Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bankhead National Forest, NW Alabama

So I went to Bankhead. When I told my folks what I was doing, they just sort of looked at me. She does not care as much as she lets on. There is just so much work to do at the house. On the balance scale, the more work I do at the house, the less I ride. While the house looks better and better, I feel worse! I have not had a good stiff after-ride BM in I don't know how long! I hate these shitty shits!
The plan for bankhead included me and my buddy Jim going up friday afternoon and camping down the road from the trailhead. Jim's schedule, however is a little looser than mine and he was able to get out of town in the early afternoon. I got driving directions from him. They were the directions our friend Johnny provided. He is a hell of a researcher. If it's on the net...he's seen it. He's that good.
I had expected to hear from Jim when he arrived in the park. The plan was to call and confirm that the directions were correct and to pass on any other relavent information. That call never came. I was sure that coverage was nil in the forest, so I did not worry about it, although, some communication would have been nice snce I was running much later than expected.
I worked a full day and left the office around 6:00. I went to my Grandparents, met the rest of my family there and had dinner. I sat around for a little while visiting until I felt a comfortable segue to exit.
I finally left at about 8pm. I could not get hold of Jim to alert him of my tardiness. Not so much because he owns me and I must check in, but out of common courtesy.
The drive up was nice. It's about 95 miles. Half on the highway; 65N. The rest on lesser roads. Overall trip time is about 1:15. Not bad for a park that offers so many opportunities for cyclists, canoers, backpackers, etc. One day, I'm going to get my shit together and combine my two loves; cycling and camping. Bankhead is a good place for this because the forest is huge and one can camp anywhere and there seem to be hundreds of miles of forest roads - both on and off track.
Johnny's directions took me directly to the campground. I think it's called Brushy Lake Campground. Despite the darkness, I found the spot Jim selected easily since his truck was parked near the street. As I pulled in, the forst thing I noticed was that he had a small fire going and was happy to finally company.
Number 5 is a great spot. There is an upper section with a picnic table, fire pit and tent flat, but if you walk a few feet down away from the road, there is a lower section that is grassy and flat and neat the lake! This is where Jim had his tent set. I brought a tarp and a groundcloth.
Normally, I sleep in a tent when I camp or backpack. In the summer, I really enjoy the sleep I get in a hammock. In fact, if I could use the hammock year-round, I would because it really is that comfortable. I have never slept better. In cooler temperatures, however, it is really difficult to stay warm in a hammock. Even in a 15deg down bag, once the insulation is compressed beneath you and the air flow under the hammock has circulated any semblance of warmth away, there is nothin to do but shiver. I have a Hennessy Hammock. I noticed that they have designed an accessory that traps air below the hammock and keeps the hammock warm when needed. I have not tried this myself, but am anxious because I really like backpacking with a hammock. In warmer temps, it allows you to leave the pad, pillow and sleeping bag at home. That translates to drastically reduced pack weights!
The tarp thing is a whole story in itself. I am on this kick after running into Ray Jardine's web page extolling the virtues of tarp camping and his DIY tarp and quilt sewing projects. I had seen his page before but wrote it off. I mean, tents are cool! Like a turtle, you've got a little house on your back! But the last time I went backpacking, despite the dry weather and a tent that is very well ventilated, the walls sweated and I got wet anytime I brushed against the inside tent fabric! Now that's aggravating! It's like a dogs cold nose on your hand when you least expect it. Ok...dog lovers...I guess that's endearing and makes you cream but I don't really like dog nose juice. I also don't like wet tents.
So, for this trip, I slept under a tarp for the first time and it was really great. The night was clear and cold. I slept really warm and secure in a down bag. When I awoke, everything was still dry and I felt great!
Jim cooked up a big car-camp breakfast. Scrambled eggs, sausage and bagels. We had a few hours to kill because the rest of the group were just leaving Birmingham and still had just over an hours drive. We ate, drank coffee, went for a short hike at the lakeside, took dumps, and packed up the campsite.
Suddenly, it got cold as the sky darkened and ten lightning bolts struck nearby. We double timed our packing efforts. I jumped in my truck because it seemed unsafe to be surrounded by tall trees and the lightning seemed really close! Then, it started to hail! Little dime size pieces of ice fell solidly for 5 minutes. Just as suddenly as it started, it stopped. The cloud mass passed and the sun brought the temperature back to a more comfortable level!
We rolled out of the campsite and drove to the trailhead which is a few miles down the road. When we arrived, John was already there and the rest were not far behind.
Stay tuned for the ride report...


Blogger cootersgarage said...

So where's the ride report? I'm not doing it. I'm research not reporting.
ok ok hows this, it was long, it was muddy, there were horses & horse poop. It was all rolly polly jumpy flowy good-time bike riding. Never mind the chain suck.

yeah baby, improve on that!

March 7, 2007 at 7:51 AM  

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