As part of Triangle Bike Camping, I organized an overnight campout in Umstead awhile back that took place on Saturday night. Originally, there were 6-7 people signed up to go, but as the weather started looking more and more gnarly, folks started dropping off. I really can't blame them for seeking comfort over what turned out to be a really wet, really cold campout.

I was set to leave at 3:30pm, but at about 3:00pm, it was pouring down rain. Not only that, but I could hear thunder at regular intervals. I waited around another 15 minutes, eventually deciding to grit my teeth and ride in the rain anyway. Thirty minutes in, there was not a single dry spot left on my body. (Note: I'm very glad I panic-ordered that extra dry bag and that it arrived in time for the trip.)

I had to stop by the trailer on the way to the meetup point to grab my collapsable kettle. I had also hoped to find my glasses there, but no luck. (Really hoping those turn up soon.) At this point, my shoes were about three times as heavy as they should ever be, water-logged and just plain wet. Nevertheless, I refused to turn around, figuring I'd feel better once I met up with the two other folks who hadn't already revoked their RSVPs.

They both showed, but Courtney (smartly) chose not to go with us. She did pass me some food she'd promised to bring and a lantern. Nathaniel, the other camper, agreed that since we were both already soaked, we should go ahead and follow through with our plans. By the time Courtney had departed and we'd gotten ourselves on our bikes, the rain did let up, meaning our ride out was mostly dry—shoes excluded.

The ride itself (~10 miles) was fairly pleasant. Riding with a loaded bike is always a bit of a chore, but this was the first time I'd taken this particular bike, which is able to balance my luggage up front as well as in the rear. I felt more confident going down hills, as the bike wasn't squirrelly at all. I only made one wrong turn, but that was quickly remedied once I looked at a map and realized we'd only gotten a little bit off course.

Once we arrived at the campsite, I went about setting up my hammock. This is the first time I've actually set the entire thing up, as I wasn't able to do any bike camping last year when I first got it. The rain fly came first, which was easy peasy. Then came the hammock itself. At this point, my feet were so frozen, I was getting a little worried, so I swapped out my wet, cold shoes and socks for some dry boots and fresh dry socks. Just that make a huge difference! Lastly came the bug net (a little more finicky) and then underquilt.

Once those things were in order, I gathered my dry clothes and headed for the bathhouse, intending only to swap out my clothes. As soon as I saw the shower, my plan changed. I tested the hot water, and you bet I got right in. My feet were still mostly numb from the cold and wet by the time I got out of the shower, but I was starting to feel slightly more human.

Back at the campsite, I set up my chair, pulled out my tiny camp stove and fuel, the chili, and the two veggie hotdogs I brought. Oh, and the half-full bag of red wine I'd freed from its box. Into the kettle went the chili and hotdogs, and into my cup went a hefty serving of wine. Cooking the hotdogs in the chili was 100% the right call. I plopped some sour cream on top once the dog was in the bun, and I have never had a more satisfying meal.

We toasted some marshmallows over the stove flame, had some s'mores, talked until we finished off the last of the wine, and I eventually scrambled into my hammock for the night. And let me tell you, that underquilt saved my sleep. I may have only gotten around four hours of solid sleep (mostly due to my feet being ever-so-slightly cold), but I wouldn't have gotten any without that thing. The bug net was also clutch, as it kept any spiders at bay.

When light finally started peeking through my sleeping bag, I tossed and turned until I realized it was probably better to get up than try and go back to sleep. Off to the bathhouse I went, brushed my teeth, and put my contacts in. By the time I got back to the campsite, Nathaniel was already packed up and getting ready to head out a little early. (9am is totally early.) About halfway through my oatmeal, and as my coffee was brewing, I asked Corey when he was planning on coming back to Raleigh, as I was cold and wet and didn't have a dry pair of gloves. He agreed to pick me up, so I went to work breaking camp, trying to pass the time until he arrived. In between tasks, I would hold the kettle of hot water to regain feeling back into my fingers.

The timing worked out well, as Corey pulled up right around the time I was packing up the final odds and ends. We loaded everything into the truck, and I basked in the heat on our way out.

If you're wondering why there aren't any photos, it's because I was too cold and wet to take any. Hopefully this account will do the trip justice enough.

Lessons learned

  • double-check your packing list before you leave the meetup spot
  • bring an extra pair of gloves
  • maybe just... cancel if it's cold and wet

Wet & cold hammocking in Umstead