Exiting my car at the trail head, I starred into the snow covered forest and the wonderland that lay ahead of me. I was not the first to set tracks in the new found powder that had been laid upon the ground by a blizzard the week earlier, and it made the travel easier. I had made strides to have the lightest of gear and as little as necessary, however I found that it was difficult to keep my pack under 45 lbs. The amount of insulation and clothing layers needed to safely be warm is not to be under estimated and had burdened my pack. Fortunately skiing does have the impact factor that backpacking does.
Skiing towards Cummings LakeThe landscape was covered in heavenly white as the snow clung to every outcropping branch and I sped onward in awestruck silence. I looked to the sky noting the position of the sun and then to my watch. It was 3:30 pm and I knew I would have to "huff" it to get to Cummings Lake before darkness would fall. The trail ahead gradually became narrower and the number of down falls more frequent. The trail emerged into a bog whose beauty is was accentuated by the winter and the horizon opened to reveal Cummings Lake.
I found a comfy parcel of shoreline and set up camp. However, I found that my bindings had frozen solid to my boots. Throwing my down jacket on I set about making a fire to thaw them. After getting a small blazing fire going, after an hour my boots where still firmly affixed to me skis. I could think of no other option than to take them off. I grabbed my sleeping bag stuff sack and placed them over my socked feet and trudged closer to the fire, laughing at my own ridiculousness.
I awoke to the morning dawn and prepared for my rude awakening. I opened my bivy flap to -23 degree air and scurried forth applying every piece of clothing possible to my shivering frame. I threw together a quick fire, scarfed a quick breakfast, and set myself to packing. I went between the fire and my tent often as it took 5-10 minutes before my feet and hands would again be painfully cold. Finally after all was packed I stood by the fire for the last time and nervously covered it over with snow. Worried my feet wouldn't stay warm I took off skiing at a furious pace in effort to create some heat. An hour later then feeling started to comeback to my feet. The time and landscape passed quickly, as the trail ended and I found myself driving myself back to comforts of my cabin.
Winter camping on it's own is not a joyful experience, nor does experience it alone add to the experience. But it is an exercise in vulnerability and survival that reminds me of the fragility of life and the comforts of modern life. For days I found myself sweatily overheating as my body slowly adjusted it's thermostat as it realized I was longer struggling for warmth.