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Hiking, Camping, Backpacking, Gear


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Backpacking Hanson’s Point – Red River Gorge, Kentucky

The Red River Gorge National Geological Area in Kentucky is by far one of my favorite places to hike and camp. At only 2 1/2 hours from my house in Ohio, It’s a quick and simple drive to some of the most dramatic scenery in the East. This area has been dubbed “Moab with trees” due to its numerous arches, bridges, and cliff faces. It is rugged and sometimes dangerous–making it even more alluring. It truly is one of the most wild and awesome places to get up close with nature. Unfortunately, the attractiveness of this place draws many people each year, and some are careless. There have been many wildfires started here due to people being careless with campfires. Just in the past few weeks many acres have been burned due to unattended fires and extremely dry conditions. I fear sometime in the very near future Hanson’s Point might be completely closed to outside traffic because of the carelessness of a few. In fact, there was just a forest fire there in the past few weeks due to careless campers not putting out a fire.

On a gorgeous weekend on September 10, 2016, my friend Robb and I decided to do an overnight backpacking trip up to a “secret” hidden spot known as Hanson’s Point. This location isn’t officially recognized by the Daniel Boone National Forest, but is on numerous maps and quite easy to find. I was first introduced to this location about five years ago when I did my first backpacking trip here with the Dayton Hikers Meetup Group. I had been here enough to know how to get to it.

The hike to the Point starts easily enough. We parked at the Gray’s Arch trail head, which is one of the most popular and frequently visited areas. From there, we took the road back a few hundred yards until we reached the Sheltowee Trace trail. This hike is fairly easy (for this region), and covers a ridge with gorgeous views and dramatic slopes on both sides. There are many campsites along the path, but resist the urge to camp at these and go for the big prize–the campsites at the top near Hanson’s Point.

Jeep Renegade with Gear

The new Jeep Renegade on its first road trip with gear!

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Gray’s Arch trail head sign

The hike along the Sheltowee ridge is fairly easy, with only a few minor ups and down and rocks to scramble. It could be muddy and difficult after heavy rain, but not dangerous. There are many vistas and views to the surrounding mountains from here.

Robb on the Ridge

Rob posing on cliff’s edge on the Sheltowee Trace trail

Once we made it to the connector for the Rough Trail, we veered left. After about a quarter mile and on the right we found the unofficial Hanson’s Point trail. This trail is fairly steep, but not hard. It’s more difficult because it’s not maintained, and the hardest aspect is the blow downs and overgrowth. It seems to be getting more difficult every time I visit–which, in all honesty, makes me enjoy it more. You really have to work to get the payoff here, like many places I have been out West.

Sheltowee Trace Trail

The Sheltowee Trace trail

We finally made it to the top, after scrambling through brush and over logs and under wasp’s nests. The large group camp at the top of the ridge was a sight for sore eyes. I wanted to press on to a campsite closer to Hanson’s Point, so we passed a few other backpackers and pressed on. Finally, we found the spot, dropped our gear and set up our hammocks, and then hiked over to the Point. We knew storms were on their way in, so we wanted to be sure to get out to the point and back before they slammed us.

Hennessy Hammock

The Point was just as beautiful as I remember. With sweeping views across the Gorge that are reminiscent of deeper wilderness. This place is wild and rugged, not for the faint of heart. There are plenty of things that can kill you here–bears, snakes, stinging things, and steep dropoffs, which are the biggest killer of all. Hanson’s Point is beautiful but dangerous. There are no handrails here, and nothing to protect you from falling several hundred feet to your death. If you come here, be smart, be safe. Don’t take risks, and don’t overestimate your abilities.

After our visit to the Point, we headed back to camp to chill out and enjoy the scenery. Our relaxation was short lived, however, after a cold front swept through and brought howling wind, rain, and lightning for the next few hours. We sheltered in place under our tarps and stayed perfectly warm and dry. The rain blew by and finally stopped after dark. We were even able to get a small fire going with some wood we had collected and kept dry under our tarps.

