Shakedown! Neither Wind nor Rain nor Dark of Night…

We can acknowledge that our families and friends think we’re crazy to be attempting this journey. For those of us with little or no experience, this becomes a perception of total insanity in their eyes. They wonder if they will ever hear us begin a conversation about something other than the AT. We are obsessed.

However on days where the confidence level is down, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doubting our ability to succeed. So, to alleviate my fears and gain confidence, a shakedown hike was in order.

My hiking partner reserved a campsite at Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest. The weather forecast was for light rain one set my tent up before either darkness or rain moved in. The site looked pretty level with the exception being the place that I parked. I set tent off to one side, leaving room for my partner’s four-person Taj Mahal of tents.

My new Lightheart Gear So-Long set up easily. I had been practicing at home, and I made sure the Tyvek footprint didn’t extend beyond the tent, and that all four corners were taut and the bottom smooth. My partner arrived and we got the Taj set up just as the rain began.


Home sweet home!

Home sweet home!


We headed to a covered pavilion, prepared dinner, then took care of cleanup. Due to heavy lightning and thunder, we hung out for a while until the rain subsided.  The so-called “light rain” was a deluge!

When we returned to our campsite, we saw a small lake surrounding our tents. As I stepped into mine, I could feel water running below and lost my balance. Down went the tent!

I transferred my belongings to the Taj and put my wet tent went back in my car. We could feel water running under the floor of the Taj – shades of the seventies – it was like lying on a water bed.

We survived the night and Saturday dawned clear and windy. After hanging our tents to dry we set out to hike after breakfast.


The morning after...

The morning after…

We put packs on and spent some time hiking around the park, then came back and got the tents set up again. Even with a strong, steady breeze, the tent set up easily. Trekking poles do a great job of holding down the Tyvek footprint while you get the four corners pegged.

We reloaded our packs after lunch and hiked out onto the Florida Trail.  After about five miles we came back. The tent was unfazed by the wind, so we unpacked our packs, had dinner and got ready for bed. A challenge for me will be the early days when we are trying to keep the miles low and the days are short. My tent was super comfy and roomy, but it is hard to sit for any length of time without a backrest.

We both got a good night’s sleep, partially due to the beers given to us by the younger folks at the next campsite. When we woke up it was COLD. Thirty degrees vs. the 37 that had been forecast. I was snug and warm in my tent.

Lessons Learned:

1. Sleeping in the rain is really soothing, until… 

2. The rain becomes a monsoon. Best to stay in a shelter on those nights.

3. However, I can survive a wet and windy night.

4. I can also handle cold mornings, though my guess is that anything below 20F would be too cold. My bag is rated at 15 and I have a liner that will add more warmth.

5. I put about 23 pounds into my pack and handled the weight OK.

6. However, I should tweak my packing as 23 pounds in Florida is not the same as in Georgia.

7. I am still crazy in love with the AT!

Any other shakedown stories?  Please share!


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Comments 1

  • Leslie : Feb 9th

    I can’t wait to hear about your adventures on the AT! Your blog is so inspiring!


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