Tag Archives: winter camping

Broomstick Lake

Matt & I exchanged emails about our desire to get out for an overnight camping trip.  We settled on Broomstick Lake, about an hour’s drive for each of us.

Our initial plan was to meet Saturday afternoon and camp Saturday night, but with no one else joining our trip we discussed the possibility of meeting Friday evening for the short snowshoe hike in.  We met at the trailhead at 5pm, hiked up hill to a level knoll and set up our shelters and gathered wood while it was still light.  I brought my Black Diamond Hilight tent and Matt brought two tarps which he set up using bent over branch.  In the morning he reported there was more a slope to his site than originally assessed.

We managed to find dry standing wood including a two flat chunks of pine that served as a base for our fire and a dead ash that yielded logs approximately 8″ across.  Matt’s chain saw was handy for cutting the larger logs.  Our fire lasted for hours.

As I got the fire going Matt set up his stove and heated water for our dehydrated meals. The fire, meals and waning light all coalesced around 6:20.  We sat up around the fire and talked until 8pm when we decided on an early turn in time.  We received 2-3″ of snow overnight and I heard it repeatedly slide off the tent during the night.  We were awake a little after 6am, packed up and headed home.  I was back home by 8:30 and had the rest of the weekend.

Jockeybush Lake

Matt, Mark, Rick and I were yearning for a trip in the woods and selected an easy trip into Jockeybush Lake for an overnight camping trip.  With temperatures in the mid-40s our hike was pleasant.  Jockeybush Lake is a 1.1 mile hike up a 200′ grade with two small stream crossings.   Access to the trail head  begins across from Lake Alma on Route 10 with parking is adjacent to yellow and brown trail sign. The trail follows a stream ith several small waterfalls that flows from the Jockeybush Lake into West Sacandaga River.

We celebrated seeing a Unicorn – Mark finally participating on a winter camping trip-  we took pictures of the waterfalls on our hike in, and observed a “Joanie loves Chachi” tree carving from a previous trip that went bad.

Hiking In

The south east end of the lake has a log jam across it, allowing one to cross to an area of large, flat rocks.  We used trekking poles for balance and safely crossed dry on the way in.  In the morning on the way out, however, it was a different matter.  The logs were covered with frost and slippery.  Matt got his boots wet at the start of the crossing and then plunged his foot into the water after slipping on the frosty log.

Log Crossing

The view of the lake from this end is wonderful, however we found it devoid of wood and being cooled by winds sweeping down the lake. We followed an unmarked, but easy to follow trail around the north shore of the lake to another camp location where we deployed our various shelters.  I used my Black Diamond 1st Light tent, Matt used his tarptent and Mark and Rick used hammocks; Rick’s 4th attempt and Mark’s 1st use of a hammock for winter camping. Mark added a festive atmosphere by hanging holiday lights around his hammock.

Tenting at Jockeybush Lake

After setting up our tents we gathered firewood for cooking and an extended evening chatting around the fire; one of my favorite aspects of winter camping.  As the wind died down it actually felt a little warmer as the evening went on and we managed to stay up until 9pm before turning in.  Matt and Mark cooked brats on a stick over the open fire.  Rick used his alcohol stove to cook pasta and I boiled water from the lake over my Solo Stove.

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The solo stove consists of a main burn chamber, for burning the twigs, and a separate pot stand which a metal ring with three feet and a gap that lets you add twigs and small pieces of wood – roughly finger sized. Rising hot air pulls air through the bottom vent holes. This air movement fuels the fire at its base while also providing a boost of preheated air through the vent holes at the top of the burn chamber. The double wall Solo Stove is a natural convection inverted downgas gasifer stove. The air intake holes on the bottom of the stove channels air to the bottom of the fire while at the same time, channels warm air up between the walls of the stove. This preheated oxygen feeding back into the firebox through the smaller holes at the top of the stove causes a secondary combustion.  There is also a heat shield between the ash pan and the bottom of the stove which protects the ground under the stove from scorching.

This was my 1st time using the Solo Stove which I intended as a winter camping backup stove.  It worked well for one person, boiling 20 oz. of water for my freeze dried dinner in ~10 minutes.  It used 3-4 handfuls of twigs.  For an optimal burn it requires constant feeding, but it burned well with a mixture of dry and damp sticks.  The stove balanced well and I did not feel a need for a separate wind screen.  The usual issues with soot covering your pot exists – just like cooking over any wood fire.

