Saturday, April 01, 2006

April fools

April came around and Geoff and I finally got around to going winter camping. It was pretty cool. By that, I mean it wasn't a disaster. By that, I mean it wasn't a spectacular disaster.

We left for Caribou Lake in a raging snowstorm - him on skis and dragging what turned out to be a very study sled setup, me slogging behind on snowshoes and carrying what wouldn't fit in the sled on my back. We hiked into the wilderness about five miles on Friday and set up camp a little ways off the trail. I took off my snowshoes and instantly sank up to my crotch. It was all snowshoes all the time from that moment on.

We built a fire that provided warmth only in that it needed to be fed constantly with the thin, wet spruce branches we were trying to burn - so we had to do a lot of hiking, sawing, hauling, repeat. We began cooking dinner before we realized that we forgot to bring any silverware, so we had to eat this thin, soupy vegetable mixture in tortillas - slopping half our dinner over the firepit/snowbank (um ... the bears are still sleeping, right?). The new snow was heavy and wet, and it soaked into everything - gloves, coats, pants, base layers, skin. Our only respite was a little four-season tent, which wasn't waterproof on the bottom, and which soaked up the melting base with reckless abandon.

I slept through the night but was reluctant to get out of the tent in the morning, knowing the only thing I had to look forward to was eating gruel ... I mean oatmeal ... with a spruce twig and pacing around camp in my sopping wet clothes (sitting still for more than a few minutes was out of the question in the building windchill.) Geoff and I set out on a day hike around the lake that slogged on for six of its own miles. We returned to camp, ate tuna sandwiches as fast as we could get them down our throats while our body temperatures ticked down several increments, then began the march home just as the snowstorm was picking up steam into a full-on, into-the-wind, white-out blizzard.

And as I shuffled across the barren surface of a frozen lake - a space so choked in the monotone whiteness that walking with my eyes closed only improved visibility, with windburn searing my cheeks and chin - a painful sort of irony struck me. April showers - April fools.

Nature can be so cruel.

7 comments:

  1. (um ... the bears are still sleeping, right?)

    Uh, actually, no. Quite a few have already responded to their wet-den wake up calls. But better to spill your food in the firepit than in the tent!

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  2. Still sounded ........interesting! I'm not quite that hardcore! Then again, I don't have a 4 season tent, just a summerweight cheepie!

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  3. Wow. Most of the time I read your blog I want to visit Alaska. Not this time.

    I only really like winter camping when I am relatively close to an indoor heated bathroom with shower. Summer? All bets are off. Husband and I are even contemplating unassisted bike touring. I'll probably need some advice....

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  4. Now that's camping!

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  5. Jill ~

    Thank you for visiting. You have a nice site.

    I was glad to come home and find the ground dry, the weather warm and the mountains ready to be hiked.

    Good luck with your endeavors.

    God bless you and keep you,

    Nae :o)

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  6. I'm glad you came back home!

    Your snowshoe story reminded me of a time (when I was young) my husband and I snowshoed into our newly purchase property in Knik...back in the days that we got snow!

    On the way my snowshoes broke and I had to stand on the back of his, so we tramped along together which seemed to me to take forever. When he stopped, I stepped off and did the same thing you did, sank so deep I had to climb with great effort back on to his snowshoes!

    My snowshoes were borrowed and so old!

    Still enjoying your pictures and stories.

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  7. Yeah, one year us boyscouts decided it would be cool to build quincies and sleep in them on our winter camp. It got down below -40 that night (actual temp), and that was the last time I ever went winter camping. Go figure.
    Good for you guys for getting out.

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