Lost Meadow Overnight Hike - What was that sound???
This past weekend David and I headed up into the Sierra National Forest for some hiking and hammock camping. I love my getaway time! I finally have my schedule worked out so that I can plan a 1 night backpacking trip every other week in our nearby mountains. It is a short trip, but really helps to recharge my system and get me going for the next two weeks ahead. However short the trip may be, it is totally worth it! Two weeks ago we hiked up our neighborhood mountain foothills. The weather at that time was hot with highs in the upper 90's and lows in the lower 80's. It was a tough climb, but we made it and it was great to get out there! (Click HERE to read about our first overnight hike) This week we decided to change it up a bit and headed up to Lost Meadow in the Sierra Mountains. Ah! The weather was beautiful! Highs in the low 80's and lows in the mid 50's. We are not new to Lost Meadow. It is actually a favorite spot for us to hike and get away from people. I do not think I have ever seen another person there at the same time as us, but cows, that is another story. The cows free range up there, so be prepared to dodge the mud pies. That is nothing new to us though. We live out in the country where cows roam as they please and plop wherever they stand.
Getting Out There
The way I have blocked off time for our trips involves leaving after David gets off of work, so our start time is a bit late in the day. That being said, we arrived at our destination fairly late and right around sundown. This posed a little bit of a problem. When we arrived at the site, we realized that this was a hiking only location and not a camping location. I am not sure how I never noticed that before, or maybe I did not remember since it has been well over a year since I have been to this location, but at this point it was way too late to find another campsite. We ended up setting up camp anyways. I do not recommend doing this and we will no longer make plans to camp here, but under the circumstances it was our only choice since it was so late out. Note to self... always check the regulations before selecting a camp site in the future. This was not only our first and last time camping in this location, but it was also our first time hiking in this location in the summer. Normally we are here in the spring when the grass is really tall and the meadow is very marshy. I will say, it was really nice not having to dodge pools of water and floating grassland. If you do hike in Lost Meadow in the wet season, it is best to stick to the perimeter instead of hiking through the middle. It will really save your shoes and socks. Your other option... wear waterproof boots.
For our camp setup we hiked to the back corner of the meadow since we knew there was a fallen tree at that location that someone had sawn flat which is great for setting up lunch or if you just need a place to sit. It is also close to the edge of the meadow, so you can still see the stars at night. Oh the beauty of it all! We easily found a location with a cluster of large healthy trees that we could both hang our hammocks from. We know to always use tree safe straps so as not to harm the trees that we are hanging from at any location. Being that this was our second run at hammocking, setup was a bit easier, but I will say that it can definitely improve. Each trip we learn more and apply it to our next trip. That being said, we both made modifications this time around to make our setup better.
As for me... I worked harder at getting my ridgeline tighter. This really helped with the sag and supported my netting as well as any accessories (my shoes) a lot better. Another great change was adding a location for my water bladder. The storage sack attached to the side of my hammock is the perfect location for my bladder so that I can easily access water without sitting up in the middle of the night. Bonus! I really liked this! For a better pillow I brought an old stuff sack that came with my sheet set. This is what I used to store my extra clothes and also use as a pillow. Since the fabric was actual sheet material, it was super soft on my face and very comfortable! A change the both of us made was bringing mats to put in our hammocks. We do not have underquilts yet and we knew that the weather was going to be too cold without adding something. We really just used what we had on hand. I brought a yoga mat and was totally surprised how comfortable it actually was! I liked how the mat made the hammock stay opened up and when I laid in it, the position was very comfortable! There were a few downsides though. One downside was that because I am a side sleeper, it did create pressure points which made me toss and turn. If I was a back sleeper it would have been perfect. The second downside was that because my mat was a thin yoga mat, it did not insulate super well. Although it kept me warm for the most part, it was right at the breaking point of not being quite enough.
As for David... Like I said, David also brought a mat for his hammock to keep himself warm. His was a military mat that he had just picked up that day while at work. Because his was technically supposed to be used for sleeping, he found it to be very insulating and because he sleeps on his back, he also found it extremely comfortable. He plans to use this on every trip from now on! In addition to the pad, he also added a tarp under his hammock and bought a small camping folding stool. This was a game changer for him. The tarp made getting dressed easier outside the hammock and the stool was great for not only cooking, but putting your shoes on and so much more. Other than that he also added more accessory pouches and clips on his ridgeline and bought us a camping stove so we could cook our meals. Another big change that is kind of for David, but also for our dog Roxie, was to DIY a backpack for Roxie. This really helped lighten our loads by having her carry her own water. She drinks a LOT!
