Monday, May 26, 2014

Book: Winton Porter's "Just Passin' Thru"

My latest read came from a friend of the Wife's.  Having heard about my plans to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT), she loaned us her autographed copy of Winton Porter's "Just Passin' Thru: A Vintage Store, the Appalachian Trail, and a Cast of Unforgettable Characters".  I started reading it and hardly put it down until I'd finished.

The book is a collection of the author's stories accumulated over the years of the characters and happenings around the Mountain Crossings outfitter at Neel's Gap near the southern terminus of the AT.  Mountain Crossings is the only store the AT actually goes through, passing through the breezeway between the store and the author's home in the stone and wood structure built by the CCC in 1937, the year of the AT's completion.

The author runs the outfitter and hostel and does "shakedowns" of hiker's packs, going through their packs to help them lighten their loads and make their hiking experience more enjoyable and safer.  The stories he tells are filled with humor and read off the page like you were sitting on his front porch listening to him spin tales.  His story telling style reminded me of my days working on navy ships.  I often spent downtime listening to what can only be described as "old salts" tell stories.  Reading this book took me back to those days and enhanced my reading experience.

One pleasant surprise was reading about Cimarron (his Facebook page can be found here).  Cimarron, his AT trail name, has hiked the AT several times including once when he was 84.  I met him when he walked the Camino in 2013 at the age of 91.  I sat across the dinner table from him in Fonfría.  It's weird to read about someone you've met and talked to in "real life".

I really enjoyed this book and it makes me want to start hiking the AT tomorrow.  The only problem with this book is, when you've reached page 249 - the end of the book - you wish for 250 pages more.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Another Continent ... Another Adventure

In a few weeks I will be adding another continent to my list: Africa.  The Wife and I will be visiting Morocco, Kenya, and Tanzania.  The last couple weeks, the final pieces of our trip were finalized and, like our last big international expedition, there were last minute hiccups that promised to change our long held plans.

A few weeks before our China-Nepal-Bhutan-India trip two years ago, the Chinese changed the rules concerning travel in Tibet resulting in the serendipitous addition of Bhutan to our itinerary.  This time it started with an article on my BBC News Twitter Feed.  Several British tour companies were evacuating British tourists from Kenya due to an increased threat of terrorism.  Over the next few days I waited patiently for the call from our tour company saying our Kenya-Tanzania trip had been canceled.  The call came four days later.

I got a call last Monday from the tour company representative.  She asked if we were aware of what was happening in Kenya.  After answering yes, she began feeling me out.  What do you think about this?  How does it affect your upcoming trip?  You could tell they were checking to see if we still wanted to go or were skittish.  The threat was predominantly for areas near the Somali boarder, along the coast (including Mombasa), and in the capital city, Nairobi.  We were only going to be in Nairobi for a couple nights before we would fly about as far away from the trouble spots as we could and still be in Kenya.  I let her know that I wasn't too worried.  She sounded a little relieved and we discussed various options if changes had to be made: canceling the tours in Nairobi, canceling the Kenya portion all together and keeping the Tanzania portion, or canceling the entire tour.  I threw in an option of my own, plan B.  If the whole thing were canceled, would they switch us over to a South African trip that was taking place at the exact same time.  She thought, in the event of a total cancellation, plan B would be a viable option.  Then we waited.

Three days ago I received an email from our AAA agent.  She forwarded an email from the tour company saying that the tour would continue as planned (HURRAH!!!).  The only thing we had to settle was one last little detail.  They wanted to know if we needed a hotel in Dar-es-Salaam since we had a nine hour lay over there.  After a little negotiating we got our flight from Zanzibar to Dar-es-Salaam switched to a later flight so we could have another seven hours or so sitting on the beech watching the Indian Ocean waves and exploring Stone Town.

With this last detail finalized, we are ready to go.  In a couple weeks we will be in Morocco.  A smidge over a week more and we will be amongst the wild animals.  That's assuming this post doesn't jinx it ...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Camping And A Change To My Hydration System

This post is another camping/Appalachian Trail (AT) related post.  My mind has been stuck somewhere on the AT the past few weeks (months?) and most of my post ideas lately have been camping or AT related.  I seem to be stuck in preparation mode.  I mean ... the AT is less than three years away.  I can't just put this planning stuff off.  So here's another camping/AT post.  Specifically, lessons learned about hydration systems from my first camping experience.

