Saturday, February 25, 2012

NW PA Hang at Hickory Creek

This past weekend was the 2nd Annual NW PA Hang.   A "hang" is a meeting of hammock enthusiasts.  Last year it was held at the Marion Brooks Natural Area.  This year we were at that Hickory Creek Wilderness in the Allegheny National Forest. 
A "hang" is pretty much what is sounds like: hammockers get together at a campsite and hang their hammocks and talk and have fun for a few days.  Not much hiking goes on.  So Chris and I decided to go up a day early and hike the 12 mile loop that goes through the Hickory Creek Wilderness.  The forest service has decided not to maintain this trail anymore -- they want to let it revert to it's natural state -- so the blazes have not been painted for a number of years and there are a lot of fallen trees to climb over while following the trail.  But despite this the trail wasn't that hard to follow and we had a good hike.

Daytime temperatures were in the high 30s.  The first day we had some rain in fact.  I expected this and so wore my DriDucks rainsuit.  There were only a few inches of snow on the ground.  We were the first people to have hiked the trail since the last snow, judging from the lack of tracks.

Like every forest in Pennsylvania the Allegheny National Forest was once logged bare of all trees.  In places the trail follows old railroad grades which were built to carry the logs out.  The rails were removed as soon as the job was done but here you can still see pattern in the ground of the old railroad ties, which were left behind.

One of the exciting things for us was to discover that this part of the forest was inhabited by a family of fishers.  Fishers are members of the weasel family.  They were introduced to Pennsylvania to control the porcupines.  Porcupines have very few predators and they do a lot of damage to trees (especially cherry trees which are a favorite).  Fishers are not put off by the sharp quills and make short work of a porcupine.  Fisher tracks have five distinct claws as you can see below.  They also have a bounding gait so the tracks are in pairs as you see below.  Judging by the number of tracks we saw the fishers seems to be thriving in this area!

Chris and I spent Thursday night on the trail and then on Friday we completed the loop and joined the others who had just arrived.  We spent Friday night at the hang.  There was a fire and good food and conversation.  Below you can see FixedByDoc (his trail name) who gave us a demonstration of starting a fire with a fire-bow drill.
I used my bridge hammock as usual.  But rather than an underquilt I brought pads which I slipped between the layers of the hammock.  Nighttime temps were in the mid-20s and I was very comfortable. Underquilts are a little nicer than pads because pads don't breath and so can feel a little clammy.  But it wasn't too bad.

The hang continued through Saturday night but I left late Saturday afternoon.  That turned out to be a good thing because it started snowing heavily just as I was leaving and I was the only one without a 4-wheel drive.


George Carr said...

Sounds like a nice time, Heber. I just bought a Hennessy Hammock and was debating either an underquilt or the super shelter (which is an insulated foam pad). You seem to have had a good night in the cold with the pad option. Any thoughts?

Heber Farnsworth said...


One of the other guys at the hang had a super shelter last year but he switched to an underquilt this year. He didn't like the super shelter.

Underquilts are definitely nicer. With my 2-layer hammock it's easy to put a CCF pad in between the layers. It also allows me to go to ground if I need to. But I'm hoping the make the switch to underquilts exclusively soon.

George Carr said...

Thanks Heber! I'm pretty much set on scraping some pennys(sic)together for an underquilt. Come on Spring!:)

Julia said...

This just might be one of the coolest (no pun intended, being that there is snow HA) events I have ever come across. I have always been relatively interested in the outdoors, but hiking never seemed up my alley. However, I can lie in a hammock all day and possibly into the night too. Do things like this ever happen in the spring, or even summer?

Heber Farnsworth said...

Yes they do. To find out when and where they are happening get on and look at Hangouts, Campouts, and Trip Planning for your area. It's a lot of fun.