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Time for another First Impressions entry…keep in mind that these entries are just my first impressions of a piece of gear based on one or two uses.  They’re NOT full blown reviews based on extensive use over time.

OK, yeah, I got a new piece of gear and had to play with it and show it off…kind of like the kid with a new toy on the playground but my playground is a blog.

I’ve been wanting a hammock stand of some sort for a while now.  We do a fair amount of camping in established campgrounds and it’s not unusual for the managing entity to not allow “camping units” off of the designated camping area.  If you can find a pair of trees that happen to straddle the designated camping area and are more or less the right distance apart you’re in great shape.  If not, you might be out of luck.  Now, with me setting out on The Great Georgia Earthcache Quest, it looks like I’ll be doing a good bit of solo campground camping over the next few years;  a hammock stand seemed to be the logical solution to the problem.

There are plenty of hammock stand options out there, both store-bought and do-it-yourself.   The store-bought options are usually geared toward the ‘Pawley’s Island’ style hammocks and don’t generally break down small to travel and often don’t work too well with most camping hammocks (gathered-end or bridge hammocks).  Most of the DIY options seem to involve long poles and while they might transport well in the back of a pickup truck or on a roof rack, they typically don’t travel as well by other means.

I’d been watching a thread on the Hammock Forums bulletin board about a different type of hammock stand called a tensahedron stand that essentially is a tetrahedron.  Basically, a tetrahedron is a polyhedron composed of four triangular faces, six straight edges, and four vertex corners.  OK, I know, that’s a geometric mouthful, right?  Stick with me.

Enter the Tensa4 hammock stand.

Somewhere along the way I saw someone mention the Tensa4 hammock stand.  As it turns out, a couple of Hammock Forums members came up with a way of making and marketing a tensahedron stand that breaks down small for easy transport and have formed a small cottage business,

Somewhere along the way I saw someone mention the Tensa4 hammock stand.  As it turns out, a couple of Hammock Forums members came up with a way of making and marketing a tensahedron stand that breaks down small for easy transport and have formed a small cottage business, Tensa Outdoor, to do just that.  I checked out their website, watched their videos, and was pretty intrigued.  Not too long after, Sean “Shug” Emery, another Hammock Forums member uploaded a video to YouTube in which he demonstrated the Tensa 4 stand.  Now I’m even more intrigued but, at $300, it was a little more coin than I wanted to drop ‘just because’.

A month or so ago, with our 30th wedding anniversary coming up, ConnieLou asked me what I would like for an anniversary present.  I had to think on it a bit and ran through a few possibilities before the obvious answer came to me…why not ask for a Tensa4 stand?!

So I did.

Just before we left town for a short anniversary trip to Niagara Falls, a box from Tensa Outdoors appeared on our front porch.  ConnieLou let me open it early to see what was inside but unfortunately I really didn’t have a chance to take it out back, set it up and try it out for a few days.  Yesterday, after cutting the grass and running a few errands, I finally had my chance.

The Tensa4 stand came packed in a heavy duty carry bag along with the cordage for the ridgeline, the baseline, one guyline and the head tether and two Orange Screw anchors.

Basically, the eight stand sections are extended and connected to form four complete poles…

The poles are then connected in the tetrahedral configuration with the baseline and ridgeline and anchored with the guyline and head tether.

With everything connected and anchored, the hammock is attached to the upper apexes.  I was lucky and after a bit of adjusting I was able to slip the ends of the continuous loops at the ends of my hammock directly to the ends of the stand without needing additional cordage or straps.

Since there was no rain in the forecast, I decided to forego adding a tarp this time around in order to give myself a chance to begin to get used to the stand without anything extra to deal with.  In the same train of thought, I opted to set it up with my simple DIY tablecloth hammock rather than my Chameleon with its integrated bug net.

While a little play was expected, I was pleasantly surprised at how sturdy the stand felt without a load on it and when I climbed in it felt rock solid. Once I got into my sweet spot, neither feet nor my shoulders bumped into the stand.  Getting out is slightly more tricky than normal because you have to get out and put your feet on the ground on the side of the baseline closest to the head end of the hammock to avoid ‘mousetrapping’.  I came back out later in the evening to give it a good overnight test and, again, was quite pleased.

