I was fortunate enough to spend this past Saturday night in the woods of New Jersey with two of my good friends, hanging in the pines and enjoying delicious steak cooked over the fire.
This was a very last minute trip, but definitely one of the more memorable hangs we have had in Wharton state forest. For the past 2 years we have planned a winter trip here in February to experience some snow and colder temperatures, only to be thwarted by mother nature and global warming. Although, it certainly did get below freezing for us this past February, we had no snow to justify it. This time, thanks to the bomb cyclone that recently passed through, we had some residual snow, and temps near 40 with sunshine during the day. Warm enough to enjoy the sun, and at night the low hit 18, cold enough to justify all the down I have recently invested in.
Loren arrived first and scoped out two campgrounds we had yet to stay at - Hawkins bridge, and Godfrey bridge. He made the good call of setting up at Godfrey bridge campground and we met him there shortly after he arrived. After we had set up our hammocks and other gear, we hopped in Loren's CRV for a quick trip to see Hawkins bridge campground, and what we weren't missing. There are a few sites within viewing distance of the river at Hawkins, but the campground is very wide open with little to no privacy.
On our way back to our campsite we took detour to find some hardwood to burn. Frank had purchased a bunch of birch, but it's not much of a camping trip for this crew if we don't cut and process a bunch of wood with hand tools.
We all brought our own steak, and something to eat on the side. I failed and only brought a potato to roast in the coals, but Frank and Loren brought sides to share. Asparagus, frozen cream spinach, mushrooms, onions and tater tots, FTW.
We stayed up way past our bedtime of course, catching up and generally shooting the shit. It's always a good time. At some point that evening we lost an hour of sleep due to daylight savings, and it was certainly noticeable as I woke up close to 9 the following morning - very unlike me when sleeping in the woods. The amount of apple juice I partook of that night also played a role in that.
We all opted to go tarpless, which is a great way to fall asleep on a clear frosty night - surrounded by the warmth of goose down and watching the stars above. I was up, did a few chores, then climbed back in my hammock for a late morning nap, I was a bit "tired", while Frank and Loren cooked us up some breakfast.
We leisurely ate, enjoyed the last bit of warmth the fire had to offer and took a quick hike around the rest of the campground to scout out possible sites for the future. After our brief hike we started the chore of packing everything away and smothering the fire. Having snow on the ground is really helpful, especially when there isn't a water source anywhere close. We were finally ready to part ways around 1:30. Loren took the CRV for a joy ride in the woods, I went to scout a boat landing we plan to use in the future and Frank, as far as I know, went straight home. All in all it was one of the best nights spent in the pines in a good while.