Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Camp #5: Starry Skies Over Preparation Canyon

While I was planning to do my next camp in north-eastern Iowa, I decided to stay close to home and returned to Preparation Canyon where I camped in August instead.  I did chose a different campsite, one on a ridge that would potentially have views of the fall leaves.
The view from the campsite.
As you can see in the panorama above, there wasn't much left of the fall colors.  There were only a few bright yellow trees among the bare brown trees.  I think a week or two earlier would have had a better display of fall colors but I have noticed that the colors have been a bit more fleeting than years before.  I added a few pictures to my Flickr Camping album.

I arrived at the camp and put up my tent and checked out the scenery as I collected firewood.  As the sun dropped lower I made dinner.

Last camp I'd skipped the hot meal.  This time I re-hydrated a Mountain House chicken and mashed potatoes meal.  Those keeping track of my camping experiences may remember my less than satisfying mashed potato experience (See my post for Camp #3).  I think this is why I'd skipped a hot meal on camp #4 - I dreaded eating the mashed potatoes.  This meal was a three step process (versus the usual two step - add boiling water and wait).  You added boiling water to the chicken, remove the chicken, and then add the mashed potatoes.  After about five or six minutes you had two "pucks" of chicken breast and rib meat and herb and chive seasoned mash potatoes.  To my surprise the potatoes tasted like potatoes and the texture was a lot less powdery than the Backpacker's Pantry meal I'd eaten last time.  It was pretty good actually.  The chicken was decent as well.  I think I will stick with Mountain House meals ... at least for meals involving mashed potatoes.

After dinner I lit a fire.  The wood around the area was dry and a bit dry rotted so it burned up quickly.  I ended up gathering more wood two or three times during the next few hours.  The condition of the wood did make it easier to light.  I may have to look into lightweight cutting tools so that I can collect larger pieces of firewood.  So far, if I can't break branches by hand it doesn't get used.
2014-10-21_Camp #5 Presentation Canyon_015
Sunlight, tree, and some fall color peaking through.
It got dark really fast being late October and all.  I laid down on the picnic table bench and watched as the stars came out in full force.  The sky was clear and moonless - something I haven't had on my other four camps.  It was spectacular.  The milky way was easily visible arching overhead.  As I watched the stars, coyotes called back and forth to each other.  In the distance I heard what sounded like laughter.  There had been another car in the parking lot when I'd arrived so there were other campers in the area.  There was also a farm over the ridge that could also have been a source of the merriment.

I spent the rest of the night reading, watching the stars, and tending the fire.  A very relaxing evening.  I went to bed early, reading a bit before turning of the tablet and drifting off to sleep.  It was cold that night with temperatures just a few degrees above 40°F (4.4°C) but I was quite comfortable in my sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, and long underwear.  Only my face was cold.

I am watching the weather and temperatures closely as I was hoping for one more camp sometime in November.  If the more fall like temperatures we're having this week persist than I may be done for the year.  If it warms up a bit ... well, we'll see.

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