For years I have been a fan of hydration bladders, commonly known by their most popular brand  name: Camelbaks.  Camelbaks are plastic water bladders worn either in a small backpack (a hydration pack) or in a special pocket inside a larger backpack.  A hose with a valve runs from the bladder to front, usually attached to the pack's shoulder strap.  As you hike you simple suck water out of the bladder through the tube.  Camelbaks are convenient keeping water close at hand while leaving the hands generally free.  The water filled bladder, often the heaviest part of one's gear, is kept high on the back, centered between the shoulder blades, and close to the body, the best place to carry the extra weight.

I used a small hydration bladder pack on several of my early hikes in California.  I used a bladder in my backpack for both of my Caminos.  For my first camping trip I carried a liter of water in a bladder and a second liter in a bottle kept in a backpack side pocket.  It is during my first camping trip that my opinion of camelbaks changed.

At my campsite I used water from the one liter bottle to drink from, prepare my meal, and to put out the fire at the end of the night.  The water in the hydration bladder was hardly touched.  Why?  It was not convenient to remove the bladder from the pack to use.  You could drink from the tube easy enough but, to say put out the fire or put water in a pot to boil, you would have had to remove the bladder and the drinking tube from the pack and, rather awkwardly, empty the water onto the fire or into a pot.  Generally .... inconvenient.

Over the past few days I have started assembling a new hydration system.  The first thing I purchased were new containers to hold the water.  I decided to try a soft sided bottle made by Platypus (Platypus PlusBottle).  The platypus bottle is made of a material similar to, but thicker than, a hydration bladder.  When full the bottle will stand up on its own.  When empty the bottle can be flattened and rolled up for easy storage.  The bottles will be more versatile than a camelbak providing easier access to water for cooking, drinking, and cleaning.
One Liter Platypus Bottle (39 g - 1.38 oz).

I purchased two 1 liter bottles and one 2 liter bottle.  This will allow me to mix and match depending on how much water I need to carry.  For overnight camping trips the two small bottles will both have clean water in them.  For the AT and other multiday camping trips one of the smaller bottles will be used for 'dirty' water while the other small and the large bottles will be used for clean water.  The idea is to use the dirty bottle for collecting water from rivers, streams, springs, ponds, and other potentially contaminated water sources.  The dirty water would be passed through a filter into one of the clean bags.  I have not purchased my filter yet but it will probably be a Sawyer Mini (more about that in a future post after I've had a chance to buy and use it).

  Camelbaks have their place.  They work great for longer day hikes during hot days when carrying more water is wise and the water will be used for drinking only.  Camelbaks are great for bike rides when it's an easy way to carry water while riding,  Around campsites ... their usefulness is more limited.

So my first camping experience taught me a few lessons on the need for better tent stakes, the need for more food, and the need for a change in hydration systems.  Can't wait to learn more lessons my next camping trip so I can continue fine tuning my gear ... a task that, I expect, will never really end.

Monday, May 12, 2014

My First Camping Experience - Part Two

I put out the fire and prepared for my first night in a tent.

I moved all my stuff into the vestibules of my tent.  Vestibules are areas inside the tent flaps but outside of the sleeping area of the tent.  My tent, the Tarptent Notch, has two entrance flaps and hence, two vestibules.  Having two vestibules makes it easy to get in and out of your tent.  Your pack and other equipment can be in one and you use the other to go in and out of the tent.

The sleeping area of the tent is totally enclosed in a fine mesh to keep out the insects.  This was a comfort as I'd seen several ticks crawling around the campsite.  Most of them were on equipment but I did see one climbing up my pant leg before it was overcome by the Deet I'd sprayed on my pants earlier that afternoon.  Frankly I was surprised there were so few insects that night.  This might be credited to the steady breeze all evening.  In my sleeping area I had layers. The bottom layer was my sleeping pad.  Next came my sleeping bag.  Inside of my sleeping bag I had my sleeping bag liner.