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Overnight the temperatures dropped below freezing, causing the lake to freeze over with interesting ice patterns.

Frozen Lake

We encountered “Frost Flowers” on our hike out; something I had never seen before.  These are one of the stranger ice formations found in the woods; crystallofolia  are delicate ice formations that form from water emitted along a stem during a hard freeze in late fall/early winter. From Latin crystallus for ice and folium for leaf these are commonly called “frost flowers” or “feather frost”.

A typical example looks like a small puff-ball of cotton candy, a few inches across, made up of clusters of thin, curved ice filaments.   The petals of frost flowers are very delicate and will break when touched. They usually melt or sublimate when exposed to sunlight and are usually visible in the early morning or in shaded areas.

Frost flowers usually grow on a piece of water-logged wood.  It’s something of a rare find with conditions having to be just so before it will form. The formation of frost flowers is dependent on a freezing weather condition occurring when the ground is not already frozen. The moisture in the plants or dead wood expands when frozen, causing cracks to form in the stem. Water is then drawn through these cracks via capillary action and freezes upon contact with the air. The capillary action pulls moisture up from damp ground which continues to freeze and adds to what’s already frozen there. As more water is drawn through the cracks the thin ice filaments are essentially pushed out from pores in the wood as they freeze.

It’s something of a misnomer to call this frost since it freezes from liquid water, not water vapor. None the less, they were beautiful to see.

Frost Flowers

Algonquin Dog Sledding

We began our discussion of a possible dog sledding / winter camping trip in the early fall.  By organizing a small group and committing early we hoped to achieve a group trip discount.  Our plan was for a 4 day / 3 night dog sledding trip in Algonquin Park, Ontario Canada over the Holiday break. Each person packed their sleeping system and extra clothes in a duffel bag and brought along a small day bag for extra clothes, mittens, camera, lip balm, and snacks.

On Friday 27 December Matt, Mark, Len and Chris met Skip and Jim for the 8 hour drive to South River, Ontario; along Hwy 401 we noticed lots of homes still without power from an ice storm before Christmas. We met at the Algonquin Hotel after an uneventful drive and all went out for dinner.

Chocpaw Expeditions is located on the north west side of Algonquin Park, Ontario, 3 hours north of Toronto on Highway 124.

The next morning we met a Chocpaw Expeditions for an orientation.  There were 21 people participating, our group of 6, a group of 6 that was going out for an overnight trip and the remainder were day trippers.  The orientation provided information on the dog sleds, demonstrated how to handle and harness the dogs  and what to expect at our overnight in the prospector’s tent in Algonquin Provincial Park.

We drove to the dog yard to meet our guide, load our gear and get started on our trip.  Chocpaw uses  a line of Alaskan sled dogs with friendly dispositions that are bred to enjoy the work of the trail. To be called Alaskans, a dogs lines must trace to the kennels of the racers in Alaska.  The Chocpaw dog yard had 385 dogs, reportedly the 2nd largest dog kennel in the world; trailing a large sled dog kennel in Finland.  Each dog was staked in front of a raised barrel which contained straw for bedding.

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We met our guide, Jamie Sands.   Jamie graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Degree in Environment and Resource studies, minor on Geography and specialization in Parks.  Shortly after finishing at the university, Jamie got a job at a dog sledding  company in the Arctic town of Inuvik in the Northwest Territories.  Jamie worked there for a year as a guide for a small dog sledding kennel learning winter travel and survival skills and the ins and outs of dog sledding and dog care while exploring the frozen lakes and rivers of the Mackenzie delta.  After returning to Ontario Jamie started working at Chocpaw Expeditions where he could continue working with sled dogs and educate people about sled dogs and the art of dog sledding through dog sled trips through the Algonquin wilderness.

We were instructed to pack our duffel bags in our sleds, wrap everything in a plastic tarp and secure the load with a rope binding and truckers hitch.  Once our sleds were set we assisted in harnessing the teams for the other groups by getting the dogs, 2-wheeling them on hind legs to harness and hooking them up to the tug lines.