All in all I think I’m going to get along well with the Tensa4 and really can’t think of anything I would change or modify.  My only concern is that my tarp with its 12-foot ridgeline might be a little too long.  We’ll find out about that soon enough.  In the event it is too long, maybe Santa might bring me an 11-foot tarp.  Hey Santa, just I case you’re listening, a Wilderness Logics 11-foot Big Daddy and a couple of Dutchware Stingers would be just the ticket.  Hint, hint…

That’s it folks.  As always, your mileage may vary.

Disclaimer:  We have no affiliation with Tensa Outdoors.  The Tensa4 stand was purchased by us and we’ve received no compensation, monetarily or otherwise, for this post.

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As much as I enjoy adventures whose general plan is ‘let’s wing it and see what happens’, I also like adventures that take a bit of planning.  I like the pouring over maps to seeing where I’m going and figuring out how to get there.  I like reading about what I might see when I get there and I like the deciding of what gear that I need to take and the packing and sometimes repacking.  It’s all part of the fun

The past several days have been a lot more about planning than actually caching.  Sure, I’ve logged a few caches but I’ve also spent a lot more time staring at a computer monitor, looking at maps of caches, cruising the Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites website, checking distances and drive times on Google Maps and trying to decide where I can camp or otherwise stay overnight somewhere when necessary.  I also try to think about how weather and other conditions that might come into play.  South Georgia caches will definitely be done during cooler months.  Caches near springs, marshes and swamps will also be tackled during cooler months when the skeeter population is a bit lower.  Higher elevation caches will typically be done during the warmer months.  I’ve printed copies of cache pages to keep in a notebook in my daypack and have downloaded pocket queries, imported the info into GSAK (Geocaching Swiss Army Knife) on my laptop and then uploaded the waypoints to my handheld GPS receiver.

OK, yeah, I’m *that* nerd.

So far I’ve been able to come up with several groups or clusters of caches that should be able to be done in a day or weekend trip.  Since most of them are close to home or farther south, they’re going to have to wait a few weeks until I have time to hit the road.

In the mean time I’ve managed to find a few random caches on my lists, along with a few other traditional caches that aren’t part of the Quest but happened to be convenient.  Check these out…

Ghetto Stonehenge (GCC12B) took me to a ‘minimalist structure’ art installation by Sol LeWitt in Atlanta’s historic Old Fourth Ward.

The installation consists of a series of concrete block columns ranging in height from 10 to 20 feet, and is said to represent a city skyline when viewed from a distance.

The next stop was Red Tom Mountain Iron Mine Earthcache (GC6010W) in Red Top Mountain State Park near Acworth.

The stop at Red Top Mountain State Park was a dual purchase stop that gave me a chance to purchase a Georgia State Park Pass that will hopefully become the key to several of the State Park caches over the next year.

The EarthCache the site of an 1800’s iron mine in the Bartow County portion of Georgia’s “Iron Belt” which occurs mainly in Polk, Floyd and Bartow counties.  The EarthCache location is accessed by a short half-mile walk down the Iron Hill Trail from the parking lot at the trailhead.

I found a couple of muscadine vined loaded with ripe muscadines along the trail so I picked up a handful to enjoy as I walked.

There were several other areas where iron ore had been mined along the trail but the EarthCache location was the most prominent.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to hunt the State Park cache that was hidden in another portion of the park before I had to leave.  Guess that means I’ll just have to go back another day…or darn…

The last stop for this update: Chattahoochee Bend State Park to find, you guessed it, Chattahoochee Bend State Park (GC2YV2R).

The cache is located about 2 miles up the River Trail from the day use area parking lot.  I actually found this cache back in July 2011 but didn’t collect the stamp on the ‘passport’ at the time.  Soooo, guess who got to make the hike back to the cache to get the stamp?  Yeah, that’s right, me.  No problem.  I like a nice walk in the woods.

Sirius, my pup, also likes a good walk in the woods so I decided to take him with me for his first geocaching trip.