Settling In For The Night
Once we got everything set up over at the campsite, we cooked our dinner (steak, rice and green beans) and then went straight to bed. We were exhausted. Not because we really hiked a lot, but because we had already worked that day and... well... we are old. Haha! Before getting in bed I made sure my water bladder line was easily accessible, my headlamp was in reach and I had my knife tucked into my hammock pocket just in case. I put on my beanie, my warm toasty wool socks, my fleece jacket and threw my hiking shoes over my ridgeline before getting into bed and putting on my eye mask. Since my extra clothes bag was used as my pillow, I also had my second pair of yoga pants and wool under shirt available if I got to cold... and yes, I did end up putting on the second pair of pants pretty darn quick. Burrrr! This is when I realized that the mat might not be enough to keep my bottom half warm. Luckily after sitting in my sleeping bag for awhile the warm air started to build up and I was actually quite cozy. Cue the sheep that started prancing in my head and sleep was finally upon me.
When Things Go Bump In The night
Sleep was on and off that night. Like I said, the yoga mat caused pressure points and I had to toss and turn to get comfortable. I typically toss and turn at home as well, so I guess this is nothing new for me. I also noticed that the more I moved, the more warm air I lost out of my sleeping bag. Note to self... I REALLY need to get a better sleep system! It wasn't bad though. The warmth would always come back and I would fall asleep again.
That was when the noises started. They always talk about the noises of sleeping in the wild. You really have to get comfortable with it. Noises happen and they happen a lot. The first noise I heard was a low growl, a huff and a snort. Oh wait, that was just David snoring. Haha! Nothing new there... but still annoying and makes it hard for me to sleep. I'm a light sleeper, but I finally found sleep again. That is when the leaves started crunching. Could it be a cow? Possibly a fox? Maybe it is a mountain lion? I hope not! But then I remembered. Roxie is out there. It is probably her. If she heard another animal or person walk up, she would definitely alert us before they got too close. I could soon tell that she was patrolling the area. She was making sure we were all safe. Good dog! And so I fell asleep again. Once again I awoke. I listened to the night as I typically do. That is when a sound was made that was definitely not David and definitely not Roxie. It was a squeak. Not like a mouse squeak, but a rat type of squeak, only larger sounding maybe? It is really hard to describe, but I imagine it would be the same type of sound that a racoon, skunk, large rat or squirrel might make. I first heard it to my right. That is strange, I thought. I listened awhile longer and after a minute I heard it again, only this time is was right over my head. I was hoping and praying that it would not decide to jump down on top of my hammock. This wasn't because I was scared of getting hurt (although I did get bit really hard by a squirrel this summer). This was because I didn't want the animal to tear up my bug net. After all, this is only my second time using it. I kept listening and about a minute later I could tell it was over David's hammock... and then a minute later I could tell that it was even further past him. It was gone. Just passing through our area and not concerned with us at all. So I went back to sleep. I kept waking over the night. More crunching leaves, more snoring. I will say that when I heard something that sounded like a fart to my right I was a bit worried since David was to my left... but I knew deep down inside that Roxie would alert us, so asleep I went again.
Morning Rituals and Hiking
That morning I awoke early as usual. Even the eye mask could not trick my body into sleeping in. Damn you early rising body! Oh well. Mornings are beautiful as the sun starts to cast flickers of light across the leaves of the trees. I laid there just taking in the beauty, but after awhile I decided to brave the cold. I slipped on my camp shoes (which I should have put closer to my bed), and headed out to see the meadow. Roxie was of course happy. She had been awake for awhile now and was ready to start exploring. At first I just relaxed by our fallen tree table while Roxie romped around. Then of course nature called and well I'm sure you know what happens when nature calls. You answer back. Seems simple. At that point since I was now on the move I decided to just take a hike across the meadow to the pond. Roxie would be happy to stretch her legs and run about. She ran at full speed and back and then tromped in the marshy stream that meandered through the middle of the meadow before taking a drink. We made it all the way over to the Lost Meadow Pond where all of the free range cows were hanging out. They were not too sure about us being there, but when they heard a gunshot in the very far distance (hunting season had just started that week), they made a beeline out of there to a new location. Bye cows! On the way back I saw a large pile of scat with lots of berries in it. Definitely not cow, and definitely not from a small animal. I wonder what is was. We made it back to camp and I settled back into my hammock with a good book. Currently I am reading The Ultimate Hang. This book was recommending to me by the members of Hammock Forums. This book is helping so much with tips on how to get started with hammocking, the options out there and more advanced techniques to perfect how you hang your hammock. I'm about halfway through and really loving all of the helpful advice! Right now I am reading about how to hang your hammock when you are in a less than ideal location. This is really important when you live in a place like California with so many places that do not have a lot of trees. Anyways, it is a great read and a helpful resource. Reading in the outdoors is so relaxing!