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Each of our sleds had a large plastic tag with the names of our six dogs ordered in the positions they took in the hitch: lead, point and wheel.  Each dog was given a color code (red, blue, red & white) which corresponded to the size of their harness.  Each X-harness had a corresponding color coded braided nylon cord loop.  The six harnesses always stayed with the sled clipped together by the neck yoke that joined the two lead dogs. Our dogs were Laser (white), Hilti (black) in lead, Tipsy mainly black) and Anka (black) in point and Logan (tan) and Hank (black and grey) as wheel dogs.

It was about 11:30am when our group finally departed the dog yard with one person riding on top of the gear and the other person riding the rails and standing on the brakes to slow down the dogs’ exuberant energy at the start.  We proceeded out dirt roads, then to a logging road providing access to snow mobile and dog sled trails in Algonquin Park.

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The person riding on the back of the sled would steer it by weighting a runner and shifting from side to side to take a turn.  The driver would also watch the tugline to make sure it was tight – especially down hills. I’d read from a source that dogs have a propensity to do weird things. And that came true of them in this trip. As we proceeded we encountered small hills which required the rider to dismount and the driver to push the sled up the hill.  One of our lead dogs, Hilti, was a former race dog making her 1st expedition trip; when she encountered a hill she would stop and look over her shoulder at the driver questioning what was going on.  When one of the lead dogs stops or slows down the entire team would stop or slow down.  Pushing the loaded sled up the hill was hard work.

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In addition to our day bags, each sled had a nylon pouch/day bag large enough to carry Nalgene water bottles, granola bars and mittens.  I started out wearing gloves but quickly changed into mittens as my hands got cold from gripping the sled handles and curtailing circulation. My second requested stop was to layer on more clothing. I had several cups of coffee at breakfast but made the error of not hydrating during the day and felt the effects during the afternoon.  The water bottles were not insulated and the water was very cold, but I drank the entire bottle during a late afternoon break.

The plan was to travel among Chocpaw’s preset base camps consisting of large heated prospector tents.  The tents have a raised plywood sleeping platforms, and wood stoves.  Depending on the group and trail conditions, travel time is 2½ hours to 3 hours.   The camps are in the range of 20-25 miles apart, so it is necessary to cover at least that distance every day.

We skipped eating lunch on the way in and got to our camp mid-afternoon.  After arriving at camp we unharnessed the dogs and hooked them onto a chain.  We unloaded our sleds and gathered firewood for the stoves.  Instead of focusing standing dead wood, the Chocpaw permit entitled them to cut standing birch trees; probably due to the fact that birch has little commercial value for foresters.  We gathered limbs and loaded them onto an empty dog sled to transport back to camp where Jamie employed a chainsaw to buck it up into burnable pieces.  Once a fire was started and the tent began to warm up we ate our lunch which consisted of sandwiches and tomato vegetable soup.  We  retrieved water from the stream and cared for the dogs.  Before our dinner we watered the dogs using ‘bait water’; heated water containing melted blocks of dog food to improve palatability.  Each dog was offered an opportunity to drink from the bucket for a couple of minutes.  Dog food consisted of chicken and processed dog food into blocks the size of large soap bars.  Each dog got 3-6 bars to eat.

Chocpaw standardizes all their meals so all groups had steak and steak fries on night one, chicken stir fry on night two and ziti with meat balls on night three. Only three hours after wolfing down soup and sandwiches we were feasting on steaks and steak fries.  Jamie cooked meals on a propane fueled stove.  Below steaks from first night’s dinner and 150 meatballs from night three.  Chris demonstrated All-Pro level eating talents by consuming 31 meatballs!

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After dinner we hung up hats, mittens, boot liners and clothes to dry out in the tent while we played pitch.  Len caught on quickly and was a proficient pitch player after three consecutive nights of playing pitch.  Before bed we ‘strawed’ the dogs by breaking open two bales of straw and shaking out a section for each dog to have as a bed.  Even more than food and water the dogs seemed grateful for their straw beds.  They would scratch their straw around to suit their purposes and settled in to rest comfortably.

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During the night Jamie would awaken 2 or 3 times to replenish the stoves and at least once during the night he would check on the dogs to ensure they were staying warm.  With temperatures projected to be -18F he checked the huddled dogs by sliding a hand along their belly to check for cold spots.  Dogs were huddled because the only things offering them comfort, even if there were any, were the rolled leather collars for dogs, and cold would be brought into the tent to warm up.  Fortunately none of the dogs required warming up.

