In early January the sun goes down by 5:30 pm, by the time I park my truck at the bottom

Snowshoeing at night

Snowshoeing at night

of the canyon it’s already getting dark. Snow

is lightly falling. After clipping into my snowshoes my small day pack goes on loaded with the few supplies I’m taking with me for my camp. No blanket, no sleeping bag and of course no tent, no stove. Food is simple with sourdough rolls and chili for dinner, grits and eggs for breakfast, some jerky to snack on, the ever present sunflower seeds and plenty of Mocha mix for drinking. I’m taking my own made gear for shelter, my Polartech Fleece Poncho Liner goes on next, followed by an HD Poncho in snow camo. For my hands, finger-less mittens, 100% wool, crocheted by my wife, Shauna, with yarn we bought a couple years ago on a visit to the Woodward’s in North Carolina. The last item, essential now, my Fenix headlamp with wide angle flood light to penetrate the dark woods that lie ahead.

I follow the road, closed now for a couple of months other than to snowmobiles, for just a bit before stepping off to follow a clearing till I meet up with the trail I located last spring. My destination is the end of the trail up the canyon in a small stand of various sizes of pine trees positioned at the edge of a bend in Spring Creek. An area inhabited by Indians for centuries before the white man came along. Here they hunted for the abundant deer and elk.
Looking onto SuperShelter

Looking onto SuperShelter

My eyes are occasionally blinded as the intense light from my head lamp reflects off the intricate ice crystals that form the silver dollar sized snowflakes. The snow on the ground is deep and soft, not a track anywhere now, I’m breaking trail, headed where no one has been this winter. The narrow trail winds first through Juniper and Gamble Oak, then as I move higher, into Maple and Pine. In the winter Maples seem an odd tree, their leaves turn a golden brown in the fall, but most do not fall off, as if hanging angrily to their branches. In the light from my lamp they look like leaves cut out of thin leather. Up up I go, snow deepening further, I look back at my trail I’m leaving, and unlike hiking in the summer, I get satisfaction in visibly seeing the trail I’m making and knowing going out will be easier.

Arriving at last I search around for the best spot for my shelter, seeing a large pine and a small Juniper about twelve feet apart it looks perfect. For this camp I’m using my Ultralite silnylon poncho as a tarp for a lean to shelter, over that I’m throwing a very thin painters plastic to form a clear window for the Super Shelter that will result. Very light, and very warm.

Inside Super Shelter

Inside Super Shelter

The Super Shelter is nine feet long, four feet wide and a little over four feet tall. The invention an idea of Mors Kochanski a now elderly Canadian survival guru, it is a merging of modern materials and Inuit (Eskimo) ways. In effect it makes a greenhouse to capture radiant heat from a fire.

A few arm loads of soft pine boughs make for a pleasant aromatic mattress on the snow. With my poncho off, my Fleece liner will be like a sheet on the boughs.

Big pines usually have lots of dead branches near the bottom and I’m not disappointed to find plenty of them here. I gather a few along with a bundle of small twigs to start the fire with. The little fire soon lights my camp, I add some wrist size wood to it and head back for more wood to make a pile to last the night. I put my chili in a small pot by the fire and a mug of water also to heat while I gather the rest of the wood.
With the woodpile stocked and dinner hot I sit on my bough mattress to eat. I’ve left the plastic window up for now, till I eat and get ready for bed.
I really love it up here, especially in the winter and even more with the snow falling. The quiet is almost breathtaking, no one is anywhere in the canyon, and other than the fire the only sound is me. Even the nearby creek now frozen is silent till spring. As I dip my sourdough bread in my chili I gaze at the branches of the big pine trees, some of the lower ones spanning out nearly twenty feet and those left undisturbed have as much as two feet of snow piled on them ready to crash on any unsuspecting snowshoer who happens to brush by them.
Shoeshoeing in HD Poncho

Shoeshoeing in HD Poncho

I like being with people, but I have learned to be alone too. Many people can’t go more than a day in the woods alone, even men who imagine they can go months alone often can’t make 24 to 48 hours. For some it is fear, fear of being all alone, fear of the woods; for others it is simply a lack of companionship, no one to talk to drives them insane. I have talked to some survival instructors who have seen many experienced manly outdoorsmen literally cry when left alone for a day or two.

I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t bother me. I have plenty to do, whether just camp chores or something I want to make or do. There are times when it would be nice to say something to someone, like talk about a beautiful sunset. Probably the hardest time is around the campfire at night, that’s the time when folks like to talk, but I keep busy cooking, or experimenting or making something and the time passes nicely. Mostly I miss someone to share the beauty I find in the outdoors, it seems there is not much use raving about it to myself, I suppose that gives a reason to come back, for the enjoyment of telling about the time in the wilderness.

