The OutLan Channel

Hiking, Camping, Backpacking, Gear

Sunrise


Leave a comment

The 2017 Great Miami Outfitters “Frozen Butt Hang”

There are many things I love in life. One of those is hammock camping. Another is hanging out with good friends. This was our second “Frozen Butt Hang” for myself and my friends Joe and Robb–two longtime friends of mine who also love the outdoors. While it turned out to not be very frozen, we had a fantastic time.

The frozen butt hang is put on each year by Great Miami Outfitters (http://greatmiamioutfitters.com), a local camping/outdoor store located in Miamisburg, Ohio. GMO is one of my absolute favorite places to shop, as they easily rival (or even exceed) big-box stores like REI and Cabela’s. The owner and employees are great people, and they do a great job putting on this event. 2017 was the seventh annual occurrence of this event, and my second.

We started out the adventure with a great lunch and some brews at a local establishment called Mudlick Tap House. This little brewpub has some of the best food and beer around, and it’s only a few miles from the park. After a few craft beers and soup/sandwiches, we were on our way to Germantown Metropark–specifically, Shimp’s Hollow group campsite–to begin our adventure.

Germantown Metropark is a fantastic and wild little spot located in Southwestern Ohio. Here, there are giant, old-growth forests, a rushing creek, and steep hillsides. There is also lots of local wildlife, like squirrels, turkeys, Great Horned owls, bobcats, even coyotes. The park has several miles of trails ranging from very easy to difficult. The Twin Valley Trail (or TVT) goes through the heart of the park, where I traverse several sections of it each summer during the TVT Challenge.

The group campsite is the perfect place to have a group hang. There are literally hundreds of anchor points to choose from. We set up camp on a ridgetop. With all the leaves down we had a great view of the surrounding rugged terrain. We each had our own unique hammock setup and we had to compare and talk gear. Robb had a Hammock Bliss and ENO tarp, Joe had a ENO Doublenest and tarp, and I had my Hennessy Expedition Asym with deluxe tarp. Robb was excited to try out his new whoopie slings and Dutchware straps and hardware. My Hennessy is a great old standby, but I’ve had it for a while and would like to upgrade, maybe to a Dream Hammock or Warbonnet Blackbird. For now, that’s just a dream until I get ahead financially. I realized lately I’ve spent way too much modding my Jeep. Maybe I should pick one or two hobbies instead of ten. Ha ha.

Robb being himself

Robb being himself

Just hanging out

Just hanging out

img_8167

My hammock rig with some Dutchware bling

Dinner was an amazing assortment of potluck food. There were meatballs, pizza pockets, even Pad Thai. I am always so impressed with how good some people can cook at camp. I typically stick to Mountain House meals on the trail or hot dogs when car camping. To have this much selection of great food was a real treat. The assortment of side dishes and desserts was also expansive. No one went to bed hungry that night.

After dinner, the boys and I did short night hike out to a backcountry campsite. I haven’t done that much night hiking in the past, and am now convinced it’s something I need to do a lot more. To be out on the trail with just a headlamp and the light of the moon is ethereal and exhilarating. It’s an entirely different experience. The senses become a lot more heightened, and every little sound and movement is enhanced. We walked past a bush full of birds and I think all of us jumped just a little bit.

In contrast to last year’s campout, where it bottomed out at 7º F, this year it only got down to 29º, and was 38º by the time we woke. There was no snow or ice, just some blustery winds that blew through. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of going to bed with cold feet, which meant the rest of my body was cold. I ended up wrapping my down jacket around my feet to get myself warmed up, and finally drifted off to sleep.

img_8190

The morning temperature from inside my hammock

img_1027

I really didn’t want to get out

Sunrise

Sunrise on top of the ridge

Morning was beautiful, with a gorgeous sunrise over the ridge. It was clear and beautiful. Joe brewed some amazing pour-over coffee with his Jetboil stove. We slowly tore down our rigs as we sipped the delicious brew and talked gear, the outdoors, and life in general. Then, we all went our separate ways–back to our families. It was a short adventure, but an adventure nonetheless. If it’s 24 hours or two weeks, make sure you take the time to get outside and live.

 

Advertisements


1 Comment

Unfrozen – The 52nd Annual Hocking Hills Winter Hike

In its 52 year history, the annual Hocking Hills Winter Hike has never had a high of 63 degrees—that is, until this year. Shattering 1998’s record of 58 degrees, there were no icicles or frozen waterfalls or snow this time. In actuality, people were hiking in T-shirts and shorts.

