How to sneak away and spend a night in the woods

The plan: get in a camping night without waiting for a weekend day (and the snow storm that was on it’s way…). After a recent trip out to Buffalo Creek trails, I realized that the area was only about an hour from work (depending on traffic) and with sunset already at 19:30, I could get a bit of day time riding as a bonus. Then in the morning I’d have to wake a bit early to get back to the car and back to town, but it seemed very simple timing wise.

So I grabbed my camping and riding gear (more about that in a minute), went to work, and as soon the bell rang I jetted out to the mountains. As I rolled out of the parking lot on my bike, though things went a bit wrong: the chain on my bike sucked up into the frame nearly ending my ride. I rode around the parking lot trying to get it fixed, tightened the cable, and eventually realized it was mostly fine if I was in an easy gear. That wasn’t going to be a problem as I was going to ride up a 4 mile climb first thing with a full pack …

I had picked going up Nice Kitty trail as it was close, but also because I had long been thinking the trees around the Buffalo Burn trail would be a prime camping area. With the timing, it also seemed like it would work because it would amount to enough riding on both days without being overkill. Bonus was that I got to ride around these trails that I normally ride in morning/afternoon around sunset which was spectacular! After a slow climb up the hill, I reached the treeline and scouted around for a bit settling on a few trees for my hammock. I grabbed my food, stove, and a can of suds and headed out into a good spot to catch the sunset while I cooked dinner. Afterwards I set up my hammock and settled in watching it all transition from day to night. The moon was fairly bright so even after dark you could move around the hillside without a light.

Buff creek sunset

As the evening wind picked up, I ducked into my hammock and adjusted the rain fly to block some of the wind. All in all, it wasn’t too windy that night which is nice. There are plenty of places I could have moved to had it gotten too bad (further into the woods or down a little meadow). When my alarm went off in the morning it took a while to make my way from the warmth of my sleeping bag into the cold. I made some coffee, snacked on some breakfast, and tore down camp. I had planned on cooking some breakfast but hadn’t been too hungry and decided not to bother. Luckily, because I was short on time.

I turned on my headlight as the sky was starting to brighten (the ground was still dark enough that it was better that way). When I got to the top of Nice Kitty again, I could see a heard of deer moving along the ridge in front of me. Further down the trail I found a herd of elk. One of the elk would stop and see if I was following them and then bound off with the others. Down at the car I loaded up, defrosted the car, and drove back to down (right into rush hour traffic unfortunately!).

Sleeping gear: I used my Eno Hammock with profly for shelter, a sleeping pad, and my older Sierra Designs sleeping bag (with a light liner). This system was warm and comfy … though using a sleeping pad is still not exactly bulletproof with a hammock. The sleeping bag also packs a little larger than I like. But I may get a bag or two for my MTB so that I can offload other things from my pack and have more room for my sleeping bag.

Stove and food: since this was a very simple trip, my food setup was really basic. I brought an MSR dragonfly stove, an MSR pot for cooking, and an smaller pot/mug for coffee. Food wise I brought up some pre-cut veggies, salt/pepper, olive oil, and tortillas. I had a few snack food items too, coffee grounds, and an MSR coffee filter. I also had a camping spatula (folding) and titanium spork. I could have cooked dinner with just the spork, but had the spatula for the eggs I planned on cooking in the morning.

Water: I carried one bottle on my bike which was good enough for the short ride up, down, and a bit on the drive in the morning. I had two 32oz bottles with water but only used part of one. So I could have gone a bit lighter with only one extra bottle.

Bike gear: two tubes, a multitool, a few CO2 and inflator, a small pump, patch kit, and extra chain links.

Clothes: I rode up in a jersey, base layer, bibs, and arm warmers (which weren’t needed since it was 60-odd degrees out). At the top I changed into tights, an old long sleeve baselayer, a warm vest, and a hat. I also wore the arm warmers once the sun went down. In the morning, I threw on a light rain jacket and some warmer gloves than my normal riding ones. It was still pretty cold and I was glad it wasn’t too cold to take the gloves off to handle some packing. I also had some Keen sandals for around camp (camping in riding shoes isn’t so great!).