Hiking Big South Fork Pt 1 – Tennessee Hammock Camping & Backpacking Trip

Join me for 3 days of hiking & hammock camping on a backpacking trip in Tennessee’s Big South Fork Nat’l Rec Area.

For this backpacking adventure, I’ll be breaking the hiking trip into two parts. Part 1 is mostly in the woods and at camp and is more of a hanging in the woods, conversational type video. In Part 2 we will traverse into the higher regions of Big South Fork, hitting the ridges for views of the Cumberland Plateau’s sandstone bluffs and Big South Fork River.

GPS Data for this trip will be released with Part 2.

Trailhead and Parking Location

Bandy Creek Visitor Center, 151 Stable Rd, Oneida, TN 37841
N36° 29.275′ W84° 41.837′

Topics discussed and things that happen in this episode

  • Feeling like a lost idiot on the trail.
  • Camp setup priorities when arriving at camp.
  • Setup / breaking camp in the rain.
  • Continuous Ridgeline usage and setup for quick and easy tarp deployment.
  • Low carb backpacking food options for carb conscious or ketogenic diets.
  • Starting a campfire in the rain.
  • Campfire cooking some meat on a stick.

Trails Used Day 1

  • Parked at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center
  • Started on the Oscar Blevins Farm Loop Trail (located in the corner of the parking lot on the opposite side of the road from the visitor’s center)
  • At the Intersection, turn right onto the Collier Ridge Bike Loop. This is where I mistakenly continued straight, which would have taken in a circle. Luckily, I realized earlier enough to turn around and head back to the intersection.
  • Turn left (north) on the gravel road. From looking at the map, I could have avoided the short road hike by hopping on the access Jack Ridge trail, which appears to be found either right near where I popped out on the road, or a little ways down that road to the right.  Continuing on the road seems to have saved me a decent amount of hiking though, which made up for my wrong turn earlier,
  • Turn right (east) onto the next, smaller gravel road.
  • Arrived at the sign for Jack Ridge Loop Trail and headed left onto
  • Black House Branch Trail
  • Right on Laurel Fork Creek Trail
  • Setup camp by the waterfall pool along the Laurel Fork Creek Trail.

Big South Fork Day 1 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Day 1 Total Mileage: 7.25 miles
Day 1 Gross Elevation Gain: 860 feet
Day 1 Gross Elevation Loss: 1,256 feet

The gear list used for this trip along with discussion on each item can be found in my accompanying 2017 Ultralight Backpacking Gear List Blog Post and Video.

An Eco Friendly Camping Stove? – Enki Wild+ Stove Review

A Review and Demonstration of the Enki Wild Portable Pyrolytic Stove System.

Specs and Features, as per the Manufacturer

Enki Wild Stove:

  • Battery Life 50 Hours ( With One Charge )
  • Weight 1.3 Kg (2.8 lbs)
  • Power 2.5 KW
  • Chamber Max capacity ~ 0.2 Kg (.44 lbs)
  • Power Supply 5V USB
  • Fuel Any Biomass

Enki Wild+ Stove

  • Weight 2.7 Kg (5.95 lbs)
  • Power 8.5 KW
  • Power Supply 5V USB
  • Fuel Any Biomass
  • Chamber Max capacity ~ 0.9 Kg (2 lbs)

Overview (Quoted from the Manufacturer)

  • “Enki Stove Wild is a outdoor camp stove, designed to run with every kind of biomass, avoiding the transportation of gas tanks or charcoal, everywhere and without smoke.”
  • “Enki Stove Wild is a portable pyrolytic stove. Our stove transforms the fuel into gas instead of burning it directly. Through this particular process, you can have a clean, stable and smokeless flame.”

Enki’s Official Website for the Wild stove line

Other gear seen in the video: Aukey 30,000mAh USB Power Bank, AllPowers 21W Solar ChargerSOG FastHawk Tactical Tomahawk

 

Winter Camping with a Sled

For this Backpacking Trip, we use a Pulk Sled to go Winter Camping in the Deep Snow of the White Mountains.

Mike and I originally planned to do a long overdue return trip to Mt Crawford for some winter backpacking and camping, but as is usually the case, the notorious weather of the White Mountains thwarted our efforts.  With a higher summits forecast from the White Mountains Observatory calling for -60° wind chills due subzero temps combined with high winds and gusts upwards of 90 MPH, we opted to stick to the lower elevations instead.  So we shelved our higher elevation idea to camp on Mt Crawford, and instead started scouting for a new location on the fly.

Basically, we were winging it in terms of trip planning, but fortunately I was armed with a full set of White Mountains AMC maps to keep up safely prepared on whatever trail we ended up cast upon by the winter hiking gods.