The next morning we were greeted by beautiful fog that blanketed the Gorge. It was absolutely beautiful, and I was able to capture some amazing shots with my phone.

Sunlight in the morning

We had breakfast and coffee and headed back down the mountain and back to the car. The hike was beautiful, and I never get tired of being in “the Red”. As a customary measure, I introduced Robb to Miguel’s famous pizza, which was absolutely fantastic after a weekend in the woods.

Miguel's famous pizza

Red River Gorge is wild, dangerous, and beautiful. It’s one of the only places within a two hour drive from my house where I feel I can experience “real” wilderness–like that of being in the Appalachians or out west. I never get tired of coming here, and love bringing new friends who have never experienced it before. This is my kind of place, and I plan on being back many more times in the near future.

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Big Hollow North and South Loop – Mammoth Cave National Park

Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Mammoth Cave National Park. We were there for 2 ½ days of car camping and day hiking. The campground is amazing, and the Park Service does an amazing job. On day two, we hiked the Big Hollow North and South Loops.

First off, I will start by saying this is not the most scenic or challenging trail in the world—especially by National Park standards—but it is still a nice hike, and if you’re quiet and look around, you just might see some very cool things.

The trail starts from the Maple Springs trail head on the western side of the park. To get to it, you will have to take Maple Springs Ranger Station Road from the east and cross the Green River Ferry. The ferry is free but SLOW, so allow for some time to get across. Once at the Maple Springs trail head, find where the connector trail starts and follow it for about a mile. There, it branches off to the North Loop. We decided to take the loop clockwise, so basically just stayed to the left the entire time.

The ferry across the Green River

The ferry across the Green River

The start of the loop

The start of the loop

The flat trail

The flat trail

this is not the most scenic or challenging trail in the world—especially by National Park standards—but it is still a nice hike, and if you’re quiet and look around, you just might see some very cool things.

This trail is a shared mountain bike trail. Unlike other trails in the park, it is not shared with horses, so mud and ruts are minimal, but so are changes in scenery. Elevation change is nominal as well, with only very minor ups and downs. The South Loop is more exciting than the North, since it gets fairly close to the bluffs of the river with a few glimpses of the hills across the gorge. Still, the trail never offers any true vistas, and doesn’t have much in the way of geologic features. There are no caves, sinks, waterfalls, or any such features expected in cave country or even Kentucky in general. In fact, this trail reminded me very much of trails back home in Ohio–only with the presence of Rattlesnakes and Copperheads.

Hiking with the guys

Hiking with the guys

The South Loop sign

The South Loop sign

The view across the river from atop the bluff

The view across the river from atop the bluff

There is a nice spot in the middle of the South Loop that is a bit rocky, and we stopped here for lunch and I hung my hammock on top of a small rock outcropping. This was the only real boulder field type feature I remember seeing on either loop.

Stopped for lunch

Stopped for lunch

Hammock hanging on top of a rock outcropping

Hammock hanging on top of a rock outcropping

Blue blazes along the trail

Blue blazes along the trail

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This area offers some very nice flora and fauna. We saw at least two snakes and lots of birds. We saw a Scarlet Tanager which is hard to describe it’s so beautiful. This bird is in the Cardinal family, and is a bright red with stark black wings. Unfortunately, none of us were able to get a good photograph of it. There’s a lot of other wildlife in the park which we witnessed at the campground, including deer, pheasant, and turkey, to name a few.

I had hoped to get to check out the Sal Hollow Loop while at Mammoth Cave, but it did not happen. Fortunately, we did get to do the heritage trail and Mammoth Dome Sink on the last day. These trails are stunning, with enormous trees, caves going straight down into the earth, bluffs along the river, and much more. I will do a separate trip report on those.


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How Do You Find Time to Go Backpacking? Part 2

This is part two of a three-part blog written by three backpackers (Dane, Rob and Lance) all answering the same question:

“How Do You Find Time To Go Backpacking?”

