Have you been winter camping? That’s how I spent the last weekend, with an group called Destination Backcountry Adventures, that organizes outdoor trips primarily in the Catskills and Adirondack regions of New York. I had been craving a hiking or camping trip since arriving in New York City. During our road trip to move to New York from Arizona, we drove thru the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and I can’t stop thinking about the serenity I felt driving through the wide open land, seeing mountain peaks, and the first time in a couple years really being surrounded by nature that was alive and vibrant.
Don’t get me wrong, the Sonoran desert in Arizona can be beautiful but for a Midwestern girl, the lack of green color can start to be dull and depressing. Being surrounded by grass and trees again was refreshing and living in the city means that I’m so close to all of that nature, yet the access to it is difficult without a car. There are plenty of trails with access from transit, but not the Catskills.
I came across Destination Backcountry Adventures online and saw that they were doing an overnight Survival School. My husband was busy one of the weekend days so I decided it was my time to get away. The dog and I signed up for Survival School aka winter camping on the coldest night yet!
Destination Backcountry Adventures does pickups both in Manhattan and Brooklyn, making it easy for those of us that live in the city without a car to be able to participate on their outdoor adventures. We drove up to the Catskills early Saturday morning (7am) and arrived there by 10am.
It was about a 2 mile hike to the campsite.
Since it was pretty cold to be standing outside, the guides built us a fire for us to warm up. After the fire was going and our hands were thawed, they started teaching us the basics of building a fire. We all participated in collecting kindling and firewood. I spent a lot of time trying to warm up Harlee because he wasn’t really interested in being outdoors after the hiking segment.
While we had been waiting for them, we also built up our small shelter. There were 3 of us women spending the night in the woods, along with the lead guide. The women would be sleeping under the shelter together. For the rest of the evening, we hung around the campfire, preparing for the cold night. We stacked up kindling and firewood so that we would be able to continuing feeding the fire.
The night was cold, cold cold. My mistake was not bringing a warm enough sleeping bag, so that is now on my shopping list. I had a 30-degree bag with a 20-degree liner. That leaves me “comfortable” at about 10 degrees, but unfortunately we believe the temperature dropped below 0 overnight. I made sure my toes could still move every couple of hours!
The next morning we all stayed in our sleeping bags as long as possible, finally emerging when we saw the sun starting to peek through the trees. We restarted the fire, ate some oatmeal, and started collecting our things to pack up camp. After our backpacks were reloaded, we dropped them off at a lean-to and hiked to Codfish Point.
Harlee was happy to be out of camp and back exploring the trails.
Codfish Point has some built in structures to sit and enjoy the view. I didn’t get a great picture because it has a bit of a slope. I didn’t want Harlee to follow me down there and slip. However, him and I sat up further and just enjoyed life away from the city and the natural beauty around us. He was so happy to be off his leash and running free (even though there weren’t any squirrels to chase yet this early in the year).
Would I do it again? Absolutely, but only with a warmer sleeping bag! I will be doing a post on what I packed for winter camping soon (and what I should have packed).