Memories of winter camping

By Patrick Fisher

The cold temperatures and snow have finally arrived after some unseasonably warm weather over this winter. It reminds me of the times that I went winter camping as a member of the Boy Scouts of America.

Yes, I know it's not usual for people to camp in winter, but my troop and others would do it. It wasn't just Boy Scouts; when I was in Webelos we did it, although it was for one weekend, and we stayed in cabins at Camp Wilderness, located near Park Rapids.

More than once as a Boy Scout, our troop stayed at Camp Wilderness for a weekend of winter camping. We would usually get there late on a Friday and go to our cabins. Sometimes the cabins were kept warm by gas heaters, other times by a big, old-fashioned, potbelly wood stove. I preferred those, because we could throw in a lot of wood and get the cabin nice and warm. The gas heaters only went up so high and, to me, they never seemed to kick out that much heat.

The wood stoves could also be used for cooking, either with the troop's griddle or frying pan. More than once we had pancakes or French toast cooked on top of those stoves on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

Saturday was spent exploring the camp, going on hikes, cross-country skiing or building snow shelters. Sometimes we would find a great place for sledding, other times we had snowball fights.

Other winter camping trips were spent in some area of the Sportsman's Club near Thief River Falls. A few times we just stayed in tents. We would have thermal blankets in our sleeping bags, and there would be about three or four of us in the tents to keep warm. We found out how to dress quickly.

On those weekends, we would have a campfire going almost all the time with a pot of hot water hanging above it. It was then that hot chocolate tasted the best. Another hot drink we had was Tang. It actually tasted good, especially early in the morning when the cold was still hanging in the air.

For both types of winter camps, Saturday evening was spent the same way, cooking dinners wrapped in aluminum foil in the campfire. It was usually a simple dinner, such as a baked potato, carrots, green beans with a hamburger or pork chops. After dinner, the evening was spent around the campfire or in the cabin, talking about the day, telling jokes or going to bed early after such a long day.

While it was cold, we dressed in layers of clothing. We enjoyed it, since we were outside in this world of crystal clear snow and ice, hiking through areas that nobody had been for a while. Sometimes we didn't even really notice the cold.

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