Day 2: Unconventional Means for Staying Warm

Date: Saturday, January 17, 2015

Weather: Overcast, high of -11 degrees Celsius (hit the high around 4pm-ish)

“Kate, are you okay?”

I wrested my hand from my sleeping bag to look at my watch. 5:30am. Only an hour after the last time I looked at my watch which was maybe an hour after the last time… you get the idea.

“Yep, I’m alive. Just going to doze a bit longer. Thanks for checking on me, Bill.”

We all froze overnight and no one slept much if at all. Even in my four-season tent and sleep system rated down to about -30 degrees, I couldn’t get comfortable. I shivered and chattered, sleeping in fits and starts. I had stuffed what little empty space I had left in my sleeping bag with a fleece blanket I leave in the car for emergency purposes. My warm Nalgene bottle was no longer warm as it had slid down to my blocks of ice (feet). I probably slept the most between 5:30 when Bill checked on me and Michael in the tent next to mine and 8am when I finally gave up. I wriggled out of my sleeping bag, layered up in record time, and shuffled over to the heated comfort station to thaw out my toothpaste and brush my teeth.

20150117 - comfort station

This is the beauty of Mew Lake Campground, especially for first-time winter campers. There are plenty of different types of accommodations to try from heated yurts to electrical sites where you can plug in your RV to non-electrical sites where you can (if you have the necessary equipment) try camping in a tent, hammock, or hot tent. The heated comfort station has flush toilets, one operating shower for the winter (more for the summer), and indoor laundry facilities back behind the building. While I brushed my teeth I listened to two women regale a third about the fright they got overnight when they found someone sleeping in the large stall at the end. It was that cold. Sleeping in a heated washroom was preferable to some poor person’s tent.

By the time I got back to our site, everyone was up and moving towards making breakfast. I used the stove in the hot tent to boil water for coffee and oatmeal. Michael fired up his propane stove on the picnic table to make french toast. We made plans for the remainder of the day. Michael needed to get his training run in. Bill needed to return his rental trailer. Brian had portals to fortify in neighboring towns.

Yep. I spent the afternoon in a warm car with Bill and Brian, driving from Ingress location to Ingress location with a late lunch break at the Tim Horton’s near Burk’s Falls. I still couldn’t thaw out. For what it’s worth, Emsdale and Burk’s Falls are neat little towns near Algonquin’s West Gate should you ever need something to do besides all of the outdoor activities that Algonquin offers. While I didn’t see them on this particular trip, the Screaming Heads of Midlothian are truly something else.

Late afternoon snow brought warmer temperatures and a slow drive back to our campsite. Michael started up the fire in the fire pit to cook sausages for supper. On the stove in the hot tent, Brian reheated the pork belly and steak he had cooked at home via sous-vide method. We even managed to salvage a spinach salad mix that hadn’t quite frozen in the car overnight. My pasta, chicken, and eggplant meal would have been far too much food for four so I volunteered to cook another trip. The evening had warmed up enough to eat comfortably by the fire pit with the benefit of the picnic table to slice up meat.

After dinner and clean-up we retired to the hot tent which had reached a more-than-comfortable temperature. I attempted to keep up with the conversation but soon my sleeping bag called my name and I couldn’t keep my eyelids open any longer. It had warmed up almost 20 degrees from the previous evening and I knew I’d sleep well.

For the rest of the trip report, click here.

Up for discussion: What’s the most unconventional way you warmed up on a winter adventure?

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