Sleeping on Snow

Winter Camping, Paignton Beach, Prince Albert National ParkSomeone 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.

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Quest for coffee

I love a strong cup of Dark French roast to start the day, especially when I’m travelling. That first sip of Joe breathes an air of familiarity into whatever corner of the world that you might find yourself. It grounds you.

 (Darrell Noakes)

Mmm. . . . first coffee of the day, a rare treat on this tour. Binscarth Regional Park, Manitoba. (Darrell Noakes)

Camp coffee is my favourite. The aroma wafting through the morning air starts the day off right. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, or if it’s minus 40 degrees Celsius. Coffee makes every day warm and sunny.

I don’t mean cowboy coffee, either, although that’s pretty good — coarsely ground beans dropped into a tall enamel coffee pot that has been brought to a boil, then left to cool slightly (a dash of cold water helps settle the grounds just before serving).

I prefer to travel with one of my little macchinetta coffee makers, setting the pot on a compact alcohol stove to heat and brew while I go about other camp chores or preparing breakfast. Whether I’m bike camping or car camping, it’s always possible to find someplace to tuck the coffee supplies. Continue reading