that, somewhere beyond the LCD screens, there was a silence within which the breathing presence of God could perhaps be a bit better heard and felt. And the experience of that 'beyond' place made it easier to put down the devices and seek it out again. And again. Even if just for fifteen minutes in a day.
And that's part of it---the experience in the "beyond" place making it easier to "put down the devices and seek it out again."

Most of my hiking is done in coastal Texas.  Within a hundred miles of my home you can find the sea coast, deep piney woods, hardwood forests dripping with Spanish Moss, wide prairie and brown muddy rivers easing their way lazily in a serpentine route towards the coast.
I sometimes find myself looking a pictures posted on other websites and blogs.  Pictures taken along the Appalachian Trail from scenic overlooks expressing wide vistas of pine covered mountain tops glimmering emerald in the sun, or those same mountain tops peeking out from fog covered valley's looking like islands on some distant planet.
Or those taken in my native New Hampshire from the alpine heights of the Presidential range with young, smiling, bearded faces in wool caps and goretex parkas standing on granite boulders with the maples and oaks in the cols and valleys below exploding into the brilliant colors of fall.
Sometimes they're taken on the talus slopes of Rocky Mountain valleys looking down on crystal clear lakes surrounded by scrubby pines desperate to maintain a foothold on the rocks.

Or taken from kayaks coursing over the mirrored surface of placid Maine lakes, or staggering their way through a raging foam of  white water.  
Or in the deep snows of a Michigan winter of red faced men seemingly being devoured by down jackets, the condensation from their breath creating clouds in front of them.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous of the people in those places and their ability to visit those that are so different from the nearly flat and featureless terrain that I am surrounded by.  There are no mountains here, no valleys to fill with fog, no talus slopes or alpine vistas, no roaring streams and isolated lakes, just the flat land and the varied vegetation, and a lot of heat most of the time.
But maybe it would only be because they were just other places in the beyond that I am always seeking to return to and they hold no real superiority.
I dunno.  What do you think?

My Hammocks

It occurs to me that I've blogged about God, Guns, Politics, and Camping quite a lot, but haven't mentioned Hammocks specifically.  Part of that is, even though I've been hammock camping for about two years now, and sleeping full time in one for almost that long, I don't consider myself an expert on hammocks.

I got into hammock camping pretty much by accident.  About 15 years ago, I effectively stopped hiking and camping.  Camping for sure, and most of my hiking was relegated to exploring around the Prairie Bungalow after my late wife and I bought the place in 2002, and what camping I did was at historical reenactments.  Backpack camping has just gotten too uncomfortable for me.  Crawling into a tent after a days hike had simply lost what limited charm, sleeping on roots and rocks had to offer. When Elizabeth died in 2009, I started thinking about getting back into the outdoors, but had decided that I'd limit my excursions to day hikes around car camping locations, sleeping in a bigger tent on a cot or mattress, and set about looking for the requisite gear, but took my time about it as money was tight and work was finally picking back up.  One day while browsing Ebay, I came across an auction for a Crazy Creek Crib and Tarp.  This is what I saw on the auction:

Well, that looked comfy.  There were no bids and a $30.00 minimum, so I figured, what the heck.  Nobody else bid on it, and the thing was mine.

When I got the thing, the reality was a bit different from the picture on the auction.

That's not me, that's actually a picture on a website that's trying to sell the durn things, but that's kinda the way I must have looked.  Actually, I was probably more uncomfortable because I'm a bit taller and wider than the gal in that picture. 
The tarp that came with it is actually pretty serviceable, if a bit heavy to consider backpacking worthy.  It works great in a car camping situation, or as loaner gear.  The cinch buckle straps that came with it are also pretty good, so the $30 was a good deal.  I still haven't figured out what I'm going to do with the crappy hammock yet, but I know I can do something with it.

I started doing some research to see what I was doing wrong, and I stumbled across Hammock Forums.  What I learned there was that there were much better hammocks to camp in.  I bought Derek Hanson's book, The Ultimate Hang and determined to get me a real hammock.  Within a couple of weeks, a hammock came up in the For Sale section of the Forum, a Hennessey Deep Jungle XL for a good deal less than retail.  I had some extra money, so I jumped on it.
Now I did that a week before Christmas.  I had told my girlfriend that I was interested in hammock camping.  She asked if I had a hammock, and I said "No."  This was a couple of days before that HHDJ came up for sale.  I got the hammock the day before Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day I opened a gift from my girlfriend:  an ENO Double Nest.  So now I had two hammocks, but I couldn't tell her about the first one without hurting her feelings.  She spent good money on that hammock and did it out of love, but truth be told, its not as good a hammock as the Deep Jungle.  It took about a year before I fessed up.
After Christmas I hung the hammock in the backyard.  The bubble pad that comes with the hammock did its job, I was warm underneath, and I had a good sleeping bag to use as a top quilt, but I had to bail around 3 AM.  There's only one place to hang in my back yard and that night the wind came right down the centerline of the hammock.  I work up to a funny noise that turned out to be my tarp flapping around and staring up at a starry sky.
Things turned out better a couple weeks later when I had a chance to take it camping.  I wanted to meet some of the local hammock hangers, so I posted an invite on the Forum for a hang at Brazos Bend State Park.  It was one of those funky Texas March weekends where it was warm during the day and cold at night.  Everything worked perfectly, and I had two of the best night's sleep I had ever had.  Not the best night's sleep in the woods, mind you, the best nights ever.
I was hooked.  Within a week, I had rearranged the corner in my living room that I had been using as a home office, hung the Hennessy there, and that's where I've slept every night I've been home ever since.
I started planning backpacking trips.  For the first one, I left the Hennessy hanging on the wall and took the ENO Double nest, along with a Hennessy Hex Tarp (another used item off the Hammock Forum For Sale section, this has doors on the end that can be removed), and a BIAS Buginator.
That combo worked well, but I missed my Hennessy.  When I got home, I took the Hennessy down and hung the ENO in its place.  I've since used the ENO as my test bed (pun intended), for changing out suspensions, adding ridgelines, and just general experimentation on ideas that might become a disaster that would ruin a $250 Hammock.  I've also loaned it out to prospective hammock converts.
Then, I took the next logical step in a hammock camper's progression.  I got a Thread Injector