Powder snow

Powder snow

There are times I briefly worry about things, perhaps a fall, or a bad cut, a tree falling on me or a boulder, an earthquake or fire, perhaps a bear after tracks are seen on the trail nearby, a mountain lion, a wolf or a pack of coyotes the next night after seeing their tracks all over in my camp this morning.  But what can a person do really, I just say my prayers and go to bed.
I’m reminded of the words of one of my favorite true outdoorsmen, not a fake TV star, but a real man, who did real things, himself, in the great Alaskan wilderness, Richard Proenneke, in the book “One Man’s Wilderness”
“I have often thought about what I would do out here if I were stricken with a serious illness, if I broke a leg, cut myself badly, or had an attack of appendicitis. Almost as quickly as the thought came, I dismissed it. Why worry about something that isn’t? Worrying about something that might happen is not a healthy pastime…I have thought briefly about getting caught in rock slides or falling from a rock face. If that happened, I would probably perish on the mountain in much the same way many of the big animals do. I would be gone long before anyone found me. My only wish would be that folks wouldn’t spend a lot of time searching. When the time comes for a man to look his Maker in the eye, where better could the meeting be held than in the wilderness?”
 
Dinner done, now for dessert, my Mormon Mocha. I love to keep it in a metal mug at the edge of the fire so it stays just the right temperature to sip. I’ve altered the recipe some since a year ago, I use half the chocolate and about twice the Pero now. It’s a stronger drink and less sweet, but I find I like it better, especially if I have a long evening ahead of me and I want to drink two or three cups. If it were summer I would treasure a tea made of the leaves of the ever abundant Stinging Nettle that grows along the creek.
Peeking out of SuperShelter

Peeking out of SuperShelter

Well my woodpile is well stocked nearby, had my dinner and drink. My eyes are stinging a bit telling me they’ve had enough of the fire and that they are ready for a good rest. I pull my plastic window down, take off my boots and place them at the corners to hold it down. Since my socks are a little wet I drape them over my boot tops to dry while I sleep. My pack is my pillow.
Laying here resting at last a certain euphoria seems to come over me, I feel so warm and cozy, heat from the fire warms my side while radiant heat also bounces off the Mylar reflector sheet above me, warming my chest, even my bare feet are warm. I consider what may seem my odd circumstance, the temperature outside is in the teens plus a light canyon breeze from off the 11,000 foot peaks above and I’m laying here now, no blanket or sleeping bag over me,  in my street clothes, barefooted, not even long johns on and I’m totally comfortable. Seriously, I can’t possibly keep from smiling.
Showshoeing in fresh powder snow

Showshoeing in fresh powder snow

During the night I charge the fire a few times putting usually at most a half dozen small logs on. This the only real drawback to a Super Shelter, sleep a couple hours, then five minutes to stoke the fire and sleep another two hours.  I think the comfort and the tremendously smaller load to pack is well worth it. It’s easy for me to fall asleep anyway so not that big a deal. If I had bigger wood I could go longer between charges. But my fire tonight is only one foot back by three feet long, being parallel to my shelter.

Morning finally breaks and the early light exposes my camp and the area around it allowing me to really see it for the first time, having come in during the dark evening and only my head lamp to illuminate things. I find the view at first light simply stunning, fresh snow everywhere, the pines fully flocked, my tracks coming in nearly covered. I see a couple sets of rabbit tracks in the soft snow. I bring my head back inside, closing the plastic again. The warmth from the glowing fire is so inviting while inside my shelter I scarcely can muster the desire to go out in the frigid morning air until I have to. I lay back down to ponder my situation. Sleep catches me and I doze for an hour, till a little chill awakens me and alerts me that the fire needs another charge of wood.

Dressed in HD Poncho w Fleece Liner

Dressed in HD Poncho w Fleece Liner

While out I not only charge the fire but heat some water for grits, toss a couple eggs in a tiny skillet I brought along. With breakfast ready I get back in my shelter to eat in the warmth. I thank the Lord for a good nights sleep and for my food and especially for this beautiful new day.
Until next time this is Perry Peacock for “Simplifying Survival”

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3 Responses to Winter Camping the Easy Way

  1. Bob Stone says:

    Hi Perry: This was a good article. I watched your Youtube video on this topic as well. I really enjoy your videos and blog posts. That’s why I’m replying to this. I often hike and camp by myself as well. You mentioned that you sometimes wish someone was there to share that sunset with or talk to around the evening campfire. Well, that’s what you’re actually doing here with the videos and blog posts. I guess that’s why we “loners” do blogs and Youtube. Anyway, I just wanted to encourage you to keep it up. Folks are watching and reading even if they don’t always give feedback. Keep up the good work and blessings!

  2. Lauri Madsen says:

    Hi Perry, Lauri here. I got married and now my name is Lauri Madsen. I’m curious if you have started manufacturing your lightweight snowshoes. I am interested in getting a couple pair. If possible could you recommend a brand that is on the market?

  3. pdpeacock says:

    Lauri, We did not get into making those yet, too many other things to do for now, perhaps next year. For snowshoes it just depends on how much you will be using them and where. For trail use most any will do. I’d recommend getting the largest you can since we do get lot of snow around here and you want to have enough flotation. 30 – 36″ is likely what you will find on the large size.

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