Jan 28, 2008

Blue (part deux)

As if the Blue Man Group wasn't enough entertainment for one week, I took off early from work on Friday to head to the mountains to do some winter snow-camping. (Get the "blue" reference? I'm so freaking witty sometimes, I just crack myself up.)

So, yeah.... I rushed home to meet G-rod and load his car with my gear, then take off for Lake Wenatchee State Park.
We drove east towards Stevens Pass on Highway 2, for about 2-1/2 hours, stopping only once to get a burger from Zeke's Drive-In along the way.

The road was pretty bare, although the higher we climed into the mountains the deeper the snow was along the sides of the road.

We got there around 6:30 p.m. so it was dark as we drove into the campground area.
We planned on it being dark, but we didn't plan on the snow being so deep that we couldn't drive through the campsites to pick one out.
In fact, we had to park in a 'common area' and then scout around in the dark for a suitable spot.
The snow was anywhere from 18 - 24 inches, and many times we sank into it up to our knees.
Luckily we were wearing snow-appropriate clothing so we didn't get wet.
We found one place that looked nice, but it was close to the lake and there weren't any trees to string up a tarp over our tents, so we kept searching.

It started to dawn on us that we really didn't know where we were now. EVERYTHING was covered in white and we had wandered away from the parking area. All we had were our headlamps to guide us. We started to backtrack, and found another spot where previous campers had cleared out a trail from the parking area to the site. They also had dug around the camp tables and made a big pit in the snow to build a fire.

Trees for shelter. Fire pit for keeping warm (Ha! More about that in a minute). Tables to prepare meals. Within walking distance to the bathrooms and parking area.
This, we decided, would be camp.

G & I unloaded our gear and started to dig out places in the snow to put up our tents.
We were joined by Jason and Shane around 8:00 p.m. who did the same.

Once the tents were up, we started a fire to try and warm ourselves up.

Side note: If you've been following the weather in Washington lately, you'll know that the temps have been in the mid-20's to low 40's in the Puget Sound area.
Where we were, it was 0 degrees! In fact, Jason's digital thermometer said it was -9 degrees, but we think the cold affected it's accuracy, and decided to rely on a little clip on thermometer (which said it was zero degrees). *
It was so freaking cold, that standing inches away from the fire you still could not get warm!
The cold air just sucked the heat away and all we had was the light from the fire.

We stayed up, trying to get warm, until around midnite. But we were all getting tired and the cold was sapping our energy, so we all retired to our tents to sleep.

I had a down sleeping bag that has a temperature rating of 15 degrees (meaning I should still be comfy and warm if the temp drops that low) and a fleece liner that gave me an additional 15 degrees warmth. In effect, I had a 0 degree bag. I should have been toasty, right?
I was also wearing thermal pants, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt, wool socks, and a balaclava with a stocking cap, and gloves. I even tucked my head down into my bag. I woke up around 6:45 a.m. and was freezing. I also had to pee like nobody's buisness! As I laid there, deciding if it was worth crawling out of my bag, little bits of ice kept falling on my face. The condensation of my breath had frozen on the roof of my tent and froze;

Now it was falling on me every time a jostled about.
I figured I'd better get up, so I wiggled and squirmed and shimmied into some pants and got my boots on. Then I headed to the bathrooms. Thank you Lake Wenatchee State Park, for having HEATED bathrooms during winter! It was so nice!

I took some pictures of the lake:

Then I started getting stuff together for breakfast... only to discover that all the food was frozen.

I packed some mini bagels, lunch meat, and cheese that I was going to toast up but they were frozen solid. I had some of those little 'cutie' oranges. Now they were nice, orange-colored rocks.

My canned soup was solid ice. Even some canned chicken I brought was frozen and it was protected inside my cookpots which were inside my gear case!
The only thing I still had was some oatmeal and hot chocolate, so I made that for breakfast.

We all stood around deciding our plan of action for the day.
G & I were heading up to Stevens Pass to snowboard. While Jason & Shane went to Mission Ridge.
Well, G-rod was going to snowboard. I was going to take my first snowboarding lesson and fall down... A LOT!

Here we are at the slopes looking cool and dorky:

As I said, this was my first time. I took a two-hour lesson that showed the basics, but it's not a sport my almost-40 year old body is ready to master. So I managed to fall forward, backward, and sideways until the lesson was over.

Oh, did I mention that I was the oldest student in the class? Yeah, it made me feel so special to watch all the other folks 'get it' while I kept knocking the breath out of me.

I met up with G after my lesson and decided to use my newfound 'boarding skillz on the slope.
Watching the ski lift, it looked like no big deal. Once I got on it, however, it was a different story.
I'm not keen on hights, so being suspended in the air by a cable was not an experience I wanted to repeat right away.

At the top of the slope I got strapped onto the board, went about 20 feet, and fell.
Got up, turned left, and fell.
Got up again, went downhill about 30 feet and fell on my back and hit my head on the snow.
Got up yet again and fell about 20 feet later.
By this time, my legs were getting shaky and I head a headache. So I told G to have fun. I was going to WALK down the slope and meet him later. I had enough punishment for one day.

We headed back to camp around 4:00 p.m., where Atul was waiting for us. He couldn't make it the night before, but showed up mid-afternoon to join our group and experience the fun that is... Winter Camping.

I went to the bathroom and changed out of my wet, frozen clothes and into nice dry ones.

Since all my food was frozen, Atul made up some soup he brought and I ate that for dinner.
Then I popped a few ibuprofen and drank B-52 hot chocolates as we sat around the fire in our 'man cave'.

It was actually a bit warmer this night. 10 degrees. Ooooh, balmy. I think I'll wear shorts!

Around midnite we headed off to our tents and try to sleep.
Remembering how the previous night and morning went, I was a little better prepared.
I had thermal pants and wool socks again. But this time I stuffed hand-warmers into my socks to keep my feet warm. I wore a thermal shirt, a sweat shirt, and my fleece jacket. I stuffed hand-warmers in my gloves. And I wore my balaclava and stocking cap.
I slept like the dead! I was not only warm, but I slept until after 8:00 a.m.

It may have been because I was so tired from the day before. Or it might have been a mixture of pain-killers and alcohol before bed. Who knows?

We got up Sunday morning and made breakfast with whatever food we could thaw out quickly. (Oatmeal and hot chocolate again for me).

I used my new alcohol stove, and it worked great:

I'm going to use this set-up again soon.

We packed up all our gear shortly thereafter and started heading home.
G-rod & I got ahead of the skiers and snowboarders leaving Stevens Pass, so traffic coming home was pretty easy.

He dropped me off at home and I seperated my wet, smelly clothes from the rest of my gear.
Then I promptly took a HOT shower!

Today, I ache all over.
Did I have fun? Yes, even though I fell a lot while snowboarding and looked like an idiot, and was cold the entire time.
Would I do it again? Definitely!
Did I learn anything from this? Only that I'm not as young as I like to think I am.

Here's a few more random pictures from our adventure:
Home Sweet Home
What's for dinner?
Base Camp

* The official temperature on Friday night was 4 degrees according to this.

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