Tuesday, December 29, 2009
First snow-camp of the season
The large lake we live on freezes very late, so I thought I'd get one more night of canoe camping on an island. To make the most of the short days, I launched and loaded the freighter canoe the night before. Next morning, there was a ring of ice around it. Got that chipped off without damaging anything, but then the outboard wouldn't start.
I can take a hint. On to Plan B. Loaded the car and drove towards another favorite place. By now it was snowing hard, and the roads were slicker than snot on ice. Came to a hill the car just wouldn't climb, even with brand-new snow tires. Tried to go back, but couldn't climb the hill I'd just come down, either. Stuck in a little valley on an infrequently-traveled dirt road until a snow plow came along. One of those times when Mother Nature chooses the campsite. Dug out a parking spot off the road, and Ajax and I were on our way.
He carries the heavy stuff in his pack, I pull the bulky stuff on a sled. Found a decent spot, cut a pole for the tent and three smaller ones for a tripod to support the stove pipe. Pitched the tent. By then, snow had buried everything. Lost the little tarp I put over firewood, and never did find it. Note to self: Be more organized, and paint little things orange.
Went off with the sled and saw for firewood. Lucked into a couple dead standing Hop-Hornbeam trees, the King Kong of firewood.
Had hoped to pop a squirrel for dinner, but saw only one and didn't get a shot.
Fortunately, being a pessimist, I had pre-loaded the aluminum Dutch oven with left-over pork roast, ghee and garlic. Warmed it up on the stove and it was delicious. Ajax drooled all over my sleeping bag waiting to lick the pot.
A front passed during the night, dropping the temp to 8*F. The tent stayed so warm that I spent most of the night stretched out on top of the sleeping bag, but a strong wind (30 mph, I learned later) developed and kept the tent flapping. Didn't get much sleep, although that's normal for me the first night of a camping trip. Sleep comes much easier on subsequent days. The stove pipe came apart once and filled the tent with smoke, but I was able to reconnect it fairly quickly.
Next morning went hunting again, but saw nothing. Not even tracks. Nothing was moving in the wind and cold. The temp had been just below freezing when we left, so I'd dressed for cold/wet conditions instead of cold/dry, and was wishing I'd worn mukluks and snowshoes. Another note to self: Don't trust Mother Nature. What a bitch.
Tree limbs were coming down in the wind, so we decided to skedaddle. Chipping out the frozen tent and slogging to the car was a bit of an ordeal. Then to top it off, the car door locks were frozen.
It was a good early-season shake-down.