Winter camping always sounds like so much fun. After all who wouldn't want to wake up to a beautiful snowy landscape, a warm fire and fresh hot coffee to warm you. Thanks to my latest gear haul I've been feeling pretty confident in my abilities to handle the winter weather in the outdoors. Great tent, check. Wool layers & a North Face coat, check. Closed foam sleeping pad & cold weather sleeping bag for me and Rocko, double check. I know, I know: Cherisa winter may not be the best time to head to the woods and sleep on the ground. First of all, I know but I'm stubborn so, there's that.
As I stated before, I was fully prepped and ready to do my thang but the winter weather rolled in and crapped ice and snow all over my plans. Friday morning I awoke to a winter wonderland (*cues theme song from my favorite Christmas movie Friday After Next, duh) and finished packing and loading my gear. Huge fluffy snowflakes were falling from the sky creating the best possible setting for my weekend in the woods. I would like to stop here to quickly mention the total lack of warning we received from the weatherman. COME ON DUDE! You said snow flurries and it snowed for 12 hours non-stop. I thought to my self, great clouds get it out of your system now because Mr. Weatherman said the snow would cease to fall at 2pm. Fast forward to 6pm and the snow (*hand clap) is (*hand clap) still (*hand clap) falling!
Moving on to Saturday morning the snow had finally stopped and the roads were slowly starting to thaw. This was our chance! I threw Rocko in the car with our gear and slowly crawled past cars stuck on hills abandoned by their drivers over night. We were on our way to the camp ground and nothing could stop us. I was already envisioning the fresh brewed hot & spiked apple cider I got from Trader Joes. I arrived to my camp ground and was greeted by downed branches, power lines and a stressed out Park Ranger name Kelly. Kelly quickly informed me that the campsites were unreachable due to lines across the road. He offered to relocate me to the Pioneer site and would help clear the road so I could access it.
I admit I was a little hesitant to camp in this new spot. It was much more remote than I expected and the change in plans threw me a bit. I had mentally prepped myself all week to be in a specific location with a plan in mind if I decided it wasn't for me and needed to abandon ship. I'd done my fair share of research online and on youtube for tips on how other women ease into camping on their own. The #1 suggestion was to try car camping first to build you own confidence with sleeping in the woods at night. Even with these changes I thought to myself "When you hike the AT unexpected things may happen. You will be in the middle of the wilderness with no car to bail so just learn how to deal with it now." So I stayed and started to setup camp.
Within the hour I was able to get our tent up and sleeping bags out and ready for the night. Rocko ran around the first hour like a maniac playing in the snow and just being a general lack of help as usual. The sun was still up and shining but I wanted to give the fire a shot with the snow. I wanted to make sure I could get a fire going to cook dinner before the sun set or would be stuck without fire and food after the road refroze. First I would like to start with the fact that fires are MUCH harder to deal with than they make them seem in movies. Wood doesn't light as easily as I thought and there is actually an entire process involved (something I learned when I camped with Chiara and Gigi). I tried every trick I've learned but couldn't get my fire light past a flicker. I made sure to clear my fire ring before hand but the ground was still too moist and causing steam which kept my fire from getting started. I went at this for an hour before calling it quits.
At this point I thought to myself, Cherisa read the signs it's just not your weekend girl. The temperature was quickly dropping and I decided it was time to call it quits. Another thing I learned from following other outdoorsmen and women on IG and Youtube was to be smart and know your limits. Could I have camped with out a fire? Yes. Comfortably? No. I'm pretty sure I would have stayed warm enough but I've never tested my gear in those temperatures so I could be certain. My exit strategy was iffy with the possibility of my road freezing over. My fire wouldn't get going to keep me warm just in case I couldn't leave and I would having to rely entirely on my car.
Like I mentioned in my other post, Having the wrong gear or a lack of supplies can really affect your experience. Your hiking or camping trip can be the best time ever or a trip from hell depending on how you prepare. I was not prepared for all of these roadblocks and I needed to be real with myself, pack up camp and try again later. So that's what I did. I admit that I was bummed at first at having to tap out and head home, but I realized that playing it safe made sure I was here for another camping trip. The winter storm did not win, I'll be back outdoors very soon.