Our First Annual Winter Camping Trip...

Last spring my friends and I braved the snowy hills north of Fairbanks near Circle, Alaska. We, my three friends and I, drove to a pullout, an hour and a half away from campus and slept in our cars for the night so we could get an early start on the crust-snow in the morning. If you don't know, crust-snow is the harder layer of snow that froze extra well overnight on top of waist deep soft snow. I'll get to why we wanted to ski on the crust snow in a bit.

Our plan was to stay 2 nights in a tent out in the Alaskan wilderness surrounded by snow, build some snow forts and a fire and have a blast; winter camping, we called it. We had two sleds that both of the boys in our group would attach to their backpacks and haul out. The girls only had their own packs to carry.😊
This was one of the sleds. Pretty positive it was the lighter one.
The background was where we were going.
The adventure began eating breakfast in the back of my boyfriend's Subaru outback, oatmeal and M&Ms. "M&Ms?" you ask, yeah we forgot brown sugar. You know what else we forgot? Extra propane tanks for the Jetboils. We didn't actually know how much was left in the two we had but I guessed it wasn't enough for a 2 night stay. So right off the bat our two night trip was turned into a one night trip.

So we packed up our gear in the two sleds and started off. It was about 8 or 9 in the morning. The crust snow was perfectly hard and skiable. We had one crash halfway down the first hill because the boys were getting used to having a 50lbs sled rolling behind you. Stopping with one of those things is hard. It's probably safer to just keep going and hope a tree doesn't pop out of nowhere. The nice thing about the area we were in was that there weren't many trees. lucky us! Once we got further out and up some hills, the trees did start getting thicker. After an hour or two of skiing we noticed that the snow was getting softer and softer the higher in the sky the sun went. This was no good because it meant that the boys started sinking through up to their hips. It was funny at the time for me and my friend Heather who were gliding along just fine on the top of the crust. If you can imagine very frustrated faces on two boys who couldn't help face planting into the snow with huge packs on and no way to get their skies untangled, yeah it was funny. Below are pictures of my friend Heather who is trying to get through the soft snow and failing.



Being the nice girls Heather and I are, we offered to carry the sleds, hoping that we wouldn't be sinking through because we were lighter. They graciously accepted! After another hour though we were all starting to fall through the snow! Not a good thing when we need to find a good safe spot and set up camp. It took us longer than we expected but eventually we found a spot tucked away in some trees and decided to stop there.

We dug out two spots for both tents and set them up. The snow around us got higher and higher as we shoveled and shoveled. Turns our we only brought one shovel, soooo that took a lot of time. I don't remember when the last time I built a fort was, probably when I was in middle school, so this was super fun! I made some wide trials to each tent spot and then another trail to the place where we set up the hammock! Yes, we set up a hammock!    

Bryant, my friend with the hammock actually slept in it that night! He put his sleeping bag around the outside and basically slept in all of his clothes he brought with him. He was a brave one! 
                       


Here is one of the tent spots. You can see how high we got our walls to be! They were a tactical decision to stop the wind from bothering our tents.  
So as it got around to dinner time we discovered that we forgot something else. The extra water was sitting back at the car... We needed that water for making the breakfast in the morning and, of course, for drinking. We were already running low! We didn't want to waste fuel on melting snow AND then getting it to boil. Anyways, we did have dinner. But in the morning we had to use dead wood to build a fire in order to boil snow for water to eat oatmeal. We did it but man was there more work to be done. If only we had remembered more propane and water!

So on our way back the next day, the ladies pulled the sleds the whole way. Yes, we are strong too! It was incredibly tiring and I basically collapsed when I reached the concrete pull-off. We had run out of bottled water the night before so I was severely dehydrated as my friends were too. We immediately grabbed the water out of the back of Heather's car and guzzled it down. I had never in my life wanted water so badly. 
I believe this is Heather ahead of me, trudging along. 
So, what did I learn???

1. Winter camping is nothing like summer camping.
2. Plan out, way before the trip is set to happen, who is going to bring what and what is necessary to bring.
3. We have to go again!

Even though we had a lot of issues, I had a total blast. My group of friends are even planning on doing the same trip again this spring!I'll let you know how that goes!





















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