That's AL501257, a Singer 15-91 that was made the same year I was born.  It was a match made in Heaven.  God gave me something that can get some of the ideas rattling around in my head a chance to get out and on the trail.

Sometime before AL501257 came into my life, I had bought a DIY BIAS Weight Weenie Micro clone someone had made, again in the For Sale section of the Forum.  I took it on a backpacking trip in February this year, but was dissatisfied with it as it seemed too short for me.

I'd become spoiled by the roominess of the ENO Doublenest and the Hennessey Deep Jungle.  But by now, I was looking for lower weight alternatives (its why I bought the WWM clone). 

So that's where things all come together for the current hammock.  Bothe the HHDJ and the ENO DN are wide hammocks.  Wide hammocks give you a flatter lay.  Both are just long enough, but only just.  I read about some lightweight ripstop nylon being sold by Magna Fabrics that was 69" wide.  I looked over at AL501257 and said "Baby, we've got a job to do."

Making a hammock is a fairly simple proposition, and there's a couple of ways of doing it.  I chose to do a channel end hammock.  I bought 4 yards of that 1.1 ounce per square yard ripstop, hemmed both sides and each end 1/2",  then rolled the ends over another 1 1/2" and did three rows of stitching to make a channel.  For the suspension, I chose Dyneema Racer Slings tied to a cinch buckle with a lark's head knot.  I haven't got a picture of it, but it looks something like this:

That's just passed through the channel, and the cinch buckle passed through the loop.  What I get out of that is a connection point very close to the end of the hammock.  I've tried a number of suspension set-ups and prefer cinch buckles for their reliability and simplicity.  So here's some pictures of the new hammock:

After the hemming and channels, it ends up being about 11'-8" long, the ridgeline is about 10 feet, and its 67" wide.  It has a very flat lay and the light weight fabric makes it very cool in the hot Texas summers.  I'm 6'-0" and weigh 215 when I'm not lying, and I'm lying right now, so nobody in the weight range should have any problem with 1.1 ripstop. 
Hanging from the ridgeline on the left is a little gear hammock. 

Its an idea I got from that WWM Clone that I bought as there was one on it.  I use it to put my shoes and other things in at night.  I need to make another one a bit bigger, that one was made with some scrap.  I found that the one on the WWM clone was big enough that I could pack the Enlightened Equipment Prodigy Top Quilt that I bought from Stick of Stick's Blog, but this one is a bit small for holding the Prodigy clone that I made with AL501257
On the right is a DIY double ended stuff sack that a friend gave me that holds the HUG Bug net.

To complete the ensemble, I made the Prodigy clone top quilt mentioned before, plus a modified Prodigy Underquilt.


I'll be going into detail on those in a future post.  I like the Prodigy Top Quilt design as its adaptable for use as an underquilt.  I've taken that a bit further by making an underquilt loosely based on that design that can be adapted to use as a top quilt, plus adding the ability to snap both quilts together to make an underquilt for the coldest winter's that we can expect here in Texas, and am in the process of making an Underquilt Protector that will snap to one or both of them.  What I should end up with is an underquilt for cooler Spring and Fall nights, another for colder Late Fall/Late Winter nights with a top quilt to match those conditions,  and another for deep winter.

Right now I'm messing with suspension methods for the Underquilt and the right snap pattern to get everything to work together.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Morons Are Running Our Foreign Policy

Have these people been in a locked room for the last 50 years?

UN Ambassador and Stone Cold Idiot Samantha Power

Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, hoped that a team of UN investigators — many of whom, presumably, have a longstanding relationship with Iranian leaders -- could write a report that would convince Iran to abandon its ally at the behest of the United States.

"We worked with the UN to create a group of inspectors and then worked for more than six months to get them access to the country on the logic that perhaps the presence of an investigative team in the country might deter future attacks," Power said at the Center for American Progress as she made the case for intervening in Syria.

"Or, if not, at a minimum, we thought perhaps a shared evidentiary base could convince Russia or Iran — itself a victim of Saddam Hussein's monstrous chemical weapons attacks in 1987-1988 — to cast loose a regime that was gassing it's people," she said.

The people who have been calling us "The Great Satan" and funding terrorism all across the globe since Jimmy Carter's presidency were supposed to drop an ally they've been shoring up for forty years because we show them that they're bad people?

Don't these frikkin idiots understand that the Iranians have been funding Syria for all these years because they know the people running that country bad people?

THIS is why the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize recipient wants to wage war in our name for the third time in his Presidency?  Because he miscalculated the reaction of the freaking Iranians?