2016/17 New Years Eve on the Mullica
Jeni and I had a fantastic overnight last night at the Mullica River campsite. I wanted to write some notes here for possible future reference.
Temperatures and times: It was in the lower 40's (F) when we started. The wind was at our backs and blew us UP Batsto Lake, which I don't think I've ever experienced before there, so it was fast and not very hard. I had been worried that it would be too cold and that the wind would make it hard but this was fine. We put in at Batsto Lake close to noon, and reached "The Lunch Spot" (where the traverse path hits the Mullica) at around 1:00. We ate there and then paddled up to the campsite, arriving near 3:00. The paddle up was strenuous and both of us were anxious about the work and the setting sun, but it worked out well. We gathered wood, pitched the tent, got water from the pump, Jeni made tea and coffee, and we were all set. When the sun set the breeze stopped, so the lower 40's (or maybe high 30 then) didn't seem too bad. The fire was easy to light but we cooked on the little isobutane stove. We fed the fire large (6" dia) green pine logs, ~ 4' long, and they didn't burn well until we got it going really hot. We played around the fire until 7:30 or so then got into the tent, bushed. What I noticed was that, although I'd felt fine outside, I was quite cold: my flesh was cold to the touch over most of my body. We had double sleeping bags: I slept inside a 30° "warm weather" bag, inside a heavier bag, and this was a very cozy combination. So I started getting warm quickly in that and the cold air (probably down close to 30° overnight) was fine. But the "Taj 3" tent is very ventilated so the extra bag is necessary at these temperatures I'd say.
I'm pretty sure there's no better way to spend New Year's Eve than this: the Pine Barrens really shine in the winter, and the water and fresh air are just magical. When we got back to Philly I went to the grocery store by bike and felt very much as if I'd been drinking (hadn't!), from some combination of fatigue, fresh air, and the particular stimulation of the Pine Barrens. The speed of my bike, and the relation of this to car speeds, seemed altered, and I felt the need to be a little more careful than usual (though all went well). A night on the Mullica, and the paddling to and from, really wash out the brain. (I woke up in the tent last night and lied there with aching muscles for a half hour or so, with head full of rare, clear thoughts about things that have been bugging me.)
One reason I'm writing this now is to say that everything went well for us but if the temperature had been 5 or 10 degrees colder it might have been tough; it seemed about as cold as one would want for an overnight without more serious gear (the tent mainly). Also, if we'd fallen in the water or something, that would also have been a real problem -- it would have been very hard to warm up. And making a fire in the open when it's cold and breezy doesn't really make much good warm-up heat. We had a tarp with us which we didn't use, but that might have been helpful to contain the heat from the fire somehow.
We had campsite #9 which I like the best, and there were no other campers. But site #8 would probably be a better choice in the winter months, since it's more enclosed by scrubby vegetation. A fire at that one might be more effective.
The Mullica seemed to have a high flow. Here's the height gauge graph:
It looks like 0.8 feet is not high compared to the rest of the year:
- 01 Jan 2017