The Deam Team ~ I’m sure that’s the first time that joke has ever been made. Or perhaps not…
A few, proud group of E-gineers (and a stalwart friend of E-g) recently made our way out to the Charles C. Deam Wilderness, within the Hoosier National Forest for a backpacking adventure. We had been talking about putting a trip like that together for awhile. With a little persistence and planning, what started out as “talk” became a “walk!”
Keep It Simple
For this trip, we wanted to keep things fairly simple. So we decided to only stay out one night – making it easy for other E-g folks and family to try out backpacking for the first time. As it turned out, though, those of us that were able to go on this trip had a bit of experience already. Still, we had some new equipment we wanted to try out, and most of us hadn’t backpacked for a few years, which made the trip seem new in ways.
Given that we all had a bit of experience, and because we wanted to minimize the amount of trail that we backtracked on day two, we decided to do a 9-mile hike the first day, and about a 6-mile hike the second day. Wow. It turns out that 9 miles is a lot to ask of a middle-aged body, when it’s carrying an additional 45-50 pounds of gear… Wait, I thought we were going to keep it simple! A quick retrospective analysis resulted in adjusting plans to shrink that day-one distance a good bit for future trips.
The first day was pretty warm. It got up into the mid- to upper-80s. So, while it was the second week of October, and while the leaves had recently begun to turn a bit, it definitely didn’t have that Fall-like feel. Still, it’s beautiful country down there. Probably the only negative thing we could say about the hiking itself was that we shared the trail with stock (horses), and you could say that was obvious in a few ways. So we had to watch our step a bit more than usual. But we did get the pleasure of seeing some horses and riders, which was great.
We made a few stops on 9-mile day. We took a much-needed long break for “lunch” (a few protein / energy bars). Some yellow jackets from a nearby hive kept us company, and even reached out a couple times to say “hello” to David. He didn’t appreciate that very much.
The variety of tree species in Deam kept things very interesting. We found ourselves walking alternately through deciduous forests, evergreen forests, and of course mixes of the two. Acorns and buckeyes littered the ground, while the majority of the leaves were still on the trees.
Near the end of day one, though, a breeze picked up and we found ourselves walking the forest while the driest leaves of the canopy above rained down all around us. That was a sight to see. The next day, those leaves were joined by countless others on the trail – the wind had picked up quite a bit that night.
The second day’s hike was only about 6 miles, and it was much cooler. We saw quite a few more hikers and campers that day – not only because it was a shorter path to the camping on the peninsula, but it was also a Saturday. Most of the people we saw were headed in as we were heading out. But we also saw some folks that passed us up – and had obviously made the trip in and out that same morning, by the lack of gear on their backs.
A Need To Know Basis
We can talk about the weather, the wonderful views and experiences of the forest, the gear (as we do, below), salty-sweet trail mix, and favorite hiking shoes/boots all day. But the real win of the trip was getting to know each other better outside the office. We have great working relationships in the day to day – and make no mistake, it goes well beyond mere professionalism already. But there’s much more to each of us that a grueling but beautiful hike, lake vistas, and a campfire seem to bring out like nothing else. The easiest miles we covered while enduring the heavy packs and a bit of pain were the ones we spent talking with each other. These are memories that won’t easily fade – in fact, they feed into the desire for future forays into another forest to make some new memories!
Reviewing Some Gear
[We’re not trying to push products or get anything back from any affiliate sales leads here, so we’re not going to provide links to products we mention here.]
From a gear standpoint, the big winner had to be the Platypus 4L GravityWorks water filter. Based on a strong recommendation by another E-gineer (Clay), Mike picked one up for $120 at a local Gander Mountain (Amazon had them for the same price at the time). And what a great decision that was. This one filter solution kept all five campers with plenty of safe (and tasty!) water – as much as we wanted. It’s a perfect whole-camp solution. Some of us had tried SteriPens in the past – those are effective, but the water still tastes like pond, lake, river, etc. And we also had experience with filter-pump solutions – those are decent for a single person, but they take a bit of work and the ones we’ve tried are also a bit heavy. With the Platypus GravityWorks filter, the water was not only purified but filtered. The result was that Lake Monroe’s water was very refreshing. It is a very easy-to-use system: we let gravity do the work during filtering. And it’s also very lightweight – a friend of backpackers!
The ENO DoubleNest hammock and Guardian bug net worked out well, too. Day one was pretty hot – even up until well after dark. So we needed protection from tiny critters, though we were in the 2nd week of October. But later in the evening the temperatures dropped significantly and the wind picked up – which made the Snugpak Hammock Underblanket a necessity for Mike. With a Hennessy hex tarp and ridgelines made with Lash-It and nifty hardware from DutchwareGear, Mike’s hammock set up was golden.
Craig tried out the Mountainsmith Morrison tent. He was definitely done with the “coffin” (bivy sack) from a prior backpacking trip in Wyoming, and opted for something a bit larger. Though it was considerably heavier, it sounds like he appreciated the extra breathing room!
Matt and David did the smart thing – they shared a tent. Their packs also happened to be significantly lighter than the rest of ours. Hmm. Some of us old timers have a bit to learn from these younger guys! Matt also brought a small and lightweight alcohol stove – another smart, practical decision.
Justin carried a tried and true 2-man tent that made it through backpacking in Montana and Wyoming several years ago. But it was quite a load for a single sleeper for just one night. Obviously we could have combined some sleeping arrangements and lightened our packs up a bit. But some of us were testing out new gear, so we just had to deal this time around.
First of Many; What’s Next?
Well, the intent was for this to be the first of many backpacking opportunities at E-g. We’ll be looking to expand the number of folks coming along, while we reduce the number of miles we put on – at least for the first day – while also reducing average pack weight! Reducing those initial miles and average pack weight, should help everyone enjoy the hiking part even more, while leaving more time for fun around camp in the evenings. Yes – evenings, plural. We hope that some future trips will be multi-night adventures!