In the video we do some snow campsite selection and setup, tons of firewood collection, snow furniture building, campfire cooking, trail sledding on the rather steep Airline Trail, and overall just plain having a fun time out in the snowy woods of New Hampshire for a few days.

Downloadable GPS data for this trip and others can be found on the Trip Data Page.

Winter Sled Camping Route Overview – Sintax77

Time of Year
Mid February

Parking Location
Appalachia Trailhead Parking Lot
44°22’17.6″N 71°17’19.9″W

Trailhead
Appalachia Trailhead on Presidential Hwy (Hwy 2), Randolph, NH

Trails Used, Day One

  • Valley Way Trail
  • Randolph Path
  • Airline Trail
  • Setup Camp near Airline Trail
  • Located in the middle of the triangle formed for the Airline, Randolph Path, and Valley Way Trails.We used this campsite with significant snow pack on the ground so leveling out a decent platform for a tent was no problem. Based on my experience in this general area on previous summer trips, I would assume it would not make a very accommodating tentsite without snow, due to the steep and rugged terrain.

Day 1 Mileage: 2 miles
Day 1 Elevation Gain: 1,122′

Winter Sled Camping Day 1 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Trails Used, Day Two

  • Airline Trail
  • Return to vehicle at Appalachia Trailhead Parking Lot

Day 1 Mileage: 1 mile
Day 1 Elevation Gain: 6′ (pretty brutal, I know)

Winter Sled Camping Day 2 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Notable Gear Seen and Used in the Video

AMC White Mountains Full Map Set
Camp’ brand backpacking Snow Shovel
MSR Whisperlight Universal Stove (we were using white gas)
MSR Flex Skillet
Coghlan Camp Grill Grate
Nemo Losi 3p Tent
Z-Lite Sleeping Pad (Yellow pad used for bench, I stacked it on top of a Big Agnes Q-Core SUL pad for sleeping at night)
Therm-A-Rest Pro Sleeping Pad (Mikes sleep pad)
Hammock Gear Burrow 0° Top Quilt
Scandinavian Gear Backpack (my red pack)
Gregory Palisades 80 Backpack (Mike’s pack)
MSR Denali Ascent Snowshoes (my grey snowshoes)
Atlas 10 Snowshoes (Mike’s snowshoes)
Coghlan Fire Sticks (Fire starter used on day 2)
Sled – I’m honestly not sure what brad it was, but below is a pretty highly rated, heavy duty gear sled listed on Amazon.

Catskills Hiking & Trail Pizza – Backpacking with our Dog

Join Sara, our dog Denali, & I for some Catskills hiking, trail cooking, backpacking, and hammock camping in upstate New York.

For this backpacking trip, we’ll be hiking and camping near Slide Mountain and the East Branch Neversink River in the Catskills, complete with a visit to the summit of Table Mountain and Peekamoose Moose Mountain.  The mileage will be low, but the star of this trip isn’t the trails.  It’s the food.  Good old, classic trail cooking.

What’s on our backpacker’s menu?  Well, Sara had a craving for some trail pizza in the middle of the woods somewhere, and I was up for the challenge.  Were we successful?  You’ll just have to come along and find out.  Either way, it’s bound to be an adventure.  😉

Full GPS data for this, as well as all of my other trips, is available on the Trip Data page.

Trailhead Used:  
Denning Rd Trailhead  N41° 57.924′ W74° 27.144′


Trails Used Day 1, in Order

Pheonicia East Branch Trail
Peekamoose Table Trail
Set up camp after second bridge (the double log one) at N41° 58.474′ W74° 25.734′
Continue up Peekamoose Table Trail towards summit of
Table Mt and Peekamoose Mountain
Lunch / Snack at summit and
Return to camp on the East Branch Neversink River

Day 1 Mileage: 7.8 miles, including summit round trip (about 3 miles each way)
Day 1 Gross Elevation Gain: 2,130′

Trails Used Day 2, in Order

Peekamoose Table Trail
Pheonicia East Branch Trail
Return to vehicle at Denning Rd Trailhead

Day 2 Mileage: 1.8 miles
Day 2 Gross Elevation Gain: 
146′

Trip Total Mileage: 9.6 miles
Trip Total Elevation Gain: 2,276


Trail Pizza 
Ingredients

Boboli Pizza Crust, Individual Size – 2 Pack
Boboli Pizza Sauce Individual Pack (comes in 3 pack box)
Cabot Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded – 8 oz package (2 cups volume)
Hormel Pepperoni, pre-sliced – 6 oz package (enough for 2 pizzas, plus snacking)
Camp Cooking Gear Used for Pizza

Pair of cheap aluminum tongs (from dollar store, or whatever)
Coghlan’s Camp Grill  – rack used to hold pizza
Fozzils Bowlz (used as a plate / prepping dish / cutting board)
Sea-to-Summit Alpha Utensil Set

MSR Flex Skillet Review …and other thoughts on choosing a Camp Skillet

A review of the MSR Flex Skillet camping fry pan, as well as a discussion of other camp skillet options for comparison.

