Preparing For My First Overnight Hike

Before the Beginning

My first time in a hammock, and I can't wait to sleep in it!
My first time in a hammock, and I can’t wait to sleep in it!

After being invited to go hiking in November, the itch to go hiking before the big trip has taken over. I love camping, and I am extremely excited to get to go hiking with a bunch of guys. I have been looking for a chance to go on an overnight hike before the big one, and the chance has arrived. The paper planning stage of gathering and purchasing gear for hiking is about to bear the fruit of a hike.

I was invited to go on the November hike around mid-September, and since then I have been obsessing about owning my own gear for the trek. I was given the choice to use loaner gear to make sure that hiking was for me, but since I already love camping, I knew it was a no-brainer to purchase my own stuff. With my birthday being nearby, I seized the day and asked for hiking gear as gifts. Problem solved. I have what I need!

I have been reading several blogs about what I need to hike, and I am in a group text with some local guys that hike, and through these means I have found my set of tools and supplies that I’ll use. My boss’ blog, Misplaced Pastor – Preparing For Your First Hike, has some great information that I don’t feel the need to repeat since you can read his blog right there. His information has helped me curate a decent set of gear for hiking, and now I want to go on an easy hike to test it out.

The Preparation

this photo was taken after Eric and I hiked 5 miles at Reed Bingham.
This photo was taken after Eric and I hiked 5 miles at Reed Bingham.

The preparation beyond purchasing gear goes as follows. The first thing I was able to arrange was a simple 5 mile day hike at a local state park, Reed Bingham. Eric and I set out with most of our gear and hiked to the boat ramp. At the boat ramp we stopped and used our camp stoves to make Ramen Noodles and oatmeal. After we ate our snack we followed the trail back to the beginning and went home. During this first dry run hike I discovered a weakness in my gear: SHOES! I was wearing an old pair of sneakers that didn’t fit quite right. That allowed my foot to slip in the shoe which gave me a huge blister between my big toe and its neighboring toe. I immediately ordered some Hi-Tec Bandera Mid boots from Acadamey Sports. This problem should be solved once I break them in.

The second step in preparation led me to hike a half mile down the street to a creek in my neighborhood. I walked into the woods to do a setup of my tarp and hammock. I’ve played with it at the house in my living room while watching TV, but it was time to do it in real life! The setup went well, but finding the correctly spaced trees from the little I had to choose from was the most difficult part. The whole process didn’t take long, but doing it on a trail with more tree choices will make it a little easier. The last trouble I had was getting my tarp to fold as nicely as it did in my living room. Folding a tarp in the woods and protecting it from tears is a little more challenging. I will probably find a way to attach the tarp to the outside of my pack to save internal space since it doesn’t get as compact on the trail.

The last step in my preparation for the long hike in November is to take my gear on a short, overnight hike. So now, where should I go? I want to go somewhere that is exciting, somewhat close to home, and someplace that has a short trail that I’m somewhat familiar with. This is the part that I’m excited about; With all the preparation aforementioned, I’m going on a solo, overnight hike!

The Location

Providence Canyon, Hiking, Backpacking, Photography
This image was taken in October 2012 on my first trip to the canyon. I want to go back!

I have been wanting to hike a trail with an overnight stay at Providence Canyon State Park in Georgia for quite some time. I have been intrigued by “The Little Grand Canyon” since a family member mentioned it to me years ago. It’s not too terribly distant, but it is still about two hours away which makes it difficult to get to on the spur of a moment. I planned a trip to see the day hiking areas with my family a few years ago, but we planned other events on the same day before arriving at the park; The members of the group were exhausted and were not willing to walk any further into the canyon.    We only spent about an hour and a half there before leaving. I’ll place the majority of the blame on my very young son, Jo Jo. He was beyond exhausted! Ever since that day I have been obsessed with trying to get back to explore, at length, the beautiful colors of sand and foliage. I am finally getting that chance!

Preparing For This Solo Hike

Of course, it’s never a good idea to jump right into an overnight backpacking trip alone or immediately as your first hike, but I feel like the preparation of taking a short day hike and practicing setting up my gear has prepared me well enough to do this solo overnight trip. The preparation for my solo hike has already been outlined in previous paragraphs, so now it’s time to plan and execute the actual solo hike!

Jo Jo was a wee little fellow in 2012. No wonder we didn't stay at the canyons long.
Jo Jo was a wee little fellow in 2012. No wonder we didn’t stay at the canyons long.

To keep my trip from interfering with family and church duties, I have no choice but to leave on a Friday, a regular work day. The beauty of this particular situation is that this Friday is also a local school holiday, so I have one less responsibility on that day which is teaching elemenatary school kids music at an offsite location. I must still arrange the rest of my work day so that it doesn’t interefere with my duties as the manager of the store and one of the lead music instructors. I get paid to perform a profitable task, so I can’t just leave to go somewhere with reckless abandon. Since I teach music lessons on a weekly schedule, getting time off of work isn’t as easy as some other nine to five job. Thankfully, my guitar students know and understand that my Fridays are sometimes flexible. We mutually work together to make sure that we are both in good standing.

The second task is to work out a suggested itinerary that my wife will have so she will know when to expect me at home. That schedule also lets her know when I might be available to make and receive phone calls. My schedule includes a two hour drive, so I have planned out the route to the state park. Then I wrote down the expected hike time to the camp, my activities at the camp site, my expected sleepy time, my expected wakey wakey time, and the time that I expect to be back at the vehicle to head home. If she hasn’t heard from me shortly after this time, the search and rescue team will probably be called within a couple of hours of not hearing from me. Seriously, she is worried about me taking this trip alone, but we also have a birthday party to attend Saturday afternoon. I certainly need to get home in a timely fashion.

The last thing that I have to work out is what to pack. I’m packing some extra gear that I probably won’t take on the longer hikes: photography gear. The light pollution at Providence Canyon is near zero, so I want to do some night photography in the canyon. This is a dream fulfilled! I’ll be packing a full-size tripod, a couple of lenses, memory cards, and some extra photography supplies which adds about ten pounds to my pack. I DO NOT WANT TO CARRY THAT ON A LONGER HIKE! Since this hike is less than ten miles, I think I can manage it. I’ll also be packing about two days’ worth the food, and a change of clothes  in case something happens. Finally, I printed and laminated a map of the park so I can use it to navigate. Of course, I’ll also use my cell phone’s apps and GPS to navigate as well. I’ll give the gear rundown and approximate weight of each in the next blog once I complete this journey.

That’s about it for this trip. The next blog post will be the results and findings from this trip. I’ll be watching for these situations: How did my gear hold up? How well did I navigate the terrain? How did I hold up under the weight of my bag? Was I comfortable at night? Could I survive a longer trek on my own? When will I get to go hiking again??? Tune in soon for the answers to these and more!

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