Well….it’s not much of a mock bug out, but it’s what we managed with two youngens tagging along.
Since I managed to wrangle a week off work that included both my boys’ birthdays (two days and four years apart) and my 16th anniversary on June 1st (one big party and get it over with
) it was decided that we were going out in the woods to volunteer as mosquito feeding stations for a few days and shake down some gear and get it dirty. More of a car camping trip than a hike, but we’re still getting geared up to tackle some actual backpacking later this season or next year.
Making sure it was a positive experience for the 7yr old and 11yr old was a major consideration as well since we’re still setting the hook for “great outdoors experience” for them. I’m pretty sure the kids took the bait hook line and sinker, since they complained vehemently of having to come home and have hounded me since about when we’re going out again!
We had the kids pack their own kits ahead of time with the idea of “if you don’t carry it, you won’t have it!” with the understanding of food and shelter being covered already. So of course the first versions of their packs were of course toys and snacks. So we gave them a basic “Ten Essentials” list to make sure they had covered….
Navigation (how to know where you are and where you’re going): they packed their emergency whistles with a small compass on it and the map (pamphlet) of the campground.
Sun Protection (How to protect yourself from Sunburn): Sunglasses and hats.
Insulation (How to protect yourself from Cold/Heat): Fleece liners for the rain jackets and beanies and their sleeping bags and closed cell pads.
Illumination (How to see after Sun goes down): Battery powered glow-sticks on lanyards and new flashlights I bought them for their birthdays.
First-aid (How to deal with ouches and oopses): They put together basic ouch kits with the help of Mom with Band-aids and Neosporin. (We, of course, had a fuller kit on hand just in case.)
Fire (How to make fire for heat/cooking): Since we don’t let them have lighters or matches and haven’t let them have ferrocerium rods yet, the ingenious little scamps grabbed their magnifying glasses out of the bug collecting kits.
Repair kit and tools (what tools might you need?): They haven’t yet received their first pocket knives, but did list them as things they should have as well as some paracord for their packs. I will likely be shopping for a couple of basic Victorinox knives for them in the reasonably near future.
Hydration (extra water): They each carried their own Nalgene clone water bottles.
Nutrition (extra food): Each had some snacks and ramen in their packs, as well as a ½ pound of rice each to “help even the load”.
Shelter (How to protect yourself from the elements such as Rain/Wind/Sun/Bugs): Tents they listed but didn’t worry about since we told them we had it covered and we’re not getting them their own tents quite yet. It’ll happen as budget permits.
Of course some things got forgotten since we let them pack their own kits (toothbrushes, etc), but nothing catastrophic and good reminders for next time.
The plan was to grab the shulatt spawn off the school bus Thursday afternoon and load ‘em in the Jeep and roll out. Plans…pfft! Two and a half hours later, after double checking the packs and finally getting everything loaded, we were off! Fortunately, we weren’t going too far. A short twenty-five mile drive and we were at the campground and getting signed in at 6:30pm. Plenty of light left to get the tent and hammock set up and a campfire set up.
My cell phone is actually the best camera I have right now. I took somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 +/- pics and about a half-dozen vids with room to spare on the memory card and didn’t really have to recharge my phone in the Jeep more than usual for my normal usage for the phone. I think the pics actually turned out pretty decent, all things considered!
Kids prepping the tent site:
My ten year old tent isn’t quite as rain resistant as it used to be. So since we were expecting some rain, I decided tarps were called for: (It wasn’t the best tent when we got it, but it’s served us well for a decade. Since we are moving more towards ‘less is more’, it will be upgraded as soon as we can manage it)
The more I read about hammock camping, the more I wanted to give it a try. However finances being what they are (crappy), and not even being sure I can actually get a decent night sleep in a hammock due to not being able to sleep on my back and restless leg syndrome (I can dose and rest, but can never really sleep unless on my side or belly), we couldn’t justify dropping a substantial chunk of change on a proper camping hammock. I did manage to pick up a Grand Truck Ultra-light hammock that fit the budget and would give me an idea of if it’s even feasible to pursue hammock camping. After some diligent research, I figured I could give this a try for the first night out and see how it went.
Hammock setup: (Obviously still needs some fine tuning AND A BUG NET!!!!)
Since I didn’t have proper tree huggers, I looked around and decided that since weight wasn’t an issue this time, the tie-down straps from the Jeep kit would fit the bill admirably! A two strand twist of paracord worked suitably well for a ridgeline for the hammock as well.
