Sunday, January 14, 2007

Now that I finally got around to blogging, I can't think of what I wanted to blog about. I've gotta start scratching reminders on my arm with a pen so I can remember.

Of course, classes has last semester! (Although I still have a couple semesters' worth of thesis writing left...) I'm unofficially taking a writing class, with Brandon Sanderson as the teacher (of Elantris and Mystborn fame, neither of which I have read). It looks like it'll be a great class though, and I'm excited for an outside motivation to write.

When Brandon divided the class into groups, one of the groups he titled the "Uber" group. Since I consider myself a halfway decent writer and am looking for some quality critiquing, I attached myself to that group. The four people in our group (including a student editor of a school magazine) exchanged email addresses, so we could send each other the usernames for a LiveJournal account we were required to set up for the class.

The email from one of my fellow students had no capitalization, he used "you're" when he should have used "your," and he actually used the word "guys's." Aiee. I can see we have a long semester ahead of us...

Curses. I know I had something to in particular to blog about...wait! I just remembered!

Snow Camping

Over the weekend, I went on a snowshoeing/snowcaving trip. Now, I won't blame everything that happened on Bob (names have been changed), but let me tell you the story. As Patrick McManus would have put it, "in terms of misery, it was very fine."

We were supposed to leave around three PM on Friday, which would put us at the trailhead with just enough light to see where we were going. 3:00 rolled around, 3:30, 4:00...still no Bob. Finally, about 4:15, he calls me. "Sorry I'm late, I just finished a school project. I'll be home in 10 minutes...then I'll start packing."

I head over to his place and we finally leave. He left his sleeping bag in Idaho so he's just taking a couple army blankets, and he has no food. Rather than lose even more time stopping at the store, I tell him I have enough for both of us (I do--better safe than sorry on a snow-camping trip).

I've already told people back home what trailhead we'd be starting from, but by the time we get to the general area, it's snowing, and too dark to see anything. We drive back and forth several times, and finally give up, settling on the first pull-off we can find that doesn't say "no camping." Strapping snowshoes to our feet, we start hiking.

The hike was actually very pleasant. We were bundled up warm, and the exertion kept us warm as well. Our plan was to hike for a while, then find a good place sheltered from the wind in the trees, and dig a snowcave. We quickly realized we had a problem: there were no trees. At least, there were no trees as far as we could see, which was admittedly not far, with the blowing snow and darkness.

We kept hiking, and eventually spotted a dark patch on the hillside we were hiking beside. Leaving the trail, we started uphill, sinking knee deep in fresh, powdery snow (WITH snowshoes on*).

By the time we reached the hilltop and started down the other side, we were tired enough that we stopped at the first likely-looking patch of trees and threw our packs down. We then went immediately to our next problem: the snow was so fine and powdery that a half-hour of digging with our snowshoes produced a pile of snow that barely would have made a decent snowcave for a midget, and that only if he was missing the lower half of his body.

Abandoning that idea, we decided to make a lean-to, leaning sticks against fallen tree that was several feet off the ground. Once we had a nice framework of sticks, we laid a tarp I had brought over the top, then started covering it with snow for insulation. It took another 45 minutes to do that, but when it was completed, it was high enough to not-quite sit upright in, rickety enough that a cooling sprinkle of snow would rain down anytime we moved, and it had a gaping front door to allow any cold that got in to easily escape.

We both slid into our sleeping accoutrements, me more or less on top of Bob due to the small dimensions and bowl-shape floor plan, and I cooked us up some Cup O' Soups. After, I snacked on a few cheese crackers, while Bob disappeared completely under his blanket in an attempt to get warm.

"I'm getting cracker crumbs in my sleeping bag," I observed casually.

"Ha ha! The wolves will go for you," he laughed.

I glanced out at the dark night. It was doubtful there were wolves in our immediate vicinity...but you never knew. Carefully, I crushed a couple crackers between my finger and sprinkled them quietly onto Bob's blanket.

As it turned out, the wolves didn't have time to find us. Ears tuned to any unusual noise, I woke about 2:3o in the morning to hear Bob's voice, "Are you awake?"

"I am now," I muttered.

"Good, because I'm freezing. Let's go home," he said.

Since he had the car keys and was already climbing out of the shelter, it was a persuasive argument. Besides, now that I was awake, I knew it'd take me forever to fall back asleep, especially since the foot warmers that Child had sent with me had lost their heat.
We packed up, tore down our snow shelter to retrieve my tarp (a quick tap with the foot sent it crashing down), and hit the trail at 3 AM. We got back to the car about 4:30, and were relaxing with hot chocolate in Bob's house at 6 AM.

In retrospect, the trip was good. Not only was it a fine, character-building misery, but it reminded me why I only went snow camping once a year. It takes me that long to forget why I swear every year I'll never do it again. But of course, next year I'll have forgotten, and will set off on yet another adventure. And maybe next time we'll actually stay long enough for the wolves to show up...

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