Kinda musty in here [sneeze!]. Let's see if we can dust off the cobwebs.
The holidays are always busy for us, but that is a good thing. It means we have family and friends to be busy with.
Vicki went up solo and got her mother from Fort Wayne the weekend of the 21st. This was mostly because Ryan and Scott wanted to do the Winter Walkabout on the 21st, the shortest day of the year. It had been planned for a long time, but the week before I watched the forecast take shape. High of 9, low of 0, and windy Sunday afternoon. I sent the forecast to Ryan and Scott to see if they'd call it off. They didn't. Didn't really surprise me. Part of the fun is the challenge.
The ice storm in Fort Wayne that week knocked power out to 100,000 people, including mother's, and since it was cold and dark in her house when Vicki got there, they packed in the dark and headed out in the late afternoon instead of the next morning. There were no hotel rooms to be had in Fort Wayne or Terre Haute, so Vicki booked a place in Effingham, IL, about 3.5 hours from here. Meaning she did about 12.5 hours of driving on Saturday. It also meant she got back in to town around noon on Sunday. We were leaving for the walkabout at 1:00. And I got a call at 12:30pm from Vicki, on the side of the road. Car conked out. 9 degrees outside. But fortunately, IN Columbia. Mom's AAA card got the car towed to University Garage, and I went to pick them up and bring them home. I got home, and Ryan and Scott were chomping at the bit to go.
In the truck on the way down, I mentioned that the intent of my email was to test the waters and their will to endure the cold. "Well the only reason I'm going is because you guys are going." .... "Well the only reason *I'M* going is because YOU guys are going." And so on.
We got there, loaded our packs onto our backs, and headed into the icy woods. Stopped at "the waterfall" to take a few pictures, and went the rest of the way to #17, a spot well protected by cedars (junipers, technically) down in the Cedar Creek bottom. We picked the spot a few years ago by using a GPS to position ourselves away from the trail, and away from the creek -- to simulate a "lost" situation while playing our version of "Survivorman".
We pitched tents, gathered deadwood, made a fire, and sat and talked while we made up some venison chili in Scott's new lightweight cooking set. We mostly stand around and talk, keep the fire going, have the occasional sip of whiskey or perhaps hot chocolate, get more wood as needed and talk about how nuts we are.
Thermometer was right around the zero mark at 4:00pm. And that thermometer only goes down to zero. The stew was good, and we turned in around 10:00pm. I'd heard that a single candle in a tent can keep it a few degrees warmer, so I hung my Uco candle lantern inside my tent and got inside my zero degree down bag. With my ECWS underwear, a fleece jacket, stocking cap, and John-e handwarmer. And covered THAT sleeping bag with a fleece sleeping bag. All this on top of my 4-season thermarest self-inflating pad. And that was on top of one of those heat-reflecting emergency blankets.
It worked. I was warm. Although when the candle went out at around 2:00 am, I noticed the temperature drop on my face within about 5 minutes. So it DOES help. I put a fleece chin and nose mask on, and kept trying to sleep. Which is difficult for me when I'm in an enclosed bag trying to keep from tipping my canteen which was in there with me to keep it from freezing and trying not to end up on top of the John-e handwarmer (because the fumes from the fuel actually cause chemical burns).... so I didn't sleep well at all.
I'm pretty sure it got down below zero in the hollow we were in. And it was significantly colder outside my tent than it was inside. I guess it was kind of like a warm air balloon, relatively speaking. We broke it all down, packed it up, and hiked back out, stopping to take a few more pictures, and I got home. And napped a lot.