It was one heck of an adventure thanks to Hurricane Florence.  We endured howling winds, torrential rain flooding.  OK, maybe not.  There was a nice breeze blowing.  There were a few sprinklesbut mostly it was just gawdawfully humid and the flooding?  Well, there was one small puddle on the trail.

Regardless, we still expected Mike Sidell from The Weather Channel and Anderson Cooper from CNN to show up with film crews to report on the weather conditions and devastation along the trail.

Sirius was on his best behavior this morning and didn’t even bother to bark at the young deer we encountered, much less try to chase it.

We relocated the cache, stamped my passport and made our way back to my truck.

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Get Out! by Mrbream - 11M ago

Back in October ConnieLou informed me that I needed to plan on taking off work after Christmas.  The conversation went something like this:

ConnieLou:  Hey, you need to plan on taking off work Christmas week and clear your calendar.

Me:  OK.  Why?  What’s up?

ConnieLou:  Jenna wants us all to go somewhere…but I can’t tell you where.

Me:  Ummmm, OK…

ConnieLou:  We might fly but we will probably drive.  That’s all I can tell you.  It’s a surprise.

I knew better than to try to ask any more questions but my mind had kicked into high gear.  Now where could we go that Jenna would be suggesting that would be within a reasonable day’s drive?  Hmmmmmm.  Of course I had my ideas about where our destination might be but I kept them to myself because I didn’t want to spoil the surprise.

Christmas morning finally rolled around and we all headed downstairs to see what Santa had left.  ConnieLou and I usually let the girls open their presents first then we open ours.  This year was no exception.  As the girls handed me and ConnieLou our presents, Jenna told me that I would have to find mine.  I noticed Jenna do something with her phone and thought she had started playing Hedwig’s Theme by accident on one of her apps…but then I noticed that the music wasn’t coming from her phone but from somewhere over near our Christmas tree.  I looked at her funny and she said “Follow the music.”  Safer than following spiders, I guess.  I started to look in the branches of the tree but quickly realized that the music wasn’t coming from the tree.  It didn’t take long to find a package behind the curtains in the front window in our den.

I opened the package to find an owl with an envelope tucked into a bed of red and yellow tissue paper.  Of course the tissue paper was red and yellow, I’m a Gryffindor after all!  It was at this point that I began to realize just how much effort she had put into her Christmas plans for all of us.  The paper and envelope had been stained to look like parchment, the Hogwarts crest was hand-drawn, the text written in green ink and it was addressed to me in “The Largest Bedroom”.

My Hogwarts letter had finally come!  I guess the owl had gotten lost somewhere but somehow made its way to Jenna.  It was forty-one years late but it finally made it and I finally knew where we were going…to Universal Studios in Orlando for a visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

OK, I’ll admit it, in addition to being an outdoor nut I’m a bit of a geek.  I’m happy to say that Ashley and Jenna have grown up to be geeks like their dad.  Over the years they’ve learned to enjoy my fandoms including Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Pirates of the Caribbean and they’ve introduced me to some of theirs, namely The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.  ConnieLou claims not to be a geek and says she has no interest in the most of those movies but we catch her peeking up and watching every now and then while we’re watching one of them on TV.  As one might expect, conversations around our house are often peppered with quips and quotes from one or more of the books or movies.

We packed up Christmas evening and the next morning we loaded up the car.  Unfortunately we had luggage and had to take the dogs to the kennel so traveling by broom was a bit impractical and no one had arranged a portkey so we were traveling by car…a non-flying car at that.  With the pups dropped off, we finally got on the road to Orlando.

Long road trips always mean a couple of potty stops, a stop to eat, and a stop for gas and if there happens to be a convenient geocache nearby…

We were up bright and early Wednesday morning to head to the parks. We made a quick stop at the Will Call booth to pick up our tickets and headed on in…

Once in Diagon Alley, we looked around a bit then stopped in Ollivanders to get our wands…

(OK, so that was a photo of Ollivanders’ Hogsmeade location, don’t critique, just go with it)

Of course we had to try casting spells with our wands at the ‘interactive locations’ scattered around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade…

We saw Gringotts’ dragon. By the expressions on the faces of many of the folks in Diagon Alley, one would think they had never seen a dragon before…

And then we visited Gringotts…

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