I climbed in and zipped myself in and the bugs out.  I switched out my pants and shirt for long thermal base layers.  Temperatures were going to drop into the low 50s.  I stuffed my pants and shirt into the tent stuff sack to fashion myself a pillow.  The stuff sack was nearly the perfect size though the pants made for a rather hard and lumpy pillow experience.  It was around 10:00 pm when I was finally all snug in my layers.  This was also when my restless night of semi-sleeplessness began.

I don't know what it was but there were several possible reasons for my restlessness:
  • The Thermarest XLite sleeping pad was fairly comfortable but I think it may have been a bit over inflated - it was a little too firm when I was laying on my back I think.  This irritated my bad back making me roll and toss a bit ... which is not an easy thing to do in a sleeping bag.
  • The meal I'd eaten was high in carbs and protein and, since it was made especially for hikers, high in energy.  All this nutritional energy kicked in when I tried to sleep.   If I'd been hiking all day this probably wouldn't have happened.  I didn't have a long hike today ... I now had extra energy ... I couldn't sleep.
  • I discovered that when the breeze ruffles the silnylon material of the tent and it rubs against the tyvek groundsheet, odd noises are made.  More specifically, it sounds like some animal sniffing and snuffling around your tent.  Several times in the night I woke up from a half-sleep thinking there was something outside the tent.  I know it was my imagination but still, each time it happened it took time to slow my heart rate back down so I could go back to sleep.
  • At 3:00 am I started hearing a pitter patter on the tent.  It was rain.  When I'd checked the weather forecast before coming up, the chance of rain was in the single digits.  When the rain started getting hard I started laughing.  I was just grateful that I'd sealed the tent seams (the tent seams where panels are sewn together are not always sealed and water can soak through the same holes the thread goes through - I sealed the tent seams with a silicone mixture).
  • With the rain came the wind.  I laid there looking at the tent panels billow and I was so sure that the whole tent was going to come down on me.  I totally expected to wake up with a fallen tent trying to smother me.
  • While I listened to the wind, rain, and tent I started to think.  My campsite was at the highest point of the ridge ... in a storm.  My tent uses my trekking poles, made of carbon fiber, as the main tent poles.  I wondered if carbon fiber conducted electricity (it does).  This led me to listen very closely for thunder - there was none.
Some time after that I finally overcame all my worrying and fell asleep for a full hour or two.  It was still raining when I woke up at 5:30 am.  The tent was still up and intact.  My stuff and I were dry.  I was not cold at all.  I dozed another half hour until the rain stopped.  When I realized it had stopped I went into a flurry of activity.

I would have liked to stay in bed for another hour or so but fearing the rain may return (and I had no rain gear with me) I quickly packed everything into my pack, put on my clothes, and tore down the tent.  It took me roughly thirty minutes from waking up to having everything packed and on my back.  I then practically ran back to the car.  I ended a successful first camp with a stop at McDonald's for some hotcakes.

My first camping experience turned out pretty good.  The only real issue I had was not being able to sleep well that night (I was totally exhausted the rest of the day).  If I'd done a long hike before setting up camp I think I would have slept better.  I accomplished everything I'd set out to do.  I tested out, and gained some experience with, my equipment.  Despite the wind I was able to get the tent up and I learned what I need to procure to make it easier next time.  My cooking system worked flawlessly.  I did find that I needed to pack something to clean up with.  A packet of Kleenex or some toilet paper would have been nice to have.

I also spent time experimenting with writing apps on my tablet.  I am thinking of taking my tablet with me on the Appalachian Trail (AT) so I can draft blog posts during my free time.  Along with writing apps I played around with importing pictures into my tablet and editing them.  I was a bit concerned about importing the RAW picture format but the app I used handled them with no problems and even converted them to JPG so I could edit them.  This means I may be able to post pictures from Africa while we are still on our trip next month.

I'll be doing this again sometime in July after the Wife and I get back from Africa.  I'll probably camp in Indian Cave State Park this time.  It is a bit more isolated.  No city lights, highways, or trains.  A bit more rustic experience.  Maybe I'll have better luck and have some clear skies next time.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

My First Camping Experience - Part One

Had my first camping experience Friday night.  It went relatively smoothly even if there were a few hiccups.

I drove up to Hitchcock Nature Center early Friday morning to reserve a spot.  I had no problem getting the spot that I wanted.  It turns out I could have arrived late afternoon and still gotten my spot.  It was not as busy as had been suggested by the Hitchcock staff.  I spent the rest of the morning and afternoon home going over what I was taking and twiddling my thumbs mostly.