Our 1st night we ended up sharing the large South campsite with a small group doing an overnight trip.  They stayed in a large tent while we split our group between two smaller tents; Matt, Mark, Chris and Jamie in the heated, ‘cooking’ tent and Skip, Len and Jim in the other unheated tent.  The tents had a raised plywood sleeping platforms; on top of that we put ensolite sleeping pads and our own sleeping systems.

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We slept well and awoke slightly before 7am as the dogs started howling for breakfast.  After our breakfast we helped the overnight group harness their dogs for their return to the dog yard.  For Day 2 we took day packs and lunch and had largely empty sleds as we explored  the Upper 27  Trail located just east of Smyth Creek.

Chocpaw Trail System

As I largely drove the sled on day one, Skip drove the sled as I sat comfortably on a closed foam pad.  Lunch was a rushed affair as we stopped our teams, set our snow anchor and flipped the sled onto the snow anchor.  One person sat on the sled and held the yoke of the lead dogs.  Jamie would walk the strung out crew dispersing food and a hot drink.  We generally did not squander time on lunch break as we chilled down and the dogs were eager to move again.

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After 3+ hours we returned to South Camp where we moved our gear to the large tent.  Len, Skip and I shared some hot coffee from my thermos that had accompanied our sled throughout the day.  We warmed our feet and hands.  The large tent had a stove on each end and we used them both to take the chill out of tent and dry out our gear.

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Day 3 we loaded up our gear, harnessed the dogs and headed along Mary Jane Trail to the Straw drop where we picked up two bales of straw for dog beds.  It was windy and 4 degrees during the day.  I had to cover my face with a bandana to thwart the beginnings of frost bite on my left cheek.  From the straw drop we proceeded to the camp at Craig Creek where we dropped off the straw and took the  trail upstream to the Craig Creek Dam.  After a few minutes of enjoying the viewwe turned the teams around and headed back to camp.

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This put our team in the fourth position trailing Matt & Chris’s team.  Despite going downhill to our camp Matt & Chris’s team were slow and we constantly had to stop and wait for them to clear a hill.

Based on our experience the prior day, the last day Skip and Jim volunteered to take on more weight rather than concede the 2nd position to Matt & Chris.  Our return trip along Ridge Trail was twisty with several steep hills that required deliberate spacing among the teams.  We had several “off-trail” encounters along this trail.   As we returned along more familiar trails the dogs recognized they were returning to the dog yard and kept a steady pace.  Our return trip transpired in three hours and we arrived back at the dog yard where we returned the dogs to their barrels, unloaded our gear, and changed our clothes.   We filled out evaluation forms, drank coffee and ate a bit of chili before departing South River at 3pm for our return trip home.  Below: Jamie, Matt, Chris, Jim, Skip, Len and Mark in the sled.

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DIY Tyvek Bivy

I had a couple of pieces of 9′ Tyvek left over from the home remodeling that I wanted to experiment with for camping applications.  I took a piece to use as a ground cloth in my megamid tipi when we winter camped on Peaked Mountain.

The piece had been left over when the patio doors were installed in the living room and it was just about the right size for making a bivy sack.  I had washed it so it wasn’t super crinkly sounding.  I roughly followed the directions given in the 2nd half of this video.

DIY $5 Tyvek Sleeping Bag Bivy

I set my largest sleeping pad down with my overstuffed Western Mountaineering Puma winter sleeping bag.  I folded the Tyvek over everything and trimmed it to provide a generous fit.  The two concerns I have of bivy sacks are:

  1. They can be confining and restrict moving around during the night.  If someone is claustrophobic they may not enjoy sleeping in a  bivy.
  2. Condensation from the occupant gets captured inside the bivy and can moisten the sleeping bag.

Hopefully, the generous cut will enable ventilation.  My main goal for the bivy is to keep my sleeping bag out of the snow if I am winter camping with a floorless tipi or tarp.

In my research I heard of DIY Tyvek projects that sewed seams and glued them but the use of double-sided carpet tape seemed to make the most sense to me.  It is was quick and relatively easy to apply once I figured out how to remove the film.

I taped the bottom of the bivy and half-way up the side to approximately waist height.  I turned the bivy inside out so the Tyvek advertising was on the inside.

