About mid-week last week, I decided to go camp out with a subset of the hiking club (although not a hiking club event) at Kincaid Lake in Kisatchie National Forest this weekend. Me and two other badasses were going to go, but, at the last minute, one had an emergency and the other one’s vehicle kicked the bucket. I was halfway packed on Friday night when I got the news, and I didn’t know if I still wanted to go alone with a new group. I’ve gotten used to the badasses in the Badass Backpacking Group, and this was going to be a new group of people that I’d met but really didn’t know. By the time I went to bed, I’d decided not to go. I turned off the alarm and went to sleep.
My body woke up right on time to go, so I took that as a sign that I should get up and go. I had finished packing, so all I needed to do was get dressed and head out the door. The 2 1/2 hour drive to north Louisiana was seamless, and I arrived about an hour before the 9-mile hike with shorter options was to begin. The weather was forecast to be sunny and about 76 degrees. It was going to be a beautiful day, and I was not disappointed. In fact, as promised by Rick, the person who initially included me on the group emails, it is the most scenic area I’ve seen in Louisiana thus far. The lake was beautiful, and the trail followed the lakeshore all the way around.
One of the prettiest areas was an overlook of the lake with a nearby sandy beach. A duck blind was parked near the overlook, and it resembled a Caribbean island (without the green water) at first glance. Ashok even decided to wade into the blind to see what it looked like. We ended up hiking about 6 miles altogether. I carried my big backpacking pack in preparation for next week’s backpacking trip, and it’s still a bit heavy for a 9-mile hike. Most of the group stopped at 5 miles, and Jonathan, Raymond and I decided to hike another mile and a half back to the campsite.
The group was really nice. They were very welcoming to me and provided me with some much desired expertise. I love my Badass Backpackers, but we are all novices. We don’t know sh*t about backpacking. This group was very experienced. When I walked over to the trailhead with my pack, they teased me about this being a day hike. I told them I was practicing, and Rick asked me how much my pack weighed. I said I thought it was about 35 pounds, and he made a face and gasped. There was a resounding opinion with the group that I was way too heavy, and for about 24 hours I got suggestions on what to leave behind. I came home determined that I was going to cut some weight, and my first stop is with my 6-pound tent. That baby has got to be relegated to car camping from now on.
On the trail, I told them I still didn’t understand the whole “hanging the food” routine, and they offered to do a demo when we got back to the campsite. You have to hang food in bear country, but down here you hang it mainly to avoid mice and raccoons. There are two reasons to hang food. The first is you don’t want the animals to get your food. It wouldn’t be any fun to be in the backcountry with nothing to eat or to have damaged gear from hungry critters. The more important reason is that you don’t want bears coming into your campsite or your tent to get food. You hang the food a good distance from your camping area. If they are going to be attracted by the food smell, they can go get it down the trail. You’ll go hungry but you won’t be harmed or scared to death.
Raymond and Rick gave the demo. It was nothing like we had been doing on my backpacks. Thank heavens we weren’t in bear country, or I’d have already woken up with one in our campsite.
- Tie a long paracord or rope around a fairly heavy object like a rock. Rick says he carries a Crown Royal bag for holding his rocks. (I didn’t ask him what he did with the Crown Royal.)
- Throw it over a strong branch at least 10 feet high. It needs to be about 8 feet away from the trunk of the tree. Bears and raccoons can climb. So, if it’s hanging next to the tree as we’ve done it, they can climb right to it. It won’t be so easy for them to climb 8 feet out on a limb and reach for food dangling below the branch.
- Clip a carabiner on the bag that is holding your food.
- Tie one end of the rope to the carabiner.
- Thread the other end through it. The rope has to be long enough so that it goes up and over the branch and trails along the ground on the other side.
- Pull the bag up into the tree. Pull it all the way up to the branch at this point.
- Wrap the section of the rope in your hand around a sturdy stick that is larger than the “biner”. Wrap the rope around it twice and knot it. Note: You are NOT doing this at the end of the rope. You need the end of the rope on the ground so you can get the food in the morning.
- Start feeding slack to the rope so that the food bag begins to fall below the branch. The stick will stop the fall when it gets to the “biner”.
- The next morning when you get the food, pull on the end of the rope until the stick comes back to you, release the stick and release the food bag to the ground.
This process was so different than what we had been doing! For one thing, we never started high enough at all. The branch Raymond used was really high in the tree. If you figure the bag has to hang 10 feet from the ground and at least 5 or 6 feet from the branch, it has to be at least 15 or so feet from the ground.
So, now I know how to hang food! I can’t wait to try it next weekend.
I got home, unpacked my pack and weighed every item in it on a food scale. Now, I know what everything weighs, and I can truly decide if it’s worth the weight to pack it in. I feel so knowledgeable! This morning’s coffee conversation was all about gear and what each person could and couldn’t backpack without. It all depends on what makes you comfortable, and everybody is different. I haven’t heard one piece of gear advice yet that someone else didn’t contradict, except they all said to lighten my load!
Y’all have a good week. Lighten your load a little this week, will ya? If it’s not important, let it go. That’s a good life lesson for everybody.