Last time I wrote, I posted details of my planned backpacking trip, so now it’s time to report the events. The forecast was dismal: start raining Saturday at 2:00pm (heavy at times), short break at 8:00pm, resume at 9:00 and pour until 8:00am. That’s not exactly how it went, but it was not too far off.

With that forecast, Jonathan decided to forego the trip. I also got to thinking about having a wet dog in my one-man tent and decided to leave Penny behind. We hit the trailhead at about 2:00pm. There were nine of us (including me and David). We got to the camp site, pitched then tents, gathered firewood, and set up a tarp near the fire pit before it started to rain. That was very good. That’s about when David’s rain pants gave up the ghost, splitting from calf to crotch to the other calf. What junk. I will return those, plus the unopened ones I bought for Jonathan to Walmart at the next opportunity. I put them together again with duct tape, but David decided he didn’t need them.

David’s tent was something of a disappointment, or perhaps I should say, we did not put it to optimal use. It has a mesh top, and I suppose that would be pretty good at keeping the black flies at bay, but not so good at repelling water. But of course, we knew that. We stretched a tarp over it. We were not able to make it cover the two ends though (shaped something like gables). We should have tried a little harder though. I think I may try to custom fit a fly for it using some of the dozens of internal tent partitions I have in the basement.

I went to bed at around 9:00pm, as did everyone else who didn’t turn in earlier. The rain came down in buckets. Then the wind picked up and was screaming a gale, blowing the rain straight into David’s open gables. By 3:30am, the wetness penetrated his sleeping bag, so he crawled out, stumbled around in the dark looking for for my tent (no flashlight, no moon, and no stars!) and asked if I had any dry floor space. I invited him in. He left his soaking wet bag in his “tent.” I opened my sleeping bag up so he wouldn’t hafta lay on the ground. Then we wrapped ourselves in my extra shirts and jacket. That took care of most of the cold. I guess. There were plenty of gaps in my insulation. We got up at around 6:30.

The fire was quite dead by then, having had buckets and buckets of rain unleashed over it from the sky. We gathered some sticks anyhow, and I shaved the bark off them with my pocket knife. I spent about the first hour of the morning doing that, and as other people woke up, they joined me. The rain stopped at about 7:00am, and that was very welcome. We eventually had a pretty nice pile of shaved, dry-ish sticks, so I laid them in my favorite fire-starting formation, stuffed a bit of dryer lint beneath it (I keep some in a ziplock bag in my backpack for just such an emergency), and touched it off with a match. Then I added some birch that I had split with the hatchet. Soon we had a cheery little fire going, and I was very pleased with myself. I don’t know how many people could have gotten a fire started under those conditions. Maybe that’s why I like to camp so much. Even when the weather is terrible.

After the fire was going pretty well, I went down to the river. It had risen about 3 feet during the night (judging by the rocks that it covered). My mission: filter some water for cooking breakfast. That took about 30 minutes I guess, as I filtered enough water for everyone in the group. When I got back to the camp, the fire had gone out. Oh well. If I had stayed there to tend it, I’m sure I could have kept it going. Luckily, it wasn’t cold outside – a little chilly perhaps, but certainly well into the 40’s (maybe 50). Everyone was appropriately dressed for it, and I didn’t hear any complaints about the temperature (which is unusual).

Then I turned my attention to pancakes. We had stuffed a large skillet into Jonathan’s backpack and had forgotten about it when he canceled. So we had to use my tiny little one. I can make pancakes in that one too, but they don’t turn out as well. There’s just not enough room to get a spatula beneath the pancake, so they come out a bit on the scrambled side. I called them “scram cakes.”

David ate a couple scram cakes and then decided to cook up some mashed potatoes for himself. Yes, for breakfast. He didn’t like the way they turned out, but I thought they were fine. I ate them. I also ate several pancakes. Then we washed our dishes and started to break camp. I spent another 30 minutes filtering water for the hike out, and we set out for the cars at about noon. The weather by then was spectacular. There was fog on the mountains, the air was crisp and clean, and the scenery was gorgeous. I guess that’s another reason I like to camp.

The hike out took an hour and five minutes, 25 minutes faster than the hike in. I don’t know why it was so much quicker, but there you go. Maybe getting back to civilization is a greater incentive than getting to a camp site? Even when the weather is threatening? Dunno!

I turned my cell phone back on when we got to the parking lot, and as David and I drove off, it rang. I had a voicemail from Dean. His message? “Call me.” So I called. His wife is pregnant again (yay!)

Then Va called and we got caught up and made plans for the rest of the day. When I got home, I hopped in the shower, then hopped back in the car to meet Va at the church to help her run the President’s Fitness Challenge for the Adventurer club (she had left before I got home). But man… I was tired. I timed the kids in their endurance run, timed them in the shuttle run, demonstrated proper sit-ups and push-ups, and coached them through those. After that, I hung around with Beth as she took in another Amazing Adventure presentation. We drove home, arriving around 7:30. I put her to bed at 8:00 and went to bed myself at about 10:00, exhausted. Go figure.

I took off work early today. I’m leading a group of Pathfinders on a backpacking trip tomorrow after church, and I needed a few supplies. My sons will be joining us, and the forecast is for rain. So I bought them each a rain suit. I also bought a little food for either the trip or for the pantry at home: Spanish rice, instant mashed potatoes, etc. I let the boys pick out what they wanted to eat on the trip, then I picked something out for myself. I repackaged mine into ziplock bags (food packaging is designed to catch the eye at the grocery store, not fit nicely in a backpack). I also bought some pancake mix – the kind that comes in a jug (just add water, shake, and pour). I still have a spatula in my backpack, and I also packed BUTTER this time (unlike when Beth and I went in August).