Packing Up and Heading Out
After awhile David finally woke up and started stirring about. I made breakfast (oatmeal) while he got dressed and attended to his call of nature. I relayed my stories of the bumps in the night and our early morning hike since he sleeps like the dead and had no idea anything was going on at all. I wish I was that lucky! After breakfast we packed up our gear so we could head out. Packing up our gear was a lot easier than the first time. We were able to wrap up our sleep systems on our own and get everything to fit on the first try. Yep, we are pros! Our goal today was to scope out our next hiking site and then head home. Unfortunately California shut down all of the National Forests starting today, so we would not be able to go hiking as planned, but just a night out in the open air and driving through the beauty of the forest was enough for us. While driving to the location we wanted to scope out we were stopped by forest management and told we could not scope out our location. Apparently forest closures mean you cannot even drive on the roads. They do not want anyone camping out in the forest during high fire season and possibly starting a wildfire. I totally understand. Those that are not responsible ruin it for those of us that are, so we had to forgo our plans to scope out the next spot and just head home.
Before heading home we stopped at one of my favorite foodie spots up in Shaver Lake Village. I love crepes and that being said, Blue Sky Café is a must stop location. I got a savory buffalo chicken crepe with a white chocolate mocha while David got a peanut butter and banana sweet crepe with a regular mocha. I should have gotten photos of these beauties, but I'll admit that I did not think about it until I had already scarfed half the crepe down. Yum! While there we met some really interesting people. The first were two men that worked for PG&E. I forget their exact job titles, but essentially then drive and hike along the paths of the power lines to inspect and report any issues that are seen along the way. It really sounds like an amazing job, but they noted that although they get to hike all day, these hikes are not easy and sometimes dangerous, hiking up and down steep mountains and rocks. I still think it sounds like an amazing job to stay outdoors and keep fit. Hmmmm... I might have to look into that. Haha! Probably not, but it does sound fun. The second couple that we met were in their 80's and just up in the area to visit with the café owner. From their stories we could tell they had been avid hikers and campers in all their years with a plethora of stories to tell. I hope that is how I am when I am their age. I hope that I experience all there is to see and have a million stories to tell. You know it is a good story when an old lady starts her story off with, "There was this time when I was sleeping in the back of a truck with a whole bunch of men...". LOL! Tell me more! Her husband's response, "Oh, the good ol' days!" Even better!
After chatting awhile we finally headed out to go home. Since we were not allowed to drive the forest roads, we could not go home the way we had planned, but it was still a beautiful drive. We drove the back way which was very long, but meandered past Pine Flat Lake which is always beautiful; Low, but beautiful. Oh how we need rain! Until next time. Two weeks till our next backpacking adventure. I cannot wait!
What We Learned From This Trip
What I Learned...
I learned that I really need a better sleep system if I am going to be camping in cold weather. It is a good thing that I just ordered one!!!!! I cannot wait to get my Superior Gear Toasty Bundle in the mail! It is going to take about 12 weeks to get it, but it will be totally worth the wait! The bundle includes a hammock, net, built-in underquilt and top quilt. It is going to be amazing!
I learned that I need to put my hammock door opening on the opposite side as my water bladder. This I blame on setting up in the dark, but I still need to remember.
I need to remember to bring a floor mat for under my hammock so I can easily take off and put on my shoes without getting dirty. Something really small should be fine.
I need to remember bug spray. Out of sheer luck there were no mosquitos, but if there were I would have been miserable on our hike and anytime outside of my hammock.
We need to leave earlier so we can setup in the light!
What David Learned...
David needs to remember warm clothing. He always forgets that it is colder in the mountains and ends up freezing his butt off! Luckily he had his ninja suit to sleep in, but ideally he would have also had a sweater and a beanie.
David needs to get a new suspension system. His is looking warn and if he waits much longer he most likely will end up on the ground in the middle of the night.
David needs to get new hiking boots. His are a bit heavy and not as comfortable as they used to be.
David needs to make some improvements on Roxie's DIY backpack. It was not totally secure and fell off twice. I think it just needs more Velcro sewn on.
David wants to use a different backpack. He likes the organization on his pack right now, but a larger stuff sack type would be better and easier to use.
Have you visited Lost Meadow? Do you have any hammocking, hiking or camping tips to share? I'd love to hear any advice you have or stories you have to tell. Just comment below!
Till next time Happy Hikers!