It was delightfully coincident that Rivendell’s recent email blast discussed “fending off hedonic adaptation”. It was a sort of philosophical pondering about why some of us sometimes take the not-most-convenient path and endure being wet and cold from sleeping outside. I had decided to grab an (less than ideal) opportunity on Christmas eve 2014 to ride a bicycle to the woods and sleep outside. I wasn’t trying to make any sort of philosophical statement. I just wanted to sacrifice a few conveniences so that I might have access to other enjoyable things.
Although I left work a little earlier than normal, even with the monster tailwind, I didn’t have much evening light. I quickly set up the hammock, grabbed my supper, and walked down to the lake shore. I was already too late to see the sunset, and ate as temperature dropped with the disappearing daylight.
There was only the slightest sliver of moon, and it was rapidly dark. I didn’t have time to assemble firewood. The chilly air nudged me into the hammock early with resignation that it would be a very long, cold (given my mild weather camping gear) night. At first, I was frankly a little bored lying there in the dark with nothing to do. Before long, however, I found myself listening to the leaves, my tarp flapping, and the surrounding night sounds. About the time contentment came, what sounded like thousands of coyotes began their yipping. It was entertaining to try and imagine where the sound was coming from, and how far away they might be. As I relaxed and closed my eyes, it seemed as though they were all around me. There yips swirled like a merry-go-round, spinning me to sleep.
For a hammock application and no underquilt, it was little colder than desirable for my bag. So I experimented with a vapor liner system to reduce evaporation heat loss. Basically, I covered my bottom half with a plastic trash bag, and my upper half with my rain shell. Although I stayed comfortably warm all night, I was a little damp when I awoke in the morning. I was covered head to toe in wool, so as I stood in the breeze watching the opposite bank light up in the sun, I was acceptably warm and dried quickly.
As the sun rose higher in the sky, it was my favorite time in camp; breakfast outside. Hot coffee outside on a chilly day is almost like the encouragement of a friend.
When I started breakfast, I imagined crawling back into the warmth of the bag for little while. But it was a long night, a beautiful morning, and I guess the food and coffee spurred me to wandering around and taking photos.
One more cup of coffee, and another walk around.
I am learning how to love winter in Texas.
There was a brutal headwind for my return trip home. But I had such a great outing that even the wind couldn’t spoil it. I simply decided to take my sweet time and admire the countryside. Well that, and think thankful thoughts about my triple crankset. Figuring as long as I keep the wheels rolling, I’d reach home eventually. And I eventually did.
What an excellent idea. Happy Christmas, Pondero!
I see you received a wonderful Christmas gift. Thanks for sharing.
Nice one, Chris. I was hoping for a pre-Xmas campout, as we had one here last year. But the weather was so iffy the last few days, and while there was some initial interest, no one else ended up wanting to go. I wasn’t in the mood to go alone, since my Christmas is fairly lonely as it is, I was hoping for a more social outing, sort of the reverse of what you did. Hopefully next year.
I would have loved to have company. My location seems to be pretty far away from anyone who shares my definition of a good time. As a result, I typically go solo or I…no go.
Yeah, I realize that. We are spoiled here in Portland that there’s folks around that like to bike camp, even in winter. This just means we need to get down there and camp with you!
The nights are certainly long right now. One downside of camping this time of year. Way to be a tough guy though!
Due cold and long nights, winter camping will never be a frequent thing for me. This time, however, I was in the mood to go with it and it paid off.
A few years back I used to do a lot more winter camping. The long nights and a lot of bag time always was the hardest part on long December nights.
Yeah, that’s the biggest thing that scares me off of winter camping. Being in a social setting with a blazing fire does alleviate a lot of that, though. And I like taking advantage of the lit and heated cabins and yurts in some of the state parks near Portland. Such winter camping luxury!
A fire would have made a huge difference. Maybe next time I get an earlier start.
What temp sleeping bag did you have? I’m curious about my ultralight winter gear choices.
My bag claims 20F, but I’ve been chilly wearing long woolies at 35F in a tent on a thermorest pad. In a hammock, it’s more challenging. I recently read somewhere to take a bag’s rating and add 15 degrees for a realistic value. That seems to match my limited experience.
On this trip, I took my thermorest pad and a light fleece blanket for underside insulation. It worked pretty well.
I really enjoy off season camping, so I might consider a warmer bag and/or an underquilt for my hammock set up.
What brand pad is it? I’ve also found that the whole temperature rating varies widely by brand/make/material.
Lovely story and great Christmas Eve story. I’m glad you found contentment out in the wild, and are starting to enjoy Texas more and more!
And out of curiosity, what were the temps on the trip?
My pad looks similar to the Therm-a-rest Trail Pro I saw online.
It was about 50 when I left my house at 4pm, dropped to about 35 during the night, and was back up to the mid 50s at my return at 1pm the next day. It was windy.
Also, it does look like there are cabins at some Texas parks. Of course, I have no clue as to whether any of these are near you:
The two closest ones on this list are about 110+ miles via google bike routing.
110 miles is “next door” in Texas terms, right? 😉
Looks like you had a great time as usual.
Yeah the wind can be strong, but like you say, patience is a virtue.
Love the red hat!
Have a Beautiful Day, Chris.
Sounds like a great trip, I use a hammock also and used a pad during the spring thru early fall. I just purchased a underquilt and was amazed how warm it was. Hammock Forums is a great site to learn about hammock camping and there is a great list of cottage industry makers of all kinds of gear. Jim
Thanks, Jim. I have much to learn, and will definitely check into Hammock Forums to pick up on some tips.
Great read and fab photo’s, being a visualist I am in much admiration of your home/profile photo, happy christmas and hope 2015 brings you good health and happy pedalling 🙂