Experiment in Cold Weather Camping

I wanted to start the New Year off on the right foot, surrounded by beautiful scenery, so I told my boyfriend we should try winter camping. Also, I tend to go into somewhat of a depression in winter, so I’m trying to make myself like winter. I like being outdoors and one of the things that brings me down in winter is not being able to get out as much. But this winter, I’m planning to get out and do things, even if it means I have to actually where a jacket and dress for the cold. I knew it would be cold (as low as 27 degrees, to be exact) so I did my research. I learned that it’s very possible to survive, so long as one is prepared. For example, you should have a 0 degree sleeping bag (check – we have 20 degree bags…close enough); tallish air mattress (borrowed one from my sister) a four-season tent helps (no idea how many seasons my tent is) and lastly, you should always where layers, starting with synthetic clothing first (seems easy enough). So I called to book the campsite and pumped myself up for two crisp winter nights in the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. But when I called, the lady informed me that there was no need to make a reservation because every single one of their campsites was available. So I chickened out and booked a cabin instead — a cabin with a heater, microwave, coffee maker and refrigerator, to be exact. Not exactly roughing it, but I am very thankful we decided to go with a cabin because a first time cold weather camping experience in sub-freezing weather was not exactly one of my brightest ideas.

Our cozy little cabin at Misty Mountain Camp Resort just outside Crozet, VA. My version of winter camping.

Our cozy little cabin at Misty Mountain Camp Resort just outside Crozet, VA. My version of winter camping. This is actually a really nice campground with some of the best campground bathrooms I’ve ever seen.

I promised my boyfriend we’d go fishing (well, he’d go fishing), so I found a few nearby reservoirs/lakes/rivers and sat in the car while he fished. My original idea was to do a bit of waterfront reading, but after about five minutes of that, I decided that car reading was much more comfortable. Not exactly as romantic as reading on the banks of the Shenandoah River, but that is what happens when you think you are a more outdoorsy person than you actually are.

Beaver Creek Lake outside Charlottesville. A solitary and frigid winter fishing experience.

Beaver Creek Lake outside Charlottesville. A solitary and frigid winter fishing experience. Also, the place I learned that waterfront outdoor winter reading is a really, really, really bad idea.

No fish were caught. I guess even the fish were freezing and didn’t have the energy to come out from under their winter hiding places. I also learned that thanks to Virginia’s long coal-mining/farming past, most of the state’s rivers are polluted with Mercury and PCP making the fish mostly inedible. There are a few edible species, but even these should be limited to no more than two meals a week. It seems a little sad to make a poor little fish suffer if you can’t even eat it.

When we got back to the cabin, my boyfriend, who really is quite an outdoors man (unlike me) decided to smoke some steak (I brought some along in case we didn’t catch any fish). This is him getting the fire going:

Making beef jerky.

Making beef jerky. I provided moral support from inside the cabin.

However, even true outdoors’ men get tired. So we (he) moved the cooking inside:

Have I ever mentioned that this tiny little butane stove is the best purchase I ever made??? For $6, you can cook anywhere!

Have I ever mentioned that this tiny little butane stove is the best purchase I ever made??? For $6, you can cook anywhere!

The next day we met up with my family for a day of hiking in Shenandoah National Park. The weather called for sunny skies and 50 degree weather, but it was much windier and chillier in the mountains. I felt like an Arctic explorer on a doomed mission. And my boyfriend looked a little like one:

Boyfriend on top of Loft Mountain.

Boyfriend on top of Loft Mountain.

The good news is that Alfie was introduced to the Blue Ridge, Simba-style:

Young Alfie meets the ancient Appalachians.

Young Alfie meets the ancient Appalachians.

After a couple of hours of cold, windy hiking, we decided to head to the nearby college town of Harrisonburg for a coffee and beer. We stopped by the Heritage Bakery and Café, a cozy, atmospheric spot near the farmer’s market, and then headed over to Pale Fire Brewing Company for a post-coffee beer. I liked this place because it wasn’t super crowded like some of the more urban breweries I’ve visited, and it’s kid-friendly and has a free lending library.

Harrisonburg brewery

A brewery for kids…and adults.

The next day, my boyfriend and I headed to the Blue Grass Grill and Bakery near downtown Charlottesville for a deliciously fattening, artery-clogging traditional breakfast. If you’re ever in the mood for a traditional American breakfast, I highly recommend it. Then we explored the Charlottesville Pedestrian mall:

We got to Charlottesville around 8:30, before the shops, street vendors and many of the restaurants opened.

We got to Charlottesville around 8:30, before the shops, street vendors and many of the restaurants opened.

All in all, a great way to start the New Year. My boyfriend and I have lots of plans for this year, and I’m hoping 2016 is a great year for everybody.



Categories: D.C Side Trips, Hiking, Outdoors, Parks, Rural trips, Small Towns, U.S Travels, Virginia

3 replies

  1. Happy New Year… and may you have many adventures. I did a few winter camping cross-country skiing adventures. One was traveling into the backcountry of Denali National Park, camping out in 30 degree below zero weather, and going to sleep while listening to wolves howl. We had to sleep with our shoes so they wouldn’t be frozen in the morning. 🙂 –Curt

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