I applied two tabs of sticky backed velcro such that I could secure the top half, if desired.  Two views of the he finished product.

 

 

Jockeybush Lake

We were looking to get in a quick overnight trip before black fly season.  Looking at the weather report for the weekend, things didn’t look very promising, with high winds, rain and freezing temperatures forecast for the weekend.  So Skip and Jim decided on a short Friday night overnight trip with plans to extract before the bad weather arrived mid-day on Saturday.

Jockeybush Lake is a 1.1 mile hike up a 200′ grade with two small stream crossings.   Access to the trail head  begins across from Lake Alma on Route 10 with parking is adjacent to yellow and brown trail sign. The trail follows a stream that flows from the Jockeybush Lake into West Sacandaga River.

A beautiful rocky stream with several small waterfalls comes down from the right about halfway to the lake.

Since we were only staying overnight we packed light and decided to hike sans snowshoes.  At the beginning of the trail we found compressed snow left from previous snowshoe hikers.

I packed in a pair of waterproof, 20″ NEOS Trekkers which I proposed to use for the stream crossing.  The overboots were just a little small to fit over my hiking boots however, after an initial use Skip found he could easily slip them over his boots.

As we gained some elevation there was more snow cover.  Hiking involved trying to stay on the packed trail or risk a quick post hole.  Although we didn’t need snowshoes the lack of gaiters meant our boots filled with snow overflow and soaked our socks.

The south east end of the lake has a beaver dam across it, allowing one to cross to an area of large, flat rocks. The view of the lake from this spot is wonderful, however we found it occupied by a couple and being buffeted by winds sweeping down the lake. We followed an unmarked, but easy to follow trail around the north shore of the lake to a location where large granite ledges provided a scenic view.

While Jockeybush Lake was covered by ice it was slowly melting back from the shoreline.

We utilized a fire ring near the shore for cooking our brats, but set up our tarp on an open area back in the woods.  We lowered the windward sides as much as possible. Despite 20 mph wind gusts during the night the shelter stayed intact and upright.

During the evening we heard a horned owl from across the lake, but otherwise slept great.

The next morning we discovered the fuel canister that Skip had packed for heating our water was empty.  So we had water and granola bars for breakfast and hiked out.  The hike out was easier and quicker due to the snow setting up in the cold temperatures overnight.

Where I Slept Last Night

After my aborted winter camping trip to Gull Lake I wanted an opportunity to use the Eureka Kaycee 0 degree sleeping bag that had been provided to me.  So Monday night while Eric and Kathryn were at piano lessons and swimming I packed up my gear and hiked into the woods across the road to find a campsite and stay overnight.

I took my book and cell phone.  I didn’t read, but I had a lengthy conversation with Barbara.

I was hopeful of a good night’s sleep as I turned in at 8:30pm.  It was peaceful laying out and listening to the sounds of Canada Geese settling down near my neighbors pond.  Unfortunately, I dozed fitfully as my other neighbor had a dog that barked until 1:30am.

Temperatures dipped into the upper teens during the night.  Overall the sleeping bag test went well – except the sleeping bag got a little chilly.  I had to pull my down vest into the bag for additional insulation.

The next morning I awoke at 6:30, packed up my gear, hiked back to the house, showered and went to work.  It was kind of neat sleeping outside during a week night.  I will likely try to do it again some night this summer.

Gull Pond

Earlier in winter I had been contacted by Ed’s Wilderness Systems to use and review one of his pulks for winter camping. At the beginning of March I was contacted by a representative of Eureka! offering a winter camping sleeping bag for review.

Over the winter I did a lot of snowshoeing but few overnight trips. The weekend of 26 March (right after our return from St John) was a last opportunity to go winter camping with significant snow cover. Skip and I decided to hike into to Gull Pond for an overnight on Saturday. It was my opportunity to pull the pulk and use the sleeping bag.

We had a 2.5 mile trip hike into the Gull Lake lean-to. The 1st portion followed a mostly level road bed used by snowmobilers with compacted snow. We passed tracks left by an otter. Otters often travel overland far from water, but in this case a small stream is visible in the background. The snow clearly shows prints that are ~3″ long with five toes on the front feet and five toes on the hind feet.

