Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Camping in cold weather

I'm not sure what it was about this summer that kept us from camping. Maybe we were just busy. Maybe we just forgot how much we love the outdoors. But for some one reason or another, we only made it out to the woods once during the warm months.

Of course, now we start to feel the itch to get out there. To rough it for a day or two and get away from town. Some time to just turn off the cell phones, and listen to the wind as it whips through pine trees. So that is just what we did on Saturday.  We meandered up roads that I tore up as a kid (on a quad), but now we did so at a very leisurely pace. We explored a few side trails, and eventually found a nice virgin spot near Ash Creek Ridge.


We backed the truck in, and started the process of setting up camp. Since it was a virgin spot there was a bit more work involved. We had to clear spots for the fire and for the tent, find rocks to make the fire ring, and wander around gathering firewood. Then there was a tent to setup, a fire pit to dig (necessary for cooking), a fire ring to build, and wood to be cut. Sadly, I decided to leave the axe at home, so ended up spending 45 minutes hacking away at pine and oak with a hatchet.  My arm was full of gratitude afterwards.

After some quick work with a firesteel that would make a cub scout proud, we had us a fire and a chance to sit down.


It was right about this time that the temperature began to drop. You see, Prescott has been in a bit of a cold snap lately. Not ideal for camping in a summer season tent, but we were having a good time regardless. So we stacked on a few extra layers, and got to cooking.


We almost decided to have canned soup for dinner. It's easy to cook, is easy to eat, and fills you up pretty well. But then the carnivores inside of us came out and we decided to put steak on the menu. And you can't have steak with out baked potatoes, and maybe some mushrooms and onion, and perhaps even corn on the cob..... right?

Okay, so maybe we went a bit extravagant, but life is short and good food is always a welcome break from cold weather. So the potatoes were wrapped in foil and thrown in the coals where the would remain for the next hour. We busted out our high-tech grilling grate (a bit of chicken wire) and slapped on our pre-seasoned slabs of meat.

On our 'table' (a chainsawed log that was left in the area) we setup our as-of-yet unused stove to cook the mushrooms and onions. I was a little apprehensive using such a small stove to heat such a big pan. As it turns out, I had no cause for worry. The Superfly did an UNBELIEVABLE job! Within seconds the metal bits were literally red hot, and the cooking got done faster than it would on the home stove. Freakin SWEET! The only downside was that the breeze was messing with the flame, but a quick fix was found by setting up the E-Tool as a windbreak (yet another tool that is priceless in the outdoors).

In no time flat we were munching down on an unbelievably good meal (baked potatoes took a bit longer, so weren't pictured). Steak cooked over an open, natural wood fire always tastes the best!


Soon after dinner the lights dimmed, and we decided to head for shelter (after making sure the fire was out of course). We climbed into the sleeping bags, played a few rounds of Pentago, and fell asleep.


It was a cold night. I was pretty toasty warm with my bag all cinched up, but DaNece's small case of claustrophobia reared its head and prevented her from staying as warm as she could have been in her bag. Judging by the shivering happening under the dogs blankets they were a bit chilly as well. When I finally got up to rebuild the fire the jugs of water had ice floating in them.... yeah it was a little nippy. :)

With the fire roaring I invited DaNece outside, and we sat and watched the sun rise through the trees. Absolutely gorgeous. Once the day started in earnest we cooked a breakfast of eggs and hamsteak (no pics), eventually packed up camp, and headed home.

My skin still smells like campfire smoke, which makes me only want to go out again soon. Unfortunately the woods are just a bit too cold for our equipment now, so the forest is out. Maybe Bumble Bee with friends though... we'll have to see.



Things that I learned on this trip:

- The 4Runner still goes more places than I think it can.

- Oak is a bitch to chop with a hatchet

- Polyester gloves will melt in a fire so fast you think you simply lost them

- Pine Nettle tea is the BOMB for refreshment.

- A dog who loves sticks is in heaven in the woods

- Pine sap makes fires easier to start

- Your shoes will begin to smoke long before your feet actually feel warm

Flickr Photoset


Catalyst said...

Y'know that almost makes me want to camp out again. Almost. But not quite. The last time was in 1972 at Lynx Lake, where we heard gunshots in the night. That was enough for me.

Anonymous said...

That cold was a touch over the top for me. I think your campspot is a great trailhead for exploring the western parts of Lookout mnt. I've always wanted to get there but the roads diminish after a while.

TomboCheck said...

Catalyst - yeah, there was gunfire up until dark, and starting again at daybreak. Some people are just trigger happy I guess... :)

PrescottStyle - The cold definitely makes you appreciate the campfire. :) Once it warms up we will probably go for a 2 night trip up there and hike all around the area.

This was about as far as I could go before the water diversion ditches started to scare me. :)

melissa said...

The whole set is great, as always. And much better when you and D take pictures *together*. :)

You know, I don't think I ever knew Arizona could be so green and blue. I always think of it as brown and orange. Thanks for the change of view.

And how bout them steaks??

TomboCheck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TomboCheck said...

Melissa - The together photos are always funny because I'm hitting the button and then sprinting to get sat down, then trying to look 'natural'. Rediculous!

In AZ it all depends on the elevation. Where we are (~5200ft.) we are surrounded by forest. Between here and Flagstaff (~7000ft.) is mostly forest as well.

Once you start heading south towards Phoenix (~1000ft.) is where you get a lot more of the browns, yellows, oranges.

The steaks - Some of the best we've made in a while. :)