Category Archives: camping

camping

Raise the Roof!! Or Rather, Lay the Roof.

Posted on by .

Labor Day weekend, the last weekend of summer, and in our area at least, the last weekend before school starts. There is always high expectation the summer will go out with a bang and we will be refreshed enough to last us through until the next holiday. Last year we took a camping trip to Neah Bay, the northwestern most point in the contiguous United States for a camping adventure that included kayaking, scuba diving, spear fishing, and playing on the beach. We went with our friends, another family, and promised to do it again next year. It was all great fun.

This year we were thinking of a more land locked adventure in the Northern Cascades, one of the most beautiful places in the U.S. for our camping trip. We envisioned hikes to alpine lakes, wildlife sightings, and walks along fern strewn grounds through old growth cedar forest. We phoned our friends to make plans and finalize the location and they dropped the bomb. They desperately needed a new roof on their house and had to get it done before the rainy season starts. They couldn't spend a frivolous weekend in the woods when there was work to be done and the arrival of months of gray skies was imminent.

Well, we couldn't go camping when we knew they were home working, and we had promised to spend Labor Day weekend together anyway. So it was decided. We were having a roofing party. Now I don't have a ton of roofing experience, but I have done it in the bitter cold of winter in Utah and don't want to ever do that again! Our friends began some of the prep work during the week, but on Thursday evening a monsoon rolled in, the likes of which is rarely seen in these parts. We hoped it wasn't a precursor for the weekend!

The Thursday storm set things back and Friday after work I went over to help them tear of the two layers of old shingles until dark. We had hoped to be completed and ready to start installing by Saturday morning, but no such luck. We also needed to replace a few soft rotting boards of plywood. We didn't really start laying tar paper and shingles until noon on Saturday. Our prayers for sunshine were answered however. But be careful what you pray for! Just ask my bright red neck and my almost heat exhausted self! The bright hot sun mixed with tar paper and shingles makes for a long day.

 

Sunday was a much needed day of rest and Monday we got right back to it. The completed roof looks so much nicer and changes the appearance of the entire house! It was a great weekend of good old fashioned work. It reminds me of the days of community barn raising where everyone pitched in to help. We had a few other guys helping us out as well, which made a big difference. And an entire family showed up on Monday and took care of picking up all of the old shingles that were just thrown from the roof. That was amazing! I made sure to get my son involved to teach him how to lay a roof, just as my dad did for me. You never know. He may have a weekend vacation on top of a friends' roof someday in his future as well. I hope we set the right example and he too will choose to raise the roof over pitching a tent!

 

My Back No Longer Hates Camping

Posted on by .

Do you love the outdoors and love camping, waking up with the sun, the sound of birds in the morning and crickets and frogs at night? Do you find the fresh air invigorating and cold (properly filtered) mountain stream water refreshing? Did you grow up camping with your family and maybe even with a scout troop? Did you vow to teach your children the joys of camping? Did you reach a certain age, and after a night spent in a sleeping bag on top of a pad, get up to find you could barely walk from the stiffness and back pain? That could ruin anyone's motivation to continue venturing into the great outdoors.

Some of you never have and never will be phased by hard, uneven, rocky ground. My hat is off to you, though tinged with a bit of jealousy. It didn't take my back long to revolt. I don't think my back waited until I hit thirty to firmly insist I never ever try to trick it into thinking a half inch foam pad is the same as a plush memory foam or pillow top mattress. My back drove it's point home very effectively with knots and pain only a sadistic massage therapist would relish kneading out.

Just as with all problems in life, there are many solutions. For many, the back revolt coincides with a time when you are finally secure in a good job and the income is generous and steady. You are a grown-up now and worked hard to get through school and suffer through multiple job interviews. You have a mortgage, two cars, and 2.5 kids. It only make sense that you drive your new pickup truck or SUV down to the RV lot and take out essentially a second mortgage on a fifth wheel, trailer, motor home, or camper that you will use at least twice a year. Hopefully you could see the sarcasm dripping from the last few sentences, because that is just crazy. What is the point of buying a house on wheels? If you don't want to leave your house, then just stay home.

You are not the type to blow your investments and savings on a trailer, so you decide the way to continue camping and still be comfortable is to buy cots and air mattresses. They are a bit pricey, but don't require a loan officer. Of course you also need a tent large enough to accommodate the new camp furniture. These are not bad options for car camping. They take up a lot of room in your garage or storage shed, but the mattress is well worth the struggle of packing and blowing up when it's time to settle down. Hopefully you like campsites with neighbors and close quarters, because there is no way you are hiking all of that gear in. If you aren't like me, you won't end up with the loud drunk party in the site to your left and the very vocal middle of the night amorous couple in the site to your right.

You want to backpack in to your camp site while still saving your back from the horribly uncomfortable rocky ground. Therefore, you decide to look at hammocks. Your friend tells you they are a bad idea because you'll end up sleeping in a “U” shape. Your friend, of course, has never actually slept in a backpacking hammock. I vow to you here and now, if you buy a good quality backpacking hammock, it will change your life forever. You will sleep like a baby and look forward to camping to catch up on sleep.

I use a Hennessy Hammock and wouldn't trade it for the world. It is designed so you sleep at a diagonal. If you do, you can lay completely flat. You can even sleep on your side very comfortably. The HH I have uses a bottom entry Velcro system and includes mosquito netting and a rain fly. It is essentially a hanging tent. It has minimal impact on the environment because it is off the ground and the straps are safe for trees. You can buy different size straps to match the most common tree trunk sizes in your area or do as I do and use ENO slap straps which are adjustable to different size trunks. Sleeping in the HH is extremely comfortable and the nature of the material and design provides give to parts of your body that need it and support to others. It packs up nice and small and is great for backpacking. I've used mine in heat, cold, rain, and snow and have been perfectly comfortable. HH has under pads and insulation for cold weather, but I have found that using a reflective bubble type windshield screen and a small fleece blanket work really well to protect you from cold air flowing underneath the hammock.

It is also possible to make your own hammock out of parachute nylon and 550 or parachute cord. Homemade hammocks tend to use the cocoon type design to protect you from the elements. This is great, but I can't give up the built in bug and rain protection in my Hennessy Hammock.

Don't let old age and stiff muscles stop you from adventure. Try out a Heneessy Hammock and change your life. Check out their website for great information and informative videos. When you do, let me know how it goes in the comments below or feel free to ask any questions.