When sliding the otter will either coast on its belly with forefeet held along its sides and rear feet held out behind or, as in this case, get a ‘running start’ and slide on its belly across the snow and then continue by pushing itself to reach the end of a slide. Alongside the slide you can see troughs in the snow made by the otter pushing its self with their feet tucked under their bodies. Also in distance so you can see tracks mixed in with the slide.

The range of a typical river otter is fairly large, roughly 10 square miles, with most of that area is within a short distance from a river, lake, or pond.

The 2nd portion of the trail involved ~160’ elevation gain up a rough and eroded trail. This was more akin to bushwhacking as we avoided the gullies formed by erosion and weaved around the trees adjoining the trail. The snow was hard and crusty and initially I was apprehensive about the sled slipping sideways. However, slipping was rarely an issue. The sled tracked straight and the few times that it was unavoidable to traverse a side hill it was not difficult to keep forward motion with the sled.

The difficulty was in going uphill. The combination of a heavily loaded sled (64 lbs) and the hard packed crust made it real work to dig in the crampons on the snowshoes, lean forward and pull. It felt like I was using different leg muscles (calves and sides of my thighs) than I would normally use hiking.

We reached the Gull Lake lean-to and found 3 guys and a German Shepard. They had been there since Thursday and had bountiful gear occupying the space. We took a short rest and considered our options. We could share the crowded lean-to or try and find a place to bivouac or try to hike back out. Counting on staying at the lean-to we did not pack a tent or tarp which made the bivouac not all that attractive. We decided to hike back out. I gulped down 32 oz of water and dumped some of the water I had packed in, to help lighten the load.

We ventured out at 6:30. The snow was so hard packed that we decided to hike out without our snowshoes. It was a quick and easy hike back down to the snowmobile trail and made it back to the cars a little before 8pm as the light was fading.

We stopped off at the Tavern on the Green in Prospect for a beer and wings and watched the NCAA Quarter Finals.

There is a lengthy review of the EWS Snow Clipper pulk on WinterCampers.com.

Mitchell Ponds

Mitchell Ponds is located southeast of Old Forge, NY at 43.6709°N 74.7485°W, elevation at 1,919 feet in the Moose River Plain.  The western access from the Moose River Plains Road is across an old road that travels 1.7 miles to the foot of Mitchell Ponds.   This trail is an easy hike up and over a hill and is marked with yellow discs.  There is a crossing over a large beaver dam on this route.  A walk of another 1 mile along the shore of the ponds takes one to a large campsite on a peninsula between the two ponds with scenic cliffs on one side of the peninsula, definitely a long walk so you do have to make sure to bring your camo weather proof hunting backpack to bring everything you need for the day!

Previously we had discussed Mitchell Ponds as a winter camping destination, but the gate to the Moose River Plain Road is closed during snow conditions limiting it to snow mobile access.  So we decided on a late October trip – sort of a winter camping preseason “warm-up”.   The crew included Skip, Chris, Rob (with June-the-food-stealing-dog), Mark, Matt and Len shown below. With deer hunting season open in the Northern Zone hiking next to Skip’s florescent yellow provided a measure of safety, we know that during this season most people buy ar-15 rifles online so we wanted to stay as far away from hunters as possible.  Rob was dressed in his typical wool sweater and wool pants – his only pants, it would turn out.  Mark and Matt wore their BeyondClothing wind shirt and pants, respectively, and Len showed everyone that shorts have no season.

These experienced winter campers were joined by Eric, giving him the distinction of being  the youngest person to participate in a WinterCampers.com event.  Eric packed his own knapsack with snacks, drink and clothing.

We hiked in as two separate groups with Skip, Eric and Jim taking the more leisurely stroll in.  There was snow on the exposed surfaces such as this snowmobile bridge.

We caught up to the 1st group at the large beaver dam. The trail had a flagging tape barrier to warn speeding snowmobiles of the lack of a bridge.  We were warned by the winter camping gang flashing their WC warning sign.

It was steep coming down to the beaver dam, the dam was wet to walk across and quite high – about 8′ in height on the downstream side.

Hiking in with Eric meant frequent stops to replenish the snacks being consumed.

The last mile of the trail follows the shore of  Mitchell Ponds and was rough and quite wet in places.  It passes large rocks at the base of the cliffs, including one large  slanted rock that could be used as a shelter of sorts. The trail winds around the pond, becomes indistinct and finally crosses the outlet on the west side.

