Winter Warmup in the Cranberry Wilderness
In this busy time between holidays, only ldcakes was able to make it to West Virginia's Cranberry Wilderness for an overnighter with me to test our winter gear, but we had the good wishes of many other hangers who would have liked to go along to send us down the trail with good feelings. Their blessings were no doubt responsible for the beautiful sunny weather and lack of wind that helped make this trip great. As little as a week before the forecast had been for rain and ice the whole time. The rain came early, and was followed by a couple of inches of fresh snow, so it was easy to spot the bear tracks crossing the trail 100 ft. from our camp site. We went a mile in on the North-South Trail from the Highland Scenic Highway, which fortunately was still passable (it's not plowed in winter). The rocky trail could have used a foot of snow to make it more pulk-friendly, but surprisingly my pulk with aluminum flashing over cut-down cross-country skis only came out scarred and grooved, but not torn to pieces - which was what I more or less expected. Here's a short video (well, not really - call it "outtakes and bloopers"). While you're stifling derisive laughter, remember to notice how beautiful the woods are. :)
Low temp was only 15°. I slept warm. See a video of my setup here.
ldcakes is a good hiker, who knows what's what. I was fortunate to have her as a companion on this trip. Now I want to learn more about kayaking.:)
I like the idea of the pulk (hiking without a pack on), the snow looks nice too, but does it have to be so c c cold! lol It was interesting to see the under side of a pulk, how it’s made and what helps it move along. It looked like a bit of a physical challenge getting it past the fallen tree. Hmm, bear tracks 100 feet from camp, hmmm again!
Bear season is "in" just now, and I saw three or four bear hunters along the scenic highway, so their dogs were running nearby. We have a pretty good balance here - the bear population is coming back, so they were able to discontinue the "Black Bear Sanctuary" that covered much of the Cranberry area a couple of years ago, but the hunting pressure protects livestock and keeps the bears honest. They're not spoiled, and they run away when they see people.
As to the method of pulling, I haven't added poles and a harness to mine yet, but plan to do so. I was just tugging some straps because I knew the trail was rough, and there wasn't nearly enough snow for normal progress. To see a more orthodox approach, see Shug's video. His camera work is steadier, too. :lol:
I'm glad you liked my pulk. You're right - it's the way to go for winter camping. Also, the colder the better. It's those days when it warms up to 32° that you risk getting wet and cold. Danger! :)
It's great to see gear others use, and Cakes has some good stuff. I liked her Mad Bomber Hat. That big front flap folds down to cover her nose, but doesn't block her breathing, so it's comfortable to sleep in.
Also seen: Kahtoola Microspikes and an REI Snow Stake that also makes a good trowel.
Another detail from this trip: I shared some woods lore I picked up from one of Mors Kochanski's little books (Four Dog sells them, I think). It made me feel wise, but in fact I just learned some of this stuff myself.
I borrowed a great idea from Joey. Instead of searching around under the snow for a rock to put in the throw bag when hanging food, I simply used a hunk of cheese (about 3 ounces) that I had packaged with this use in mind. It even traveled in a ziplock bag, in the throw bag, in the food bag with throw line attached, ready for use. We didn't get around to hanging our food until after dark, and a dense spruce forest doesn't have many big limbs at 20 ft., just dead snags, and too many of them. Well that throw bag sailed over a good enough snag on the first throw and came straight down without getting caught, so I'm pretty pleased with the aerodynamic properties of cheese. It'll be that way every time, won't it, Joey? ;)
You are one cool dude.
Hello there David,
I imagine that, apart from creating less drag, having the two skis attached to your pulk would help make it track better when going along the side of a hill.
That was very interesting what you had to say about the bears being kept in balance. I think I saw on TV where some houses in some towns (maybe in Alaska) have bears go right inside, looking for food. It’s both nice and handy to know that the bears will run away when they see people.
At least as interesting was warm days equals sweat, sweat equals cold and cold equals risk of freezing. Thanks for taking the time to tell me that, David!
WV, thanks for sharing. ldcakes, thanks for filming.
wish i had been there David but so glad you guys had a great time and beautiful weather! thanks for posting the report and the videos. i would like to see more of your pulk! were you both wearing snowhoes? Idcakes, did you stay toasty? i would love to hear about or see what you brought!
1+ on kahtoola micro-spikes!
WV seeing your video makes me miss you more! but hope to see you soon, and also hope to hike with Idcakes too :D
The Great White North...well it is to me
Yes, A busy time it is and getting there for one night was all I could manage, but so glad I did! I met WV at Noon in front of the Visitor Center on Hwy 39E and we headed up the Highlands Scenic Hwy. The road was snow coverd and very slick as they do not manage it during the off season.
The views are spectacular up there too!
We hit the North South Trail as soon as we got there with packs. WV had already taken his pulk in ahead of time to an area to the left of the trail and out of sight for our camp. It was beyond where the dog tracks were but bear tracks could still be found.
The Red Dot I'm pointing too is approximately where we camped.
The place we chose was out of the wind with good trees. One small dead tree WV demonstrates the 24" Bob Dustrudes Folding Bow Saw. I had seen this saw before but not in action. It works very well and folds up weighing only 16 oz. I ordered one when I got home from Four Dog Bush Gear.
My Winter Rig
Camping in very cold temps is challenging and like Four Dog says can snowball with every drop in degree.
We both brought wood burning stoves, me with a Bush Buddy and WV had his LT-1 Bushcooker. Alcohol stoves will work but it take twice as much fuel to boil water under 20 degrees and with every 10 degrees colder the amount of fuel increases.
Keeping water from freezing also takes special thought. We did take water and heated it either in a metal bottle or pour it into one to take with us into our hammocks. We also both experimented with Platypus bladders. We heated the water first being careful not to make it too hot for the plastic (just before boiling point). I put mine in my insulated freezer bag pouch and then wrapped it in my windshield protector sit pad. WV put his in his boot before retiring with a chemical hand warmer in the toe then wrapped or stuffed extra clothes on top. By morning both bladders were still liquid! Good test for 15 degrees, now we'll see how it works lower. One note: sports tops don't work, they pop up and freeze that way.
Another thing I learned is the surgical tubing tarp tensioners don't work in cold temps either. They stretch out OK but don't retract once they're frozen! One mistake I made that I know better is keeping my head lamp around my neck or in my pocket. The batteries were dead by the time it got dark, but thank goodness WV had an extra light so I wasn't in the dark. Thanks WV! :D
It's good to have 3 sources to make fire too. Our Bic lighters didn't want to fire every time without a little coaxing. I put mine in my mouth for a minute and that worked! :lol: Matches would be good and a fire steel even better. ;) That's another thing I ordered from Four Dog, he sells a very nice fire steel and the striker is, and I thought this was clever, a p38. :cool:
I plan to make me a little tender box and a couple of others for gifts.
I have more pics and short video clips here if you want more. :)
Sounds like a fun trip with a lot of learning going on. Beautiful woods despite the camera antics of WV. I like the tips on keeping water from freezing, I'll be trying that this weekend in the Catskills.
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