I returned to Hitchcock around 5:30 PM and hiked the mile and a half to my campsite.  My pack felt very heavy.  It was roughly eight or nine pounds heavier than my Camino pack.  I was carrying my larger DSLR camera, a tripod, and all the camping gear I didn't need for the Camino (sleeping bag, cooking system, tent).  I felt every extra pound.

I reached the campsite and dropped my pack.  It was a beautiful day with blue skies and a breeze.  At least it was that way at home.  At the campsite there were still blue skies but the breeze was more of a wind.  I'm guessing 10 mph (16 km/hr) or more.
2014_05_29_Hitchcock Campsite Panorama
The view West from my Campsite in Hitchcock nature Center.
First things first, put up the tent.  I laid down my tyvek groundsheet ... which promptly tried to fly away.  I laid out the tent over the groundsheet in an attempt to hold it down ... and it too tried to fly away.  I put the groundsheet away temporarily - I would put it under the tent once I'd pitched it.  The tent area in the back country campsites at Hitchcock have a bed of pea gravel.  The gravel provides a smooth surface to sleep on.  Unfortunately the six inch long tent stakes that came with my tent (they look like large nails) would not hold well in the gravel.  I would put one it the ground just to have it pull out when I tried to put another in.  It was a bit frustrating.  At one point a gust of wind caught the tent, yanked out a stake, and flung it into the bushes.  I finally dug down below the gravel to find firm dirt to set the stakes.  This helped.  I also used some cut logs found nearby to reinforce the stakes.  It also helped that the wind began to die down.  This effort resulted in ...
LESSON #1  Buy longer tent stakes for sandy and/or windy conditions.
With the tent up I decided to start on dinner.  I put my stove together and found a place close to a log to keep it out of the wind.  I measured out the 14 fl oz (414 ml) the Mountain House Lasagna with Beef Sauce required, lit the stove with a lighter, and sat my pot on the stove.  It worked like a champ.  I let it go for four minutes but I'm pretty sure I would have been fine with only three minutes ... maybe less.  I knew the handles of the pot could heat up so I used a handkerchief as a pot holder and poured the boiling water into the pouch.  I mixed it up with my spork, resealed the zipper bag, and waited nine minutes for it to be ready.  I was pleasantly surprised by the lasagna.  It wasn't gourmet but it was good cafeteria-ish food quality and quite hot.  I'm not sure I would call it lasagna since it was just wavy flat noodles in a beef and cheese sauce but it did taste sort of like lasagna.  My spork was long enough to empty the pouch though a slightly longer handle would have been nice.  After finishing the pouch, marked as two and a half servings, I came to the realization that ...
LESSON #2  A dehydrated meal will not be enough after a long day of hiking.  Additional food will be required.
At this point I was done putting camp together and, frankly I became bored quick.  I walked around and took pictures of the area.  Wrote some notes on my tablet (yes - I brought technology with me).  Putzed.  On the Appalachian Trail (AT) this shouldn't be a problem since there will likely be someone to talk to to pass the time and I will be tired from a long day's hike and will surely be in bed by Hiker Midnight (i.e. 9:00 pm).

Shortly after 7 pm I decided to light a fire in the fire ring.  I'd brought a duraflame log with me figuring it would be an easy first fire.  Turns out that duraflame logs can get old.  I set the log on a couple pieces of tree limb, used the lighter to light the wrapper where it says "Light here", and watched the wrapper burn until ... it went out.  A dud.  I tried to light the log directly with the lighter but it wouldn't light.  I pondered my situation for a few seconds.  I had no intention of hauling that log back to the car.  I found some dried leaves and grass and made myself a nice ball of tinder.  I put it on top of the log and took on the the pieces of tree branch over it to keep it contained and I lit it. I added some dry bark to the burning tinder and, before you can say Pyromaniac, the artificial log and the tree branch were burning.
2014_05_09_First Camping_062
My campsite with my awesome fire.
With the fire burning, and the sense of satisfaction I had, I sat on a log next to the fire and relaxed.  As the sun was going down it became quite serene despite the distant highway noise, train whistles, and the occasional low flying plane.  It's hard to get away from civilization sometimes.  I even detected a WiFi signal though it was too weak to be useful.
2014_05_09_First Camping_043
The sun setting through the approaching clouds.
The sun slowly set in the West.  You could see the clouds coming in.  I'd hoped to see a starry sky but the clouds and haze said otherwise.  The half-Moon didn't help either.  I periodically would get up to take pictures of the sunset or of the Omaha city lights. (Pictures can be found in my Camping Flickr Album.)
2014_05_09_First Camping_065
The glow of the Omaha skyline.
As it got darker you could hear some animal activity.  Turkeys gobbling.  Something large - probably deer - rustling in bushes down near the bottom of the ridge.  The annoying call of the whip-poor-will that sounded like a high pitched car alarm and was continuous until well after 11 pm.

