The hardest part of starting an adventure is getting out the door.
I spend a lot of time reading about other people’s adventures in books, magazines and social media. I also spend time researching gear choices, identifying the latest and greatest to be used on my own explorations. Rarely, however, do I take that knowledge and actually go on an adventure. There’s always something that seems to get in the way: work, family obligations, the weather, wondering if I have the right gear…the list of excuses is endless. I’ve even loaded up my pack and bike to do ‘practice trips’ while stopping short of taking the actual trip.
This weekend I changed all that and actually left the house and had a S240 micro adventure. A micro adventure is a short (often less than 24 hours) trip with the intent of getting out to explore and spend the night out. It can be planned or spur of the moment, usually local, and shouldn’t require a lot of gear or technical experience.
My S24O came about when a colleague mentioned that he was looking for a place to hike or camp this weekend. I’ve done a fair amount of day hiking, so I started describing nice hikes and provided a map for a local fire tower hike. I was really glad to share the information and, at the same time, it provoked me to take action on my unfulfilled camping aspirations. I promised myself not to let the weekend go by without doing a S24O.
I had just the route in mind, a short loop in Harriman State Park that would take me to a mountain-top shelter that also has tent sites. I knew from a previous ‘practice hike’ that I could complete the trip comfortably, not have to worry about water, and could bail out if I had to and be back at the car within about an hour.
The plan was to be packed and ready to go at the end of work on Friday but Dorian intervened with high winds and threatening rain and, as such, I postponed my departure until Saturday. A micro adventure is meant to be fun; no point heading into a heavy storm. I packed up Saturday morning, prepared some real food for the trip and left just after lunch. The drive to the park took about two hours. I made relatively quick work of the ascent to the shelter and proceeded to locate an unacceptable site for my tent, whereupon I fussed with it for 40 minutes before giving up.
Experienced Northeast hikers will recognize the problem with the tent site pictured above. The lovely, mossy spot that I pitched upon is actually a slab of rock! And it’s gently sloping toward the left. I had a hard time placing the stakes and the slope made sleeping very…..dynamic. I loved the site despite this shortcoming, so I made do the best I could.
One of the things I obsess about thus keeping me from actually doing anything is food. Freeze dried camping meals are either (1) good but expensive or (2) absolutely awful for you because of all the salt they contain. I chose to prep some real food at home in the morning and bring it with me. Pictured above: grilled brats in some ramen (don’t use the spice package). I’ve done a pretty good job of getting my base pack weight down and so I packed a can of beer as a guilty pleasure. Delicious real food.
The tent held up despite high winds and one stake that was kind of sketchy. I rarely get a very good night’s sleep in the tent and this weekend I determined why: it’s like lying in a coffin! It’s a nice tent, just not for someone who is very tall and tends to roll around a bit. I’ve also concluded that my inflatable pad is too narrow for my carcass. I would have known this sooner if I actually went on trips. Experience is the best teacher.
I rose a little after 6 am, packed up, hiked out and was on the way home by 7 am. I got home in time to cook breakfast for the family. I didn’t get the best night’s sleep but I got out. I had an experience in the outdoors. I learned something about my gear, practiced my outdoor skills and— I hope–broke the chain of excuses that have prevented me from spending nights out in the woods.