I’m also planning to take Penny, so I packed some dog food in my pack as well. The boys will be sharing a tent, and I’ll see if I can get Penny to come into mine to keep ME warm(er).

We’re going to hike three miles from the parking lot to a tent site, setup camp, cook some dinner, spend the night, cook some breakfast (pancakes!) and then depending on the weather, either take a hike or head back home.

So after I bought the rain suits and food, I went on home. I helped clean the house, ate some supper, and then took Beth and David to the Amazing Adventure evangelism series. At the end, Brian handed out some commitment cards and pencils. Beth checked all three boxes: I want to give my life to Jesus, I want to be baptized, and I want to talk to the pastor about being baptized. Then she filled in her name, address, and phone number. I think she’s still a little too young to be baptized, but my mind could possibly be changed. Jonathan was nine years old when he was baptized,and Beth will be seven in a little more than two months. David still hasn’t been baptized, and I haven’t asked him if he checked any boxes on his card.

I missed the beginning of the program tonight though, because I was busy changing over the Cradle Roll Sabbath School room (Cradle Roll is for the 0-3 year-old crowd). Yes, I set them up for the Christmas program. Usually, we do a different program each quarter, but we always start the fourth quarter a month late. Early October is just too early for Christmas! Sean helped me take down the backdrop and haul out the moose (we have a life-sized model of a moose!) Last quarter’s program was about the forest, so the moose made a decent prop. Once the moose was out, I set up the manger and put up the Christmas backdrop.

Va and I painted that backdrop a couple of years ago. It depicts shepherds watching their flocks by night under the stars. I installed a string of white Christmas lights on it by cutting tiny holes in the canvas, poking the bulbs through, and then duct taping the cord down securely to the back of the canvas. I tested it, and all the lights still work. Hooray!

Beth and I drove to Lincoln, NH yesterday and backpacked into the Pemigewasset Wilderness for an overnight stay. She did pretty good too. We had to ford a couple of creeks which included a bit of rock hopping, and she performed swimmingly (look it up – it doesn’t mean she swam!)

We did not make it all the way to the Lincoln Trail as I had wanted, but it wasn’t because she was tired. The Franconia Brook Trail forked, and the way to the Lincoln Trail was really boggy looking. The other fork looked much better, and after following it for a quarter of a mile, we came to a nice looking stream. So we found a place to pitch the tent and made camp.

As soon as the tent was pitched, I set up the Penny Alcohol Backpacking Stove I built about two years ago and set some water to boil. Rather than waiting for it to boil, I went ahead and added two packs of Ramen noodles and promptly turned the pot and the stove over. Doh! Luckily, most of the noodles stayed in the pot, and the ones that slipped out were still raw and dry – so I chucked them back in and finished cooking them.

Naturally, this was the first thing Beth told Va about when we got home.

We washed our dishes and I hung my backpack in a tree (hopefully) out of the reach of any bears or raccoons. Either that worked, or they didn’t notice, because everything was quite intact when we got up in the morning. We went to bed around 8:00, and Beth nodded off almost immediately. I know I slept a couple of times because I remembered some of my dreams – they were both involved human visitors to our camp, but I have forgotten them both by now.

My little one man tent that I bought for Father’s Day was a little too cramped for the two of us, but we managed. I was kinda stiff in the morning though. The sun started to come up around 5:30, but we didn’t roll out of bed until 7:00. I started breakfast immediately after getting my backpack out of the tree. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring any oil, cooking spray, or butter, so the pancakes were doomed from the get-go. I made my best attempt, and it would be charitable to call the result scrambled pancakes. We drizzled syrup over them and ate them anyhow, and I told Beth we’d stop in Lincoln on the way out and get some better pancakes. I was thinking McDonalds, but after a while it became pretty obvious that we wouldn’t get to the car before noon, and I expect Mickey D quits serving breakfast long before then. Luckily, I also remembered seeing a Pancake House on the way in, so we set our sights on that instead.

Naturally, this was the second thing Beth told Va when we got home.

We hiked back down to the 3-mile point and hung out at the edge of the Pemi for a bit. Beth had collected several rocks the previous evening and lined them up on a boulder. To my surprise, they were all still there:

Beth on the Pemi in Lincoln

Beth on the Pemi in Lincoln

We decided to hike another quarter mile or so up another trail to see Franconia Falls. Beth insisted we go, but once she caught her first glimpse of them, she had had enough. I’m sure there was a better view farther down the trail, but I didn’t want to press her. I knew she was tired, and I wasn’t sure she’d be able to make it back to the car without having me carry her pack.

And I was correct. The bargain was for a three-mile backpacking trip, and I had taken her at least four before we added the half-mile detour to see the falls. So I took my pack off and hung hers on the back of it (the shoulder straps fit nicely over the tent I had strapped to the top). The funny things is that my pack didn’t really seem any heavier with hers on it as well. Perhaps that’s a testament to the lightness of her pack, or more likely, to my inability to judge weight.

We got back to the trail head at 12:05pm. Beth took a potty break, and then we drove into Lincoln and stopped at the pancake place. Beth ordered three pancakes and I ordered a vegetable omelet. It was a good omelet, but I was not able to eat all of it. Beth didn’t even come close – the pancakes were huge! we paid up and then drove home.