Camping in a winter wonderland
We live in Northern Ontario, where winters are long and harsh. Here residents are used to massive snowstorms and deep freezes. Many people spend their winters complaining about the cold and the snow; they coop themselves indoors and suffer cabin fever. There are others though, the outdoors enthusiasts like us, that know better. Winter is one of the best times to get outside and spend time in the fresh air, immersed in our amazing wilderness.
With the right preparation, the right knowledge and the right gear, winter truly is a wonderland waiting for you to explore and enjoy. There are so many things to do outisde: snowshoe, ski, sled, skate, ice fish, camp in the snow, skidoo...No matter your age or skill level, there is something you can enjoy in the winter. It's good to stay active; just spending time in the fresh air enjoying nature is very healthy for you.
This Christmas my husband and I decided to spend the holiday in the backcountry, hoping to hear or see some wolves. The weather was expected to be nice and mild and we wanted to celebrate Christmas doing what we love best: spending time enjoying the great outdoors. We'd heard from the locals that a pack of wolves could be heard howling at night at a small lake, only 20 kilometeres from town in the bush. We went to check out the area and sure enough, we found evidence of wolves; their big paw prints were everywhere.
Our jeep was packed tight with all the gear we needed. We were working on Christmas Eve and would only have to stop at the house to pick up the dog and the trailer of firewood that we were bringing with us. Camping doesn't always have to mean roughing it. We had only a night to spend outdoors and an evening to set up, so we wanted things quick and easy. We wanted to enjoy our surroundings and the night.
We had stopped at our local M&M Meat Shop and picked up some "fall off the bone ribs" to heat up on the fire. We had our grill with us and lots of paper towels. We also brought some meat pies with us (you are always hungry when camping outside. Your body is using up energy quickly). Some fresh dinner rolls, heated by the fire...We also had some fresh cheese curds with us to top off our perfect Christmas cook out in the woods. We enjoyed our meal with a bottle of wine to toast the occasion.
It was a perfect night. Even though the wind was occasionally blowing, we were warm in our shelter by the fire.
We've had lots of snow this year in the North already; more than we can have in a whole season. In the woods we needed our snowshoes to get around or we would sink in the deep snow. We channelled our paths and shovelled out the snow in our shelter area, piling the snow up on the edges to help act as a wind barrier. The cold is bearable out here. It's the wind that you need to protect yourself from the most; the wind chill out here is what makes things really miserable.
We slept on a bed of pine boughs piled nice and deep to act as insulation from the ground, and we kept the fire going strong all night. It's what you call "cowboy camping" in the winter. It's a great way to experience nature, on a mild night when the wind is calm. Sleeping in the fresh air feels amazing. Our sleeping bags were rated for much colder than this night was, and we used a bivy for extra warmth and protection from the outside moisture.
In the morning we awoke to a gorgeous Christmas day out in the backcountry. The air was fresh, crisp and clean. the white snow glistened all around us and everything was still. It was one of the most memorable and special Christmases we've spent in a long time. We felt alive, happy and at peace. Soon, the winds picked up and started howling and it was time to pack up and head for the cabin.
We took this short video when we woke up in the morning (below).