On the hike along the pond Rob’s dog, June (aka June-the-food-stealing-dog) went swimming and her harness became caught on submerged brush.  Rob fell into pond rescuing his dog and was soaked to mid-waist.  He squished on the remainder of the hike and changed out of his clothes once he got to camp.

The campsite on the peninsula up on a ridge.  It is a nice site and can accommodate several tents – good thing because while Skip, Eric and I brought a Black Diamond Megamid pyramid tent to share everyone else brought their own individual tent and had already grabbed the available flat sites.

Eric packed along vampire teeth from his Halloween costume and inspects Mark’s tent.

Rob changed out of his wet clothes and went pant-less for the remainder of the evening scaring most of the woodland creatures away and even causing a few winter campers to avert their gaze as he lounged about the camp fire.

We had a nice fire that served as a focal point for the discussion group consisting of  Skip, Rob’s drying boots, Len, June-the-food-stealing-dog, Mark, Rob and Chris.

We enjoyed a nice sunset and the ponds glowed with the warm light.

We had plans to bushwhack onto the cliffs above Mitchell Pond, but didn’t make it there.

Everyone turned in early (8:30pm) anticipating a good night’s sleep.  I was worried about keeping Eric warm through the night and was constantly awake and checking on him.  I needn’t have worried as he slept fine – mostly crowding on top of me – and Eric, Skip and I slept in until after 7am.

The rest of the crew had arisen earlier, ate breakfast and were in a rush to get out so they left.  Skip stayed with Eric and I as hiked together along Mitchell Ponds until we got through the wettest areas.   At that point Skip hiked on to meet up with other hiking partners for a further adventure on Sunday afternoon.  Eric and I walked out holding hands along the old snowmobile trails and chatting about items of interest to a 7 year old.

It started to sprinkle as we reached the beaver dam crossing and it was raining as our car came in view.  We dumped out packs in the trunk of the car, grabbed the snacks and drinks we had left in the car, turned the heater on and drove home.

Shaker Place

Martin Luther King weekend Skip, Jim, Matt, Mark, Len, Rob and Wayne hiked into Skip’s cabin at Shaker Place. We towed our gear on sled, because it was a short distance and level path. On the way in we passed nice slopes left on the sand pits. We looked at the steep slopes – then looked at our sleds – looked at the slopes – looked at the sleds – hey why not?

I am telling you – don’t go up there!

Skip decided to try an intermediate slope and work up his nerve before going down the radical one. It was steeper looking down from the top.

Matt was wiser than us all – he decided to stay at the bottom and capture the results on film for the pending insurance claims. This is what happens.

Jim’s Sledding Wreck @Shaker Place

Fortunately he turned the camera off quickly to spare everyone from my cries of anguish. I thought I had really, really screwed up my $25,000 hip(s). So I sat out the remainder of the sledding.

The pain subsided and I hiked out the next morning. But a week later the back of my leg looked like this.

It took four weeks for the bruising to disappear and for me to be able to return to snowshoeing and volleyball.

An Oldie Picture

A few weeks ago I got a new computer – a Dell, pre-loaded with MicroSoft Vista, despite my best attempts to ward it off.  Almost everything transitioned smoothly except my MicroTek ScanMaker 4900 flatbed scanner which, officially, is not supported with Vista device drivers.  After many machinations I finally got it to work tonight.

Coincidentally, Kathryn had been going through the attic today retrieving items to donate to the Utica School of Commerce Student Association Thift Store that Billie Jo is setting up.  She cleaned out a lot of old picture frames and saved an old photo of her and I at ages 22 & 23 respectively.  The B&W photo was taken on campus at SUNY Oneonta by a college friend Jim Clayton who dabbled around in photography.

After graduation in 1975 I had lost touch with Jim Clayton until about a year ago I saw his name on an email that was routed through the NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation.  I took a chance and sent the addressee an email stating that I knew a Jim Clayton way back when and lo & behold it turned out to be him.

We caught up on the 30 year interval and it turned out that Jim was the chief photographer for DEC’s publication “The Conservationist”.  Jim knew of my interest and involvement in winter camping and put me in touch with the editors.  Four weeks ago I was contacted and asked to submit an article.  I submitted an article on our WinterCampers.com trip to Mount Blue a couple of years ago and it is planned to appear in the December issue.

Funny the way all this stuff ties together isn’t it?