The MSR Flex Skillet is a light weight, easy to pack frying pan aimed at weight conscious hikers who wish to do some some more advanced cooking on their backpacking and camping trips.  And by “more advanced”, I mean more than just boiling water for a dehydrated meal.  Because some of us, myself included, think anything more than boiling water on a 3 oz stove is going full back country gourmet.

If that sounds like you, then you may be interested in the MSR Flex Skillet, or maybe even it’s little brother, the MSR Quick Skillet, which we’ll also touch on a bit in the video.  If your a more hearty backpacker looking to do some heavier duty cooking on perhaps a canoe or car camping trip, then the MSR Flex Skillet may be a tad more minimalist than you need.  Towards the second have of the video I’ll also go over some heavier duty alternatives (as the MSR Alpine Fry Pan), as well as some more inexpensive options, depending on your expected usage and needs.

Below are the Flex Skillet’s Specs and details, according to the manufacturer.  *As discussed in the video, I did find some discrepancies with MSR’s official specs.

Manufacturer’s Specs and Details

Weight 7 oz / 199 g
Height 2.5 in / 6.35 cm
Diameter 9 in / 22.86 cm

Easy Clean-Up: Scratch-resistant, hard-anodized nonstick aluminum.
Versatile: Nests with MSR® Flex 3 and MSR® Flex 4 Cook Systems and Pot Sets.
Includes: 1 Talon™ pot handle.

Train to Trail – Harpers Ferry Winter Backpacking Trip – Hiking in Virginia

Join Mike and I for for a “Train to Trail” Winter Camping, Backpacking, Campfire cooking, & Hiking adventure in Harpers Ferry, WV.

We tried something a bit different for fun on this winter camping trip – instead of driving, we decided to take an Amtrak train directly to the trailhead.  This is actually and idea that Mike and I had been kicking around for a while now.  The first challenge was finding an interesting trail that was actually close to a train station, without a need for secondary transportation or an excessive walk.  After a bit of research, we determined that Harpers Ferry, West Virginia fit the criteria quite well.  The train practically dumps you right on the Appalachian Trail.  We booked our tickets, packed our bags, and hit the trail, er, I mean, train station.

With 4 days and 3 nights off, we had a decent amount of time to play with on this trip.  The challenge however, would be that we needed to plan an out and back trip that didn’t put us to far away from the train station on our final morning, rather than doing a loop like we normally prefer.  Fortunately, we quickly realized that to be a perfect excuse to do a a laid back, more camping, less hiking  kind of trip.

The plan?  After leaving the train behind,we would hop on the Appalachian trail for a few miles – just long enough to feel the seclusion of the deep winter woods, and set up a base camp for the duration of the trip.  Other than that, we really had no hard set plans, other than relaxing, having a good time, and brushing up on our campfire cooking skills.  Did we succeed?  I guess you’ll just have to watch and see…

Trailhead:  Harpers Ferry Amtrak Train Station

GPS Data for this trip available on the Trip Data Page.

Harpers Ferry Winter Route Overview Sintax77

Harpers Ferry Winter Route Overview Sintax77

Trails Used
Leave Harpers Ferry via Appalachian Trail South
After around 3 miles, bushwack West to unofficial campsite.
Return via Appalachian Trail North

Notable Gear Used on this Trip by Mike
Gregory Palisade 80 backpack
EMS Down Parka
EMS Ascent Hard shell Jacket
MSR Whisperlite International stove
Dream Hammock Thunderbird Hammock
Hammock Gear Burrow 20 top quilt
Hammock Gear Incubator 20 underquilt
Hammock Gear Cuben Hex Tarp with doors
Portable bluetooth speaker with fancy lightshow
GSI cookset

Notable Gear Used on this Trip by Sintax77
EMS Longtrail 70 backpack (2011 version)
Montbell UL down parka
EMS Ascent Hardshell
MSR Rapidfire stove (see my video on it here) *no longer manufactured – modern equivalent is the MSR Windpro.
MSR Flex Skillet
Dollar Store tongs and turner for cooking
Sea to Summit Alpha Cutlery Set
Fozzils Bowl / Plate
Dream Hammock Darien Hammock
Hammock Gear Burrow 0 top quilt
Hammock Gear Incubator 0 underquilt
Hammock Gear Cuben Hex Tarp (standard model, no doors)
Pocket Chainsaw
SOG Flash I tanto blade pocket knife