Finding Time To Unplug From All Things Needing A Plug

By Rob (Backpacking Adventures)

Find time to go backpacking? Time? You think I can find time?

I am a husband, and the father of two daughters ages thirteen and seventeen. My career requires about thirty weeks a year on the road. Then, there are my other hobbies of golf and playing music. There is no chance of me finding time to go backpacking…I have to MAKE time.

Actually, WE need to make time.

A number of years ago, one Saturday afternoon, I was having a glass of wine with my wife Angela, and our conversation ended up on backpacking. Her question was innocent and simple, “when was the last time you went backpacking?”

My answer was frustrating and now hard to imagine.

“I don’t think I have been on a trip since…wow, I think it was the first weekend in June!” I said in astonishment.

This realization wouldn’t have been so bad if we were having our conversation on July 27th, or August 27th or even September 27th. Instead, it was late November. The Saturday before Thanksgiving.

robThe enthusiasm that you see in my videos is genuine. I love the trail. The physical exertion, unplugging from all things needing a plug, and the sense of accomplishment all play a part in building my enthusiasm. I enjoy only having to focus on sleeping, walking, and eating. The trail is my happy place.

We are only on this great earth for but a short time, shouldn’t we be spending as much time as we can by doing what we enjoy?

Now, back to the conversation with my wife.

At some point that afternoon we agreed to the fact that when there is a goal, with a plan that makes it achievable, the goal is usually accomplished. We proved that point to ourselves by sharing examples of our own lives as well as that of our children, family, and friends. That is when it happened. Somewhere between talking about learning how to ride a bike and how to plant a garden is when my wife gave me a goal and a plan to make it happen.

robcal“At least twelve nights a year in your hammock. There are 365 of them to choose from, pick twelve” Angela said.

I sat and listened.

“You will go on one backpacking trip each of the next twelve months.

It may only be a quick overnighter to Morgan Hill (our local State Forest) or it may be a multi-day trip in the Adirondacks, but you are going to go backpacking every month. We will not be sitting here a year from now having this same conversation” she stated.

How could I argue? Why would I argue? What should I say?

“I may not be great at math, but 12 nights out of 365 isn’t a big percentage,” I said with a smile.

We continued to talk about sacrifice, support, and doing what we enjoy. Together we even figured out (with the help of a calculator) that 12 nights is just 3% of all the nights in a year.

Just 3%.

Could I commit 3% of my year to do something that I loved?

That’s how I find the time to go backpacking. My family made it a goal, a simple goal – make the time to do the things you love to do.

What % of your year are you willing to commit to doing something you love?

Please share your answer or how you find time for backpacking in a comment below.

I hope to see you on the trail,

~ Rob

Connect with Rob at Backpacking Adventures or on FaceBook, YouTube and Twitter.

Hi everybody, Rob here. I am a backpacking enthusiast who started documenting my trips via video in 2014 on my YouTube channel. This is when Backpacking Adventures was born. Since that time I have had the opportunity to interact with so many like minded people and the Backpacking Adventures community has become a very important part of my life. To learn about what we are trying to accomplish read more.


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How Do You Find Time to Go Backpacking? Part 1

This is part one of a three-part blog written by three backpackers (Dane, Rob and Lance) all answering the same question:

“How Do You Find Time To Go Backpacking?”

Make the Time to Do What You Love

By Lance (OutLan)

I have always loved camping and hiking. Since I was a little boy, my favorite thing to do was to go on hikes with my family on the trails around my hometown of Dayton, Ohio. I wanted nothing more than to go camping, though my parents were never really the “outdoorsy” type. Their idea of roughing it meant getting a hotel room each summer in Gatlinburg near the Great Smoky Mountains. At the age of 10, all I wanted to do was explore those mountains–to hike, camp, and spend time deep in those woods. Backpacking, I thought, would be the way to really do it. To me, that was the answer. Unfortunately, I never got beyond the planning stages.

