Ranger Kathryn's Arches

April 10, 2010

Camping in the c-c-cold

Buffalo burgers on the cookstove

The online weather forecast was distressing for three people who dislike being cold: 21 degrees overnight low. Our two tents are designed for lightweight camping, and are half mesh. The rain fly and our gear would be our only protection. Oh, that and the supply of chemical hand and toe warmers that Casey had purchased.

Ilsa finds a place to stay warm -- in the car!

After the supper of buffalo burgers (mixed with dried onion soup mix — m-m-mm) we built a fire and roasted a few ‘mallows. By now all of us had put on every layer we had brought; it’s easier to STAY warm than to GET warm. Now, we’re not wimps; we just don’t like to be frozen. We piled sleeping bags and blankets on, under, and around ourselves and reminded each other that the high the following day would reach 60, so we would thaw out quickly. Our ski hats were the only thing you could see peeking from the bags. Before sleep overtook us, we stage-whispered another ‘Happy Birthday!’ to Casey in the other tent.

To our great delight, the freezing temps did not kill us. No damage was done to any body parts, although Casey’s pillow was frozen. I managed to resurrect the previous night’s fire and we kept our hands and toes warm enough until the morning’s hike would commence, and our blood would flow freely once again.

Our nice campsite at Chaco Culture NHP; note two hats and a scarf.

It’s a darn good thing we didn’t know that it got down to 13 degrees before sunrise, but we knew it HAD to be harsh; our drinking water (that I was going to heat for tea) was frozen solid, and within 30 minutes of taking the liquid water out of the car, that entire gallon was starting to freeze, too. We were grateful for that bright, warm orb in the sky that morning. It’s easy to see why various cultures worshipped it.

This is a pretty boring post to those of you who winter camp, or who ask What’s the Big Deal?, but for us it was an important rite of passage. When you encounter obstacles and surmount them, it gives you courage to do it again in another context. While I’m not ready to build a snow cave and camp in it, below-freezing temps in my tent no longer intimidate me as they always have. This is progress.

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