The hammock was quite comfortable, but I didn’t sleep a wink Thursday night.
In part, it was just trying to get my sleeping bag settled comfortably and my RLS acting up. The MUCH larger issue was the mosquitoes. Once I get a bug net, I may give this another try. Using the cold weather bag under the patrol bag inside the bivy worked fine for insulation, but the material was so slick that moved around so much, I simply could not maintain a comfortable set up. I need to get a closed cell pad and just use the patrol bag. For now I’m going to have to call this attempt a fail.
Well, not a complete fail. A comfy hammock is never a waste on a camping trip!
My kids loved it!:
Another thing that kept me awake, aside from those pesky mosquitoes, was spiders! I was almost concerned about my wife waking up and finding me strung up in a tree wrapped in a web! Now I’m not overly arachnophobic, but the thought of this little sweetheart and her brood of spiderlings sharing my bedroll didn’t give me warm-fuzzies.
I found her by her eye-shine from my headlamp while she was hunting waterbugs (aka American cockroaches). At first I thought maybe the glow was phosphorescent fungus, or maybe just a reflection from the usual campground detritus, but when I got closer…
Female Wolf Spider with spiderlings: (very impressive specimen! She was at least 1 1/2 to 2 in. length of body and a good 4-5 in. across the legs!)
She was quite obliging and held still while I grabbed my cell phone and fumbled for the camera and snapped a few pics. She didn’t even seem to mind the flash.
Found this little guy by the bathhouse later the same night. At only 1 in. or so length of body, he’s a bit more ‘normal’ sized for the Wolf Spiders in this area.
Friday morning…cofffeeee!!! There are some things I’m willing to do without for the sake of saving weight and bulk, but that first cuppa java ain’t one of them. Good old fashioned camp percolator coffee pot on the old Coleman single burner camp stove that fits on the regular 1 lb. propane canister and stand. It’s old, it’s heavy, it’s bulky, but it’s as reliable as they come and it’s what we have for now until I can afford that MSR Whisperlite Universal I’ve been pining for.
Simple breakfasts of Rice Krispies Treats and oatmeal cookies and we’re ready to get the day started.
Scrounging firewood and showing the boys how to prep tinder and kindling killed some time and ran off some energy.
He’s so proud of himself! :
At one of the neighboring camp sites, we found a fire pit full of broken beer bottles and garbage (uncouth louts) that we took the time to clean up a bit. In the nature of the “make use of available resources” spirit, I saved some of the broken glass as scrapers for making tinder. Fine thin curls perfect for the fire starter kit. Not a durable edge, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a readymade scraper that is any sharper without spending a substantial amount of time with a honing stone and strop.
Broken beer bottle scraper:
We also found a standing dead pine that provided some excellent kindling. Good and resin heavy though not quite fatwood yet, but well on its way to becoming so.
My eldest practicing with my carpenter’s hatchet. He still needs to work on his technique a bit, but that’s what practice is for.
This kept ‘em occupied for a bit and out of Mom’s hair. :
Since I “decided to save weight” and forego bringing myself a camp chair (ie. Forgot to load it). I figured this was a perfect opportunity to show the boys how to ad-lib a one-legged camp stool from my folding shovel locked into the right angle position and using your legs as the other two feet of the tripod.
My wife, of course, had the camera handy since she was waiting to catch that pic of me falling on my ass as the ‘stool’ fell out from under me. It was a shame I had to disappoint her.
It was a bit short, and didn’t allow for lounging, bit it served very well to keep my posterior out of the mud.
Showing the kids some basic fire skills.
Wood shavings and basic feather sticks:
This should be enough to get us started:
Video: (Apologies for the background noise and over talking. My lovely lady doesn’t have much experience with taking video)
Friday’s dinner: (aka “cook your own dinner you little beggars!”)
The Saturday evening fire was PJ cottonballs for firestarter, just to show the boys the differences in the light.
We also tested out some ‘WetFire’ that a friend gave us a packet of, but I didn’t think to get any pics of it at the time. I’m definitely picking some more of that stuff up! That shit works like nobody’s business! The solid block doesn’t take a spark too quickly, but it will take one. If you scrape some shavings of first and pile ‘em around the block, just looking at the firesteel is almost enough to light it up and it burns hot for a surprising amount of time. It does leave more residue than charcloth or PJ cotton though.
