Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lessons Learned at Saunder's Shelter

The accomodations at Saunders Shelter
After resting for a short time, we did several things at Saunder's Shelter that we had never done before.  Remember all of this backpacking stuff was new to us, so these were real "firsts."  It took us a little while to gather our strength back, but eventually we trekked off down the path to the spring to get water and use our new MSR Miniworks EX water filter pump for the first time.  We were pleasantly surprised at the efficiency of this pump and how quickly it filled our water bladders without a tremendous amount of arm strength (of which we had little left) expended.  We found out that the trick seems to be allowing the little chamber (about the size of a film canister) at the top to fill up before pumping each time.  That seemed to get the most bang for each pump, so to speak.  We did notice however that several bear had been visiting this little path to the spring because they were leaving fairly large "presents" for us.  I thought the first time I saw this it was horse poop, but it was bear...pretty good sized bear.  It left little doubt that we would also have to learn how to do another "first" and that was learn how to hang your food bag in a tree.
Saunders Shelter Fire Pit

But first, we settled down to eat dinner.  We learned that those little individual pouches of Propel or Gatorade are wonderful to have on the trip.  We drank several of the Propel pouches on the trip and they really helped us regain our strength by replacing those electrolytes.  We also were about to prepare our first freeze-dried dinner and weren't sure what we would think about that.  When we were discussing this, Smooth and Spot said they really liked the Mountain House meals, which is the kind we had brought.  So we got out our JetBoil cooking system, boiled two cups of that precious water, and poured it into the pouch with our dinner to rehydrate for 9 minutes.  Sure enough, when we had finished preparing the Spaghetti with Meat Sauce we had for this first night, we were really pleasantly surprised at how GOOD it was!  Of course, I guess it could have been affected by how tired and hungry we were, but really it was very tasty.  After dinner and setting up our tent on a bed of pine needles, we got around to trying to hang the food bag.  That was quite an adventure!  You had to find just the right limb--not too close to your camping area, yet hanging out far enough from any tree trunk that a bear couldn't climb the tree and just reach over and pull it toward him.  After a couple failed attempts, we finally got it hung.  I asked Smooth to look at it and see if he thought it was alright.  He said, "well, I don't really expect a bear will come through here tonight."  That was a nice way of saying, "that's easy pickings for a bear!"  So I told him I guess that really meant that I needed to find a better limb!  This one was too low and a large bear could have reached it if he stood on his hind legs.  So, we found another limb and this time, felt better about the final location of our food when it was hung.  The trick Smooth taught us to make it easier to hang the bag was to tie a shoe (Keen sandal) to the end of the rope and throw the sandal over the limb.  It proved heavy enough to carry the rope where it needed to go and also be heavy enough to fall down from the limb once it had wrapped the rope over the top.  At that point, we just secured the food bag to the rope using a carabiner clip and hoisted it about 15 feet into the air, then tied it off to another tree.  The next morning, all food was safe, so we were happy!
Our Hubba Hubba Tent

The following morning, we had Breakfast Skillet wrapped in tortillas and it was absolutely delicious!  I was so surprised that freeze-dried food could taste so good.  I had packed some regular food, such as oatmeal packets and Ramen noodle soup in case we didn't like it, but I will leave those things at home next time--save those ounces!  We said goodbye to Smooth and Spot and wished them well as they planned on going 18 miles that day.  Spot was looking forward to a "soda" at their final stop for that day because there was a little store there.  She said she "loved 'pop'."  :)  We carefully packed our supplies back into our backpacks using the picnic table to lay everything on before we packed it up.  I thought at the time, we were going to miss this picnic table the evening of Day Two, and we did.  I knew our campsite along the Creeper trail, near Whitetop Laurel Creek probably wouldn't have a picnic table.  At this point, I considered that picnic table a real luxury!  Funny how your perspective changes even on a trip this short.

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