The Hocking Hills Winter Hike (or “HHWH”) is a southeastern Ohio tradition in which thousands of hikers–from recreational to professional–descend upon the Hocking Hills region to see the frozen caves, waterfalls, streams, and hillsides. Hikers can choose to just do the first half mile or so, or the full length of the hike which totals over seven miles. Some brave souls even did the out-and-back twice, bringing their hike totals to over 14. It is always an enjoyable time, and I have now hiked it in extreme cold and unseasonable warmth. There are so many beautiful aspects to the area that it doesn’t matter if the weather isn’t holding up its part of the bargain. There is just too much beauty here to not make one excited about the outdoors.

On this balmy and foggy Saturday morning, my wife and I arrived around 9:00 a.m. and were directed to the Hocking Hills Dining Lodge parking area. Unfortunately, the lodge was destroyed by a fire in December 2016 and all that is left are the charred remains of a once-beautiful structure. From there, we took a shuttle bus to the Old Man’s Cave trail head, where we began the hike down into the gorge. The temperature was in the 40’s. A gentle mist came from out of the gorge floor. The crowd was much smaller this year, likely due to the fact that many of those who come to the winter hike come solely for the winter scenery which was nowhere to be found this year.

img_8006

The former Hocking Hills Dining Lodge, now in ruins from a fire in December

We hiked through Old Man’s Cave and were surrounded by rushing waterfalls and streams. I had never seen so much moving water through the park before, and it was an entirely different experience. The cliffs were covered with it. We then left Old Man’s Cave to start the hike on the “Granny Gatewood” connector from Old Man’s Cave, to Cedar Falls, and finally to Ash Cave. It’s about a seven mile trip one-way.

As we hiked along, the temperature warmed and the sun shined. We hiked the ridge from the Cave to Rose Lake, which is arguably one of my favorite sections, filled with with huge Pine and Hemlock trees that stay green all year long. The trail skirts along a deep gorge that resembles something more like the Great Smoky Mountains than Ohio. Within the gorge, thee are occasional glimpses of giant boulders and occasional waterfalls. It is such a gratifying hike, despite the massive amount of humanity during this particular event. This part of the trail tends to “thin out the herd” as only the more capable hikers proceed to do the full mileage and not just the half-mile loop through Old Man’s Cave.

“There is just too much beauty here to not make one excited about the outdoors.”

img_7888

The Hemlock-filled ridges along the Granny Gatewood section

We continued on past Rose Lake, a crystal-clear lake surrounded by the rolling hills. At around mile three, we reached Cedar Falls, which is undoubtedly one of the best (if not the best) waterfalls in Ohio. The recent rains gave it a heavier flow than normal. It made a thunderous sound as the water crashed over the rocks.

img_7897

Crystal-clear Rose Lake

img_7918

Cedar Falls

img_7922

The first of two bridges at Cedar Falls

From Cedar Falls, we hiked back up out of another gorge and up several stairs to the annual lunch tradition of bean soup, corn bread, and hot chocolate. By this time, it was about 63 degrees, so none of that really appealed to my wife or I, but we graciously ate it anyway and gave our modest donation to the local Scout troop that provided it. The soup actually is very good, and each year I load it with onions, pepper, and hot sauce to give it some “kick”.

From there, we headed toward Ash Cave for the remaining three miles. This section of the trail took us through some very deep mud, across streams, and past a fire tower. We were greeted by someone in costume dressed as Smoky the Bear. The fire tower section always seems to be the “breaking point” for many of the unconditioned hikers, and where many people both young and old tend to start saying “how much further???”.

img_7969

The fire tower

img_8012

Posing with Smoky the Bear

The final leg of the hike was somewhat exhausting, having to fight mud and hordes of people. Unlike a self-paced hike, pace is determined by the speed of those in front of you. There were many people with dogs, little kids, etc. that tended to slow everyone down. Still, the feeling of camaraderie in a common goal–reaching Ash Cave–was inspiring. it reminds me very much of a race (5K/10K, etc.) where everyone is striving for the finish line at their own pace. Everyone together trying to reach the end.

As we reached Ash Cave, we felt a sense of relief and awe at the rush of water tumbling over the cave’s edge. It was bittersweet to know the hike was coming to an end. It was a feeling of both accomplishment and wonder.

img_7985

Ash Cave

img_7992

The Hocking Hills are by far the most amazing place in the state of Ohio. For just a few hours, you feel as though you have stepped completely out of the state into somewhere completely far away. There is always something new to see each year and it’s a hike that I never get tired of doing. My wife and I plan to bring our children here in the spring so they experience the wonder and majesty of one of Ohio’s (and America’s) greatest outdoor treasures.

Hocking Hills State Park is located in southeastern Ohio near Logan. To learn more about the park, go to https://www.hockinghills.com/.