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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Summer nights’ jazzy lights

Aurora borealis over downtown Saskatoon skyline, night of June 28-29, 2013 (Darrell Noakes)

Aurora borealis over downtown Saskatoon skyline, night of June 28-29, 2013 (Darrell Noakes)

I’ve enjoyed the works of Herbie Hancock and Dr. John as long as I can remember. Back as a teen in high school, I worked evenings and late nights at a small town FM radio station. A weekly jazz show was my only respite from the endless, dreary “easy listening” background music that took up most of the station’s airtime.

I’d like to be able to say that the Friday night jazz show came across as something along the lines of John Corbett’s fictional KBHR disk jockey character in Northern Exposure, but our station management would have had none of that, anyway: just play the music, kid, and keep the talk to a minimum. Come to think of it, though, Trail at the time of my youth had quite a bit in common with Cicely, except the isolation maybe, and could have benefited from someone like Chris Stevens. Continue reading