This time of year I don’t like to leave my wife alone to deal with the hard work that Winter brings so I don’t usually get away for real trips. I try to get by with a hike when I can and of course burn off energy on the recumbent in the basement. So when the chance came up Saturday night I jumped at the opportunity to put together a quick pack and head out for a night. Not a real trip, but still a chance for a little local adventure.
After the long warm spell it was finally cold enough to snow instead of rain. I headed out after dinner wearing a few light layers under a light shell. Too many sweaty hikes have taught me to go easy on the insulation while I’m walking even in pretty low temps. Wicking layers are nice but it is hard to vent large amounts of heat and vapor so better not to generate too much in the first place. Every body is different and it is a life long learning experience for most of us when it comes to what our bodies need to be the right temp in all the varied conditions Mother Nature throws at us.
The storm kept the full moon from shining through but there was enough bright, fresh snow that I navigated without a light despite the first half of my trip being a bushwhack. The thaw and rains resulted in a lot of water which seemed to be everywhere, but under a solid layer of ice a couple of inches thick with snow on top. Most of the time it held me but when it failed I’d suddenly go mid-calf deep before hitting bottom with a splash. I was really glad for my Baffins which come almost up to my knee and are both insulated and very waterproof. Instead of lots of cursing there was giggling each time the ice would groan but not give way and outright laughter when it did.
Happily I found the spot I intended for my tent was covered in snow rather than ice, water or mud. The site had been scouted previously for a level tent spot with no limbs to hide under the snow, but most importantly lack of widowmakers above. Keeping my walking layers on I quickly set up my tent, still without use of a light. Then I set up my bed laying out two pads and shaking out my quilt. The sheet for my top pad was no where to be found. Last minute packing when I haven’t been on a trip for two months I was bound to forget something!
Only when I had everything set up did I turn around, sit backwards into the tent door and pry off my boots. I’d allowed some of the falling snow to infiltrate the tent through the open door as I was working on the bed, but no need to get any more in if possible. A little moisture isn’t a big deal on an overnighter like this, but for extended Winter camping you want to be really careful about bringing any extra into the tent.
Once inside the tent I made sure to keep my weight on the sleeping pads so I didn’t melt holes under me. I’d already taken off my outer shell and shaken the snow from it before entering the tent. Now I started adding layers rapidly as my walking heat was all but gone. First came a couple of fleece layers one thicker than the other and then my big puffy TNF Nuptse. I replaced my hat with a balaclava and once my down jacket and quilt did their magic I was toasty warm. My quilt is only rated for 40°f but with the rest of this system in place I am comfy into the teens.
I fell asleep early to the wonderful sound of snowflakes hitting and sliding down the tent fly. The sleep was good but frequently punctuated by the sound of snowplows banging and beeping somewhere which carried far on the open ice of the river. A couple of late night nature calls tested my ability to get those big boots over my sleeping socks in a hurry heh, but all in all a restful night for body and soul.
This was the early predawn view out the door of my tent. It was too early to get up but too pretty to go back to sleep so I spent the next couple of hours enjoying being where I was.
A piping hot cocoacino (instant coffee mixed with instant cocoa. Caution these may be habit forming) seemed to be the right way to start the day and if you can make and enjoy it without fully getting out of bed so much the better.
Still a bit before sunrise, but it was so beautiful out I had a hard time staying in bed.
This old TNF Tephra22 isn’t my lightest tent but it is definitely my most bombproof and has held up through all sorts of weather. Somewhere along the way they changed the pole design so don’t buy a newer one based on that remark heh.
One last look at the river and it was time to navigate the icy woods on the way home. Not a big adventure, but a doable adventure. Just a few miles of hiking. This time of year though, despite not being too far from home, it counts as a path less traveled by.