Some of my friends from Dallas came up for a campout at Devil’s Den State Park here in Arkansas this weekend. My wife had finals to prepare for and I got out of the way to let her do her thing. It’s a two hour motorcycle ride from where I live, so I packed the backpack, took a day off from work, and scooted over for the weekend. It’s not a bad drive.
I made it to Ozark, AR on one tank. Barely. Somewhere, doing 75 down the highway, I had to switch to my reserve. Nothing like running out of juice when you’re trying to pass a semi. I noted that the Arkansas Pig Trail scenic bypass follows Hwy 23 out of Ozark and that it would lead me towards Fayetteville. Since I was going there to see a friend and have lunch, I thought that’d be a nice route. I wasn’t wrong! I took this at an overlook stop along the way. What a beautiful day it was! About 20 other bikers decided to stop there as well.
The route seem to make the trip between I-40 and F’ville much shorter. Perhaps it was just much more enjoyable and time flies when you are having fun. Anyways, I got to F’ville just around lunchtime. I met my friend at one of her food trailer restaurants, Ma Mere. You should really check it out if you are out that way. I had a big huge crepe with fried pork belly and yucca, topped with the best poached eggs ever and some sriracha hollandaise. I swear, I didn’t have to eat anything else until well into the evening.
I got to the park pretty early and started to set camp. Kel had selected the hike-in camping spots for us. To get to them, you had to cross a stream and walk down a trail for a bit. It wasn’t terribly strenuous, but if you don’t carry all of your stuff the first time, you have to go back and forth. That can get annoying.
This weekend, I tried out the Ember 2 underquilt by Eagle Nest Outfitters for my hammock. Now, I don’t have an ENO hammock, but the Ember 2 fit just fine. It kept me toasty warm on these 40 degree nights. In fact, the second night I only covered up with a light blanket.
The Ember 2 is kind of like a sleeping bag that slips under your hammock to prevent cold-butt syndrome. It has a synthetic filling for insulation that packs down pretty well. I think I might get a compression bag for it. It’ll compress down, but the stuff sack provided by the manufacturer doesn’t compress it enough. It’s rather bulky in the backpack. In warmer weather, it might do to replace the sleeping bag, but having both means a bigger pack.
It connects easily by bungee cords on each end. I used small, cheap carabiner clips to attach it to the tree straps. It pulls snug against the hammock but stretches out when you sit down in it.
Some people reported that it hampered laying across the hammock. I’m 6’0″ and 200 lbs. I was able to lay pretty much however I wanted without any issues. I slept like a rock!
To make a cover over the hammock, I used a 8 x 10 tarp from Walmart and clipped the opposite corners to the tree straps. I put those about 7′ up on the tree, so there’s plenty of room underneath to stand. The remaining corners went from the ground on one side to up in a tree on the other for a porch area.
All of my gear – backpack, helmet and jacket, etc. – hung from the bungees I used to strap the backpack onto the bike’s backrest next to the trees. It turned out that I needed the tarp, because it rained on us the second evening for a few hours. Nothing torrential, but it would have soaked me if I hadn’t had the cover.
I made some delicious couscous with curried chicken on the first night. Erika and I will start posting about our camping recipes. This one is a keeper. Delicious and full of energy!
I’ll post up some pictures from the hiking around that area when I get them from Kel. There are a few trails that are around 3 miles or so. We didn’t get out to the Yellow Rock trail this time. We did the Devil’s Den trail and then spent the afternoon in F’ville again.
The ride back was rather uneventful. We stopped and had some breakfast before parting. I enjoyed the trip and spending time with friends!