Despite the boredom, the whole experience grew on me.  I stayed up watching the fire slowly burn down to ashes - kind of like watching reality television.  I poured some water on the glowing embers to put them out and headed for the bed.

How I spent the night will be Part Two of my First Camping Experience coming to a blog near you.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

I Have A Cooking System

When I last wrote about my upcoming first camping experience I had little hope of having a hot meal.  I'd ordered a camping stove but the estimated delivery date was five days after my first camp.  The stove was coming from Hong Kong and I had little hope of it being here in time.  Turns out the world is shrinking as the stove arrived in the mail last Saturday, a full eleven days faster than expected.

The arrival of the stove threw me into a minor tizzy. The stove is only one part of a camp cooking system and, not thinking I would have need of it for my first camp, I did not research the rest of the cooking system.  Fortunately Gv, who may be more excited about my planned Appalachian Trail (AT) hike than I am, had done some research and passed on some suggestions.  With her suggestions, and the little research that I did after receiving the stove, I went out Monday and bought a few items to complete my cooking system.
  • Ultralight Backpacking Canister Camp Stove: The stove I bought doesn't even have a brand name.  It is a simple generic camp stove that runs on Butane/Propane mix.  It seems well built and has a great Amazon rating.  In most conditions the stove should boil enough water to re-hydrate a meal in about two to four minutes.  It weighs in at 3.4 oz (96 g) and comes in an orange plastic case (0.6 oz - 17 g).  Not sure I would pack the case for a long hike like the AT.  I might wrap it in a cloth that could also be used as a pot holder instead.

  • MSR ISOPRO all-season Fuel Blend Canister: I bought the smaller size - 3.9 oz (110 g) - fuel canister.  The canister screws on to the bottom of the stove and acts like the base.  One of these small canister should last five days or so depending on how conservative you are with your fuel.  Not sure how many 'burns' were used to calculate the five day number though.  One cool thing about the MSR branded gas is the level markings on the canister.  If you want to know how much gas is left in the canister, float it in some water.  The higher it floats the less gas there is.  The actual weight of the canister with gas is 7.5 oz (214 g).
  •  
  • Snow Peak Titanium Mini Solo Cook Set: This is a simple, two pot cooking set.  It consists of a 28 fl oz (828 ml) pot with a lid and a 10 fl oz (295 ml) nesting cup.  The pot really only has one function and that is to boil water.  These ultralight camp system are not made for cooking gourmet dinners and so a simple pot to boil water is all you need.  The cup is nice if you want to make coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.  A nice thing about this set is that the pot fits inside the cup and the stove and a 3.9 oz fuel canister will also fit inside.  The only downside is that the pot does not have volume marks.  The saving grace is that the cup does so you can use the cup to measure out the amount of water to put in the pot.  It is very light weighing in at 5.5 oz (156 g).
  • Optimus Canister Stand: The small size of the fuel canister can make camp stoves unstable and easy to tip.  To counter this I bought a collapsible universal canister stand that attaches to the bottom of the canister to give it a wider stance and a more stable footprint.  Weight is a whopping 0.8 oz (23 g).
  • Light My Fire Spork: The last thing I need to complete my cooking system is a spork.  I have one that I took with me on both my Caminos.  It has served me well (pun intended) and even matches my canister stand (though color is not really that important a criteria when choosing a spork).  I do have a few doubts about the spork.  Namely, is it sturdy enough (people I know have had them break in their pack) and is it long enough to get to the bottom of a food pouch full of boiling water.  If any of these doubts turn into real issues, a longer, more sturdy metal spork may be necessary.  This is a light 0.4 oz (10 g).
Total weight for this system, including the mesh bag to hold it all, is about 18.4 oz (522 g).

