I’ve done a lot of hikes beginning from Bandy Creek in the Big South Fork but this time we did a one night hike out to Angel Falls Overlook but mixed it up the next night. This time we hiked back the next day and set up camp at one of the campsites at Bandy Creek campground then we explored some of the gravel roads on our mountain bikes for the rest of the day and morning of the next day.
Until this hike I had only driven some of these gravel roads like Duncan Hollow that meander through various areas of the BSF but this opened up a whole new can of fun!
We got on the Sheltowee Trace trail Saturday at approximately 2:50PM and hiked to one of the campsites near the Angel Falls overlook. I was a little concerned that it would be packed when we passed two groups of campers just before the junction of the Grand Gap Loop. But, as it turned out we were the only people near the overlook that Saturday night – outstanding! In fact, we had our pick of campsites and so we got the closest campsite to the Angel Falls overlook. It’s a very flat large campsite so it’s really great to score. Sometimes it gets rather packed up out there because car campers have easy access by a gravel road and so needless to say it can get pretty filled up.
I took my National Geographic Big South Fork Map as always and it served me well on this trip. I didn’t really need the map but I try to make it a point to take a map anytime I go hiking, no matter how well I know the area I’m going to hike. If I don’t have a map one of my crew has a map and depending on the remoteness I may take a few pics of it with my phone.
Once we got the tarp up; ground cloth down; music cranking and wood cut we settled in and prepared our dinner. On this trip I brought the large pot from my Snowpeak Titanium Mini Solo Cookset for boiling water. I never bring the small cup from the same set because it’s so small it’s just useless. Instead I bring plastic cups that I cut down from Gatorade and Poweraid bottles. For cooking I brought my MSR PocketRocket Stove – I also have an MSR MicroRocket Stove but prefer the PocketRocket for its simplicity and durability. Now, I see they just came out with an MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove that weighs in at a scant 2.6 ounces (compared to 3 ounces for the PocketRocket) and looks more like the MicroRocket.
Another great part of this evening turned out to be the Mountain House Chicken Fajita Bowl meal that I tried for the first time. I couldn’t have been happier! Of course I added some Just Tomatoes, Etc Just Veggies as I do with most of my meals (it isn’t necessary but something I like to do because I split most of these prepackaged meals in half). My nephew and I thoroughly enjoyed this meal which I’d easily rate as outstanding! Probably one of the best prepackaged meals I’ve ever had and that’s quite a few to compare. I brought some tortillas to eat it with and garnished it with some salsa sauce from Taco Bell – yeah I save all condiments from all restaurants for these hiking trips. The tortillas would have been great without the salsa but I had it so might as well use it and make them outstanding. I think an addition of cheddar cheese would be another great addition that would take them to the next level. Maybe next time…..
Saturday night was excellent – dry ground, but not too dry as to be dusty. No humidity and cold enough (38F to 45F) to be super comfortable for sleeping out in the woods. I heard a hoot owl (Barred Owl) and either one or more whippoorwills which made the night even that much better. I just don’t know if the night could have been any better.
The night at Angel Falls overlook got pretty cold 38F but was clear and beautiful all night. And it was a great night for This was also my chance to try out my new MPOWERD Luci Outdoor – Inflatable Solar Light. I hadn’t used this light up to this point so this would be a great trip to give it a try and see how it worked. When I first saw this light I thought hey that’s a great concept and knew I would buy one sometime in the near future. What I liked about it was the weight; that it’s solar powered; has charge indicator and its’ compactness. It has 3 settings – bright – super bright – 1 second flashing.
Well, it was fully charged to begin with so I was ready to see what this thing could do. First step is inflate the unit. Okay, so this wasn’t difficult at all – just a little finessing to get the vinyl material (think super thick tough beach ball material) to separate from itself a little because it tends to adhere to itself. No big deal – took care of it in a few seconds. Next step, inflate via the standard mouth nozzle just like a beach ball. Now this was pretty simple as well just blow it up – takes anywhere from about 4 -6 good exhales and you’re there. Next, just hang it via the built in strap and you’re ready for the dark.
So, when I first received this light I gave it a good looking over to see if I wanted to include it on a hike and overall was impressed with the quality. There are a few things that I wasn’t sure about but turned out to be non-issues so far. The strap is flat and made of the same vinyl material as the light itself and one of my concerns is that it might not hold up to being tied or lashed or looped over a small limb or etc. But after handling it and looping it over a small branch I determined that this strap is much tougher than I realized. Another concern was the possibility of the light puncturing and this was also put to rest because this vinyl material is super thick and you can tell it’s tough. I don’t think it would get punctured by normal wear and tear and it dawned on me that if it did a patch or piece of tape or silicone seam grip would probably be enough to seal the hole.
Someone had left a tripod(made from tree limbs) at the campsite so we hung our Luci from the tripod and it worked great.
Now, as for actual usage – it was great! Everything comes together in this light to make it pretty nice. It’s durable, bright, lightweight and very handy. I was really surprised by a few of these features especially! One thing you don’t realize is that once inflated the durability ramps up tenfold because it basically bounces if you drop it – yes I dropped it several times and each time it bounced! The other thing that I was surprised by is the fact that I had intentionally left it on all night and it stayed lit all night – yes a good 10 hours (the specs say 12 so I’m a believer). I left it on the bright setting which isn’t much different than the super bright setting – both being very bright. Very impressive – all solar – sustainability!
Full solar always makes me a little nervous because what if you’re stuck with no sun over an extended hike. But here is where I’d like to see how well the solar panel on the Luci accepts a charge. I’ll have to see.
I was trying to come up with something I’d like to see improved but I just don’t know if I’d change anything. Okay, maybe a longer inflation nozzle and a few red led’s. This is an excellent piece of gear and it will accompany me on my next long distance hike.
I will be purchasing some of the other Luci models in the near future.
Here are the specs from the MPOWERD website …..
- Dimensions: 10.8 cm height, 12.7 cm diameter
- Compact: 2.5 cm collapsed
- 3 modes: bright, super bright, 1 sec flashing
- 10 ultra bright LEDs/50 lumens
- High efficiency solar panel
- Charge level indicator
- Lightweight: 4.4 oz (125 g)
- No batteries needed – just the sun
- Charges in 7 hours in direct sunlight
- Lasts up to 12 hours on bright setting
- Bottom carry strap
- Waterproof: IP67 rating
- Operating temp: 15°F – 122°F (-10°C – 50°C)
- Lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Functions as a flashlight
- 1 year warranty
The next morning (Sunday) we had Krusteaz blueberry pancakes for breakfast. This was my first time trying this brand and I loved them! They were not fussy – just add water and a quick whisk and they’re ready for the frying pan. I applied some cooking oil to the pan and that’s about all it needed. The only pan I ever use is my MSR Quick Skillet! I’ve taken it on many hikes and just can’t say enough about this piece of gear. It’s coated so I’ve yet to have anything not wash off.
Once breakfast was over we headed back the Sheltowee Trace to Bandy Creek trailhead and on to our next adventure. I had reserved a site in the campground so we could base camp from there and ride our bikes throughout the roads that run through Bandy Creek.
Sunday evening after we set up our campsite below we rode our bikes down the road to the Blevins Homestead and around that general area then back to camp for the night.
Monday we biked in the other direction toward the Litton Homestead, Duncan Hollow and Grand Gap. We found a few small ponds and took a look at some of the research fields the park has for pine trees and chestnut trees. It was a lot of fun and sooner or later I will introduce the nephew to actual mountain biking on trails like the Grand Gap Loop. Maybe next time!