Someone asked about winter camping today. People don’t often think of camping in the winter, but the conversation reminded me that the best time to try it is around the beginning of March. Days are getting longer, nights are less cold. Check the weather forecast. If it looks like it won’t get too cold – or too warm – head out for an overnight trip. Anywhere in the range of -15°C ( -5°F) to about freezing is good. Sitting around a campfire watching stars doesn’t begin to feel like a chore at those temperatures. You can sleep in that kind of cold with a couple of heavy summer-weight sleeping bags tucked into one another. When it goes above freezing, it’s too easy to get wet — and then you really do get cold. If you have worries about trying it for the first time, you can always plan to stay close to a warm car and a short drive to a warm hotel. Waskesiu Lake in Prince Albert National Park makes an ideal destination for that.
Anyway, today got me thinking about some of my past trips and, in particular, a trip I did with a friend a few years ago, following a conversation with the editor of the member magazine of CAA Saskatchewan. The editor found the the whole idea of winter camping intriguing. Next thing you know, I’m traipsing off into the wilderness (sort of — we weren’t far from the road) to pitch a tent and write about the experience. The story and photos, published in the Winter 2010 edition of Westworld Saskatchewan, got nominated for a Saskatchewan Gold award in the 2011 Western Magazine Awards.
The story is hard to find online, so I’ve reproduced it below.
I can’t believe it’s already six years since I visited Windscape Kite Festival in Swift Current. I was thinking about that earlier today, because the festival takes place on a weekend as close as possible to the longest day of the year, part of the Long Day’s Night Music Festival. This year, Windscape is June 24 and 25. Long Day’s Night is June 22 to 25.
I’d like to go back, but it won’t be this year, I’m afraid. Next weekend is already spoken for.
Windscape had been running annually for six years when I was there in 2011, but its roots go back to 1998, when the Art Gallery of Swift Current curated an exhibition of art by Canadian kite builders.
To describe the midsummer day as sweltering would be an understatement. The thermometer had soared past 35° C shortly after noon. At 5:30 p.m. I’m slouched in one of two big wicker chairs on the porch of a 100-year-old log cabin. The porch, covered by a broad tin roof, faces away from the afternoon sun, and a southwest breeze gently curling around the cabin fans away the day’s heat while I take sips from a tall, dewy glass of water.
The crickets love the heat. They’re chirping frantically, all around. I waggle my wrist and the ice in my drink tinkles against the side of the glass. A few crickets nearby go silent, but only to take a deep breath it seems, because they quickly resume their chorus with renewed ferocity. With a slight chuckle, I lean back in the chair to listen to nature.
There are a few things I’ve always loved about Saskatchewan: the bright, wide open skies; the friendly, welcoming hospitality of the cities, towns and out-of-the way places; and the fiercely inventive spirit of the people. When you combine all those attributes, you get some marvelously creative and energetic activity.