First please, we should establish that probably the only reason I like winter hiking is because I forget how cold it is during the winter. Second, I forget because I am dumb. Third, here we are. You, reading this. Me… lying in my down sleeping bags on top of a foam pad and an insulated inflatable pad, on the inside top floor of the Mt. Carleton fire tower (as partially suggested by the rangers), swiping madly at my phone, to you, with two hand warmers warming my aching legs. Glorious moonlight illumines the world around, and I get to see it all, because fire tower.
I have a small bag of water with lumpy ice, thawing quietly next to my sleeping bags. My boots are also sitting there; both inside my bivvy sack (like a tent but more wee), which I am using because it is another layer. Presumably both boots and the water will be on the unfrozen side of cold tomorrow morning. One can hope. Usually when I am too merh to make a fire to melt snow, I pick it up from a stream (they do not freeze until they are farther from their spring… Groundwater is usually warmer than 32 F, and so you often cross unfrozen wee streams).
Well… or you fall in. Look, best beloveds, at that gaping chasm of DEATH. Well ok, actually that was a particularly picturesque one, I thought. But after I almost fell into the other secret hidden streams that lurk underneath the nefarious snows, I was grumpy and did not get water. There are not less destructive ways to be grumpy. Be quiet.
There are many more things, like canoe builder, trail angels, and bacon, but phone swipe is hard, and today was lovely and fun, so you only get to hear about today.
I hiked up to the entrance to Mt. Carleton yesterday (spring motivation makes such a difference!! Apart from getting-back-on-trail pains). Then, before I went in, Bill Miller, a third generation canoe builder, drove up from Nictau so I could have dinner, a warm bed, and breakfast. Lovely. He offered me a pair of wooden snowshoes, and since the skis were giving me mad blisters, I accepted for a test. Hum they done so good, and are so light! Also lets be real I was terrified of skis and steep mountain slopes. Death comes to those who can’t turn with a pack on…
So if any of y’all want to practice your snowshoeing, breaking steep trail is totally the best. For your quads. And your balance. I’ve got one ski/hiking pole. It fits perfectly upright in snowdrifts, sometimes.
There are several routes up to the top of this mountain. One of them is clearly described, “probably most difficult trail in the park,” and goes steeply up towards two other mountains. You can then take another trail from that one to the summit of Mt. Carleton. I vaguely recall struggling up deep slopes, admiring the stream chasm beside me, and muttering vile things under my breath. I also have a new favorite trail moment: it’s when you’re going along, all delighted, and the trail markers are at shin or ankle height. That means they’re visible. Best. Part. Of hiking unbroken trails. Ever.
At some point, they disappeared. I was grumpy. That’s how the Quebec trails are right now, under 7 or 8 feet of snow (say the rangers I talked to about two weeks ago). Party party huzzah. I thought distressedly about this, then grumped along for about a kilometer through the forest, and then accidentally found the trail again, which was lovely, because no more trampling on the tops of baby pine trees.
Anyways, this is too long. I have to pee but it is down a loft ladder and then outside. Have you ever been walking up a mountain and falling over into snow in the darkness, and thought to yourself, Self, I hate everything, and then had a tiny voice in back of your head say things like, “No, ya dingus, you are actually quite delighted by all of this”?
You should know that that is your insanity talking. I like to hide my insanity under a rug. Mostly there’s just a lump; most people are like, how nice, this human hey what’s that over there under that rug, but they are easily distracted when I say things, like, “MOOSE STEAKS.”
Anyways I’m going now, make sure you pee when you’ve gotta if you’re outside camping in the winter, kids. Otherwise your body uses up energy keeping it warm, and you sleep colder or something. If you’re a guy, you can use a bottle. Hurray for you.
Happy days, happy trails, stay warm in your blizzard, Dakota friends, I’ll get it here in a day or so, and then probably cry. Water errywhere.