Friday was pretty uneventful, other than getting everything set up, kicking back, and enjoying being in the woods. At least until the storm started gathering on the horizon Friday night. Time to tighten up the tarps and batten down the hatches. After breaking down the hammock and securing gear in the Jeep or under the extra tarps, it was watch the light show and try to stay dry.
Fortunately, the tarps did their jobs and my half-arsed rigging withstood the wind and rain just fine.
Saturday morning was interesting in the change the 20*F drop in temp and the thorough soaking wrought.
The toads were out in force, much to the amusement of my children who spent a good 15 min watching this little guy wander through the puddles on the tarp covering the firewood:
The good soaking also created a mycologist’s schmorgesborg with a variety of fungi sprouting overnight.
Still not sure what this one is. If anyone can ID it, feel free to speak up!:
I believe this is Fly Agaric that’s started to color fade as it dries out, but could be wrong. In any case I certainly wasn’t willing to test it. :
No idea what this one is either. Anyone able to educate me on this? :
Among our wandering of the day, we happened upon some tracks on one of the muddier trails behind our site.
Equine: (Had the kids going for a bit “My guess is it’s one of those half-ton critters with two heads and eight limbs.” But they figured it out by spotting the horseshoes nailed to one of the trees as an equestrian trail marker.
The Most Dangerous Animal: (as correctly identified by the kids when asked “Ok, of all these tracks, which one is the most dangerous?” Smart kids.)
Saturday’s lunch was experiments with Bannock. This was actually our first time cooking bannock in the campfire, believe it or not. But since we’d seen such success with bannock on previously posted MBOs and found such a plethora of recipes online, we just had to give it a try.
We’d planned on making some bacon bannock, but that didn’t work so well. The bacon kept mysteriously disappearing from plate before it could make it into the bannock. I blame the gremlins. Never mind the spatula marks on the boys and my hands from wandering too close to the bacon plate. Honest, we were just trying to guard it from the gremlins! Momma just wouldn’t believe us though and kept thwacking us with that spatula.
While Momma and the youngest spawn mixed up and kneaded the bannock…
I filched a hunk of it, rolled it out into a rope of sorts, and wrapped it around a handy stick.
It turned out wonderfully after a bit of time over the fire while slowly rotating it for even heat.
The main bannock in a cast iron skillet that we brought for the purpose.
After the initial heating, I moved one of the bigger coals to the side and put the skillet against it facing the fire to bake
It took longer than I expected to cook through and was still pretty dense bread (the youngest was a little over-enthusiastic with the kneading), but VERY tasty and filling.
Of course, my eldest notices the patterns on the bannock and dubbed it “scary faced bread”
We also tried a batch that had more than just a bit of honey added to it. It took quite a bit longer to cook through due to the added moisture content, but when it was done….I barely got a chance to taste it after the wife and kids pounced on it. We’ll have to bring more honey next time!
After lunch, another walk and another critter.
These little buggers are FAST! I managed to catch this one only because he ran under the door to the bathhouse and cornered himself in a shower stall. Once I brought him back out for the boys to get a better look at him, I let him go (of course), but he didn’t seem to be in that much of a hurry to leave and hung around sitting on my knee while I snapped some pics until my youngest tried to pet him.
Once we got back to our site, I showed the boys how to make a simple pot hanger. My eldest found the perfect stick for it and I set to work…
Not too shabby, if I do say so myself
Dinner Saturday was corn on the cob and potatoes cooked in foil in the fire.
They didn’t last long enough for me to get any pics of the finished product. By the time I got done cooking and thought about grabbing a quick pic of the fruits of my labor, I about had to use my walking stick to pry my kids off my dinner so I could actually get to eat some of it. (little vultures!) Apparently, we’ll have to bring more corn next time!
Sunday was break down and pack up to head home. Once we got the site packed up, we brought to boys down to the lake so they could do some fishing (aka drowning worms and scaring fish). Unfortunately, neither of them really has the patience yet to fish for long, so it turned into more of a “lets practice casting” than fishing, which was a shame. The park had restocked the lake with catfish the weekend before and the folks next to us we’re pulling 1-2 lb catfish and a good sized bluegill in using chicken livers as bait and the folks on the other side were having good luck with nightcrawlers. We’d brought some Gulp brand artificial grubs (maggots) and some dried crickets to try, but had no luck with either. That wasn’t particularly surprising though, with the ruckus our kids were making. Oh well, something to work on with ‘em.
All in all, we had a lot of fun and learned a few thing and taught a few things.
So there it is, our SSMBO
(edited for spelling and layout)