There is one piece of hardware missing.  That would be a stove windscreen.  While these are not mandatory they do make it easier to start a stove and maintain the flame in windy conditions.  One will be added eventually.

The last thing I bought was a couple dehydrated meals.  I will try one this weekend.  There are two very common brands which carry essentially the same meals: Mountain House and Backpacker's Pantry.  I chose Mountain House's Lasagna with Meat Sauce and Beef Stroganoff with Noodles.  I suspect the lasagna will be my first test meal.  For those who are curious, each dehydrated meal weights 4.75 oz (134 g) and contain roughly two servings (yeah ... right ... who wouldn't finish the whole thing in one sitting ... nobody ... that's who).  I will let you know how it tastes.  Hopefully it won't taste like wet cardboard.  If it turns out to be inedible, or I have trouble with the stove, I will also carry some cold food to eat as well - cereal, trail mix, jerky, protein bars ... stuff like that.

My kit is slowly coming together.  Not sure what the next will be.  Water purification?  A 'real' sleeping bag?  Cold weather gear?  Who knows.  What I do know is it's fun to shop for this stuff.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Book: Heather Lende's "If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name"

I was looking for something lighter to read and I found it in Heather Lende's "If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska".  The book is a collection of stories about Haines, Alaska told by Lende, a long time resident of Haines.

I really wanted to like this book.  I was looking for tales of small town Alaska and that is what I got but from a rather strange point of view.  One of Lende's job is to write obituaries for the weekly newspaper.  Nearly every chapter of this book is centered around a death.  This is not exactly the type of stories I was looking for.

To give her credit, the author writes about death with a light tone and you can almost feel her smile come through in her words.  It is obvious that she loves Haines but I wish she would have approached it more from the living and less from the dead.

This is a relatively short book - 280 pages or so - but it still took me nearly three weeks to finish it.  I had difficulty keeping my interest.  I really wanted to like this book since Lende seems like such a nice, down to earth person, but I came out feeling like there was no 'there' there.

Note:  This is where I would recommend or not recommend the book.  I'm going to stop doing that.  Different people have different tastes and just because I liked it ... or didn't ... doesn't mean everyone will agree with my opinion.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

I've Been Quiet

I've been quiet lately.  Haven't written much. That doesn't mean things haven't been happening.

The big thing last week was the Wife going to Washington D.C. with her Poetry Out Loud State Champion to compete in the nationals.  Despite the pouring rain they had a good time.  The Wife's student, cheered on by a lot of people in the crowd, didn't make it into the top nine finalists.  She is a freshman and, if she wants, she will have other opportunities to succeed.

It was rainy and drizzly here most of the week as well.  This kept me inside doing chores and watching Netflix.  For those curious, I finished "Freaks and Geeks" and started "Dollhouse".  I'm trying to knock out short TV series before I tackle longer ones ... if I ever tackle the longer ones.

I really haven't done much in preparation for my camping trip next week.  I was going to treat my sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, and backpack with insect repellent (the same stuff I used for the Camino - Permethrin) but the rainy weather stopped me from doing it - don't want to be spraying that stuff inside the house.  I think I'll get it done this weekend.

I actually blew up my Therm-A-Rest Xlite sleeping pad for the first time this week.  There had been some reports that a reflective coating inside the pad (to reflect body heat and to keep you warm) was interacting with moisture and flaking off in some people's pads.  I was planning to use an air pump to inflate the pad without introducing moisture from my breath but I had difficulty figuring out how to connect the pump to the mouthpiece of the pad.  Some rubber tubing I'd bought for that reason wouldn't stretch enough to get over the pad's mouth piece.  After trying to figure it out I gave up and huffed and puffed and blew it up.  It inflated quite easily and is comfortable.  I just hope my moist breath didn't reduce the life of the pad.  I still haven't figured out what to use as a pillow.

That's about it.  A whirlwind week for the Wife and an underwhelming week for me.  This coming week will probably make me a ball of nerves for no real reason.  An overnight camp, even a first one, isn't really a big deal.  I just need to convince my stomach not to do back flips when I think about it.