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Surviving the cold

Flaggy Meadow Mountain via Letter Rock Mountain Loop - 11/30 2019


This trip was a one night camp out in Harriman state park with my friend Jakub. A super cold night in November where temperatures dropped to eighteen degrees Fahrenheit. We decided to keep it a short hike and focus on building a good camp with a strong fire to last us the night. We hiked about two miles along the Letter Rock trail in Harriman State park before bushwacking to the top of Flaggy Meadow Mountain. A bit of a tough bush to get through but we found a great spot to set up camp just over the peak. We found a perfect flat spot right next to a large rock pile, it was ideal for making our fire pit and for wind protection. This was my first time attempting to make a long fire to be used as the main source of heat for the night. Our shelter was a tarp set up, it was right next to the firepit and lined with a reflective blanket in hopes of reflecting heat back towards us. We then proceeded to make a large rectangular fire pit out of the nearby stones and a fire wall on the opposite end to reflect more heat in our direction. The rest of the day light hours were spent collecting firewood to last us the night. Once night fell we began to relax, cook dinner and settle into our campsite. I felt confident in our camp set up and that we would stay comfortable throughout the night despite freezing temperatures. As the night went on and the temperature dropped I discovered that Jakub did not bring a proper winter sleeping bag. Despite all our preparation with the long fire and tarp set up did not provide sufficient heat with such a light sleeping bag. I slept through the night fine but Jakub did not. Relying heavily on the fire for warmth we quickly ran out of firewood. Jakub spent most of the night collecting more firewood. Not just to keep a big fire going but to also stay active throughout the night for warmth.

Winter camping is when camping skills are really tested and experience is needed. It's easy enough to set up a shelter and get good sleep in the summer. While Jakub is an experienced outdoors man this was his first time camping in the middle of winter. It was a good reminder to test your gear and know it well before going out into the bush and relying on it. I remember going through the same exact experience when I was in Boy Scouts. It was a winter camping trip and I was not aware of the difference between summer and winter gear. My tent was a summer tent and my sleeping bag was rated up to only 50 degrees. My experience using this equipment in the summer I was always too hot in my tent and sleeping bag. I was sure it would be able to keep me warm in the winter all the same. As night fell I quickly realized it was not. I spent a restless night in my tent squirming around, doing push ups and sit ups to keep my body temperature up and to stay warm. It did little and I did not feel warmth until the next morning when the sun rose and we got our fire started back up.

As me and Jakub discussed this on the drive home we both agree that while these experiences were unpleasant it is a nice feeling to be able to stick out in such a tough situation. Knowing that you can survive a freezing night being ill prepared and just waiting for the long cold hours to pass. This leaves you with the confidence to know you can survive uncomfortable situations. Since many learning and growing experiences are outside one's comfort zone it is nice to have the experience in your back pocket when pushing through them.


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