Superior Hiking Trail Quickie Overnighter

Hike date: Thursday, January 15 – Friday, January 16, 2015
Location: Superior Hiking Trail (Lismore Road Parking lot to White Pine Campsite)
Distance: ~1 mile out and back

I am very happy and pleased to go out into the winter for another winter overnight camping trip. I wanted to venture out last year, but didn’t have the gear that I needed and found it hard to plan a night that would be favorable between the big snowfall and extreme cold temperatures of the 2013-14 winter. This year, however, has been pretty good for hiking and running on the trails. With little snow and mild temperatures, it makes planning for even a simple overnighter much easier.

The funny part about winter camping is the fine line between an enjoyable experience and being miserable. I want to go, but then I think of how cold and wet and difficult it can be. Cold hands, cold feet, frozen water, and hard ground. Then, the roaring fire and eating delicious food and drinking a cold beer is so fun! Yet the feeling of hiking back to my car, loading it up and getting back home into the warm shower is glorious.

Either way, Nick expressed his interest in joining Diamond and I for an overnighter. We spontaneously picked a night where the temperatures were nice and we had compatible schedules. Thursday night, we had a 14 hour window to do a quick night out, essentially to test gear and get a little taste of the winter camping lifestyle. We left at 7pm in the pitch dark. The White Pine campsite is about a 20-minute drive from home and the hike out is around one mile, making it a perfect site for the application.

The previous weekend, I scored a -30 sleeping bag from Goodwill for $8.99 and a kid’s sleeping bag that seemed to fit Diamond perfectly for $1.99. My bag is a huge synthetic cold-weather bag that probably weighs over six pounds. The tag claims five pounds, five ounces, but I attempted to weigh the bag packed into a compression stuff sack and the scale read over seven pounds. Either way, it is really, really huge and much warmer compared to anything else I have.

The puny one-mile hike in went by in a flash. It was easy walking despite the night and the stars were fantastic. The temperature was warm during the day and perhaps 25 degrees when we left the vehicle, and the overnight low predicted to get as low at 5 degrees. When we arrived to the site 20 minutes later, we set down our packs and let Diamond roam the campsite. We agreed to start a fire first thing, so after gathering some tinder, kindling and bigger logs for fuel, I started a fire. The birch bark started right up and my kindling took well. Meanwhile, I could hear Nick chopping on a fallen log nearby. After I got the fire going to where it would sustain, I continued to gather as much wood as I could. The light from the fire was very helpful in orienting, and I never really thought how exploring for dry wood could leave either of us lost in the dark not 100 feet from the campsite without the guiding light from a fire.

After building up a hearty light and heat source, Nick and I set up our tents. A quick glance over and the fire waned out. The next half hour was spent either stoking the fire or setting up for the night’s sleep. Finally, around 8:30pm, we felt set up enough to eat! I brought munchies and chili, Nick brought brats and buns, and we both brought a few beers. While Nick prepared the meat, I threw on a bunch of sticks and logs and got the fire nice and hot.

The beer was fantastic. The brats were better. What a great night! Clear skies, a roaring fire and some delicious food is what winter camping is all about. We were dry, warm, and content. Diamond’s blinking light would periodically appear out of nowhere, and suddenly beg at our heels for a small bite of brat.

The night was mediocre. The bag was really warm, and big enough to where I huddled underneath it to shelter my face from the cold. Diamond was zipped in to her new sleeping bag for a third of the night. Then, she was all the sudden restless and crawled out. For a few hours, she laid on top of the bag, nestled against me until I felt her shivering. After a slight struggle, I managed to zip her into my big bag. That was not the most comfortable of sleeping arrangements, but it is how we spent the rest of the night. When my alarm went off at 7am, I questioned whether I slept at all.

We hastily packed up camp and left. My water bladder, as well as my water bottle, was frozen solid, which meant that I wouldn’t get a morning drink and that I only drank beer during our trip. Talk about a waste of weight! The hike out took 15 minutes and we were back to civilization in no time.

I think that relying on melted snow is the key. I still haven’t found a good way to melt snow and I desire to get the proper equipment and technique. A lightweight pot would be nice, and I’ll keep searching for a cheap aluminum one. Diamond is still a hassle at night, but I’m sure she is like me–sleepless on one night out.

Nick and I are already planning another overnight trip, but hopefully bumping it up to around 20 miles. I’d really like to do a two-night adventure in below-freezing temperatures this winter, but we’ll see how things pan out.

Key Gear:

  • Gander Mountain -30 sleeping bag
  • Eureka! 2-person tent
  • Gander Mountain self-inflating sleeping pad
  • CCF sleeping pad
  • The North Face Banchee 65 pack
  • Bent Paddle Venture Pils

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