OutLanFast-forward to five years ago, after many years of getting tied to desk jobs, starting a family, and not being out in the woods other than car camping, my friend invited me to an overnight “survival” camping trip in November. My gear was old and not up to the task of the snow, sleet, and 18 degree temperature I experienced that night. It was both a horrible and exhilarating night, and I knew I wanted to make a regular a habit of getting outdoors. I wanted to get into backpacking. This would mean getting all new gear, gaining the experience, and making the time to do it. This, I thought, was not going to be easy.

My kids were just two years old when I came to this realization. My wife realized how badly I wanted to make this a part of my life, and reluctantly supported my crazy expenditures and weekend trips out in the woods. Being the father of twin boys, it never really felt right to leave her alone with two babies, but my wife let me go anyway. I know she was not always happy with me going out to the woods, but she also I knew it’s what I loved and was my release from the everyday stresses.

These days, there are multiple things that pull at me on a daily basis. Though my kids are older, it is just as challenging – if not more so – to get away. I have work responsibilities tugging at me almost 24/7, the kids have school and extracurricular activities, and there are the common but important household responsibilities and chores that every husband and father has to deal with. It is never easy to find the time to go backpacking, so I have to make the time. This starts with strong communication with my wife, letting her know when and where I’d like to go, and making sure there are no conflicts in our schedules. She is disinterested in backpacking, and is fine with me going off and doing it alone or with friends. To keep our schedules aligned, we make use of available technologies, like mobile apps, to sync our schedules. There is never really a convenient or “good” time to do it, but certain times are better than others, and it always comes down to timing. Not every trip comes to fruition, but the ones that do are always great.

Time is the most valuable thing we have, and though it’s sometimes hard to balance all of our priorities, it’s still important to make some time for ourselves. This year, I encourage you to try making getting outdoors a priority. Get out there, explore creation. Hike, camp, backpack, and just take in the beauty that’s around us.

Connect with Lance at The Outlan Channel or on FaceBook and YouTube.

Lance enjoys hiking, camping, backpacking, and a wide range of outdoor activities and gear. He discovered YouTube a few years ago as an infinite resource filled with other people who love the same things he does. He decided to turn his passion for photography and the outdoors into an official channel and it has become an addiction for him. He is striving to consistently produce more high-quality content and gain a larger subscriber base from whom he can learn from as well as instruct and entertain.

 


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The Camping Hammock Trend – Too Much of a Good Thing?

When I got into hammock camping a few years back, I felt I was on the fringe of the backpacking community. It seemed like very few people were really doing it, but those who were loved it and wanted everyone else to know just how much they loved it. Back then, there were only a few trusted vendors and their prices were fairly reasonable. Today, it seems almost every day a new hammock vendor springs up–each with its own “unique” features (gimmicks?). And, these new gear rigs are coming at a very high cost.

Just recently, I saw a new hammock vendor I had never heard of advertised on Facebook. This vendor wanted $275 for the tarp setup alone, and over $400 with their hammock and suspension. Really? Is that where we are now? This just seems prohibitively expensive, especially to someone just starting out and looking to get into hammock camping.

I’m not against paying high dollars for a nice setup. In many cases, I think it’s worth it and I believe you get what you pay for, but these vendors coming out with these crazy prices just seems a bit extreme, and I think in the long run it’s going to turn more people away from hammock camping. I understand any hobby costs money, whether it is hammock camping, backpacking, golf, or whatever, but it just seems as though there are way too many of these “startups” and Kickstarter type of companies that are attempting to make huge bucks for the sake of the trend.

To any new hammock campers out there, keep your eyes open and don’t just jump on a gear rig because it might “look cool”.  There are a lot of quality vendors out there like Warbonnet, Hennessy, and Dream Hammock–just to name a few–who’ve been doing this for quite a while and really know their stuff. And, they’re likely not going to break the bank while outfitting you with a quality hammock and tarp. Do your research, and check out places like http://hammockforums.net and some of the hammock groups on Facebook. There are a lot of people there who really know what they’re talking about and will steer you in the right direction.