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We wanted to make an early winter camping trip to the Wind River Recreation Area in the South Cascades in Washington state, so we could test our camping gear and -methods, mainly to prepare for future snow camping trips, and to build a shelter that we can use for snow camping.

Me, my son, my brother-in-law, and his son, headed out on a Saturday in November 2009 for the over-night camping trip.

 There were a lot of people out there, since elk hunting season started the same day. We parked on the side of the forest service road, and started unloading our stuff of the truck. A ranger showed up, he was checking on the hunters, and was surprised to see that we weren’t hunting, just camping. We also wore the orange clothing for safety, and he first thought we were there to hunt elk too.

Snow covering the ground in Wind River in November 2009Snow covering the ground in Wind River in November 2009There was a relatively short hike from the road to our camp site. By the time we will do our snow camping, the road will be closed, and we have to hike a much longer distance from the sno-park, but we plan on using skis for that, and maybe a sled, if we got more gear than we can carry.

When we arrived at the site that we had chosen on an earlier scouting trip, we started constructing the shelter structure, using the cut-down trees in the area. The weather was fair and dry when we got there, but, at about 3000 feet, we were expecting some snowfall. It did indeed start snowing after a short while, and it was either snowing or raining constantly the rest of the weekend.

Fire + shelter = happy campers!Fire + shelter = happy campers!We made the shelter structure, and threw some tarps on top of it, and started clearing the ground under the shelter for our tents, and we set up our small backpacking tents.

At that point it was snowing heavily, and we started getting cold, so we figured it was better get the camp-fire going. We didn’t bring any firewood with us, but used the cut-down trees.

We ended up having a struggle getting the wet wood to burn, and after a long time with endless fails, we finally managed to get the fire to get a grip on the wood. We kept building it bigger and bigger, and ended up with a 3 feet tall camp fire with another 3 feet of flames, it was just outside of our shelter and with the flames, it was almost as tall.

So we got all the tents up and all the sleeping bags and gear in place, and spent the afternoon improving the shelter, and cutting more firewood.

Tarp shelter covering the tents from the elementsTarp shelter covering the tents from the elementsAt dusk, we were all set, and started making our dinner, canned chili, and ring sausage, using the camp-fire for heating and grilling.

Early on in the evening we felt so worn out, that we went to bed. But it was hard to fall asleep. I kept drowsing off for only a few moments, I was just laying there for the longest time. My son, he was sound asleep.

About 1am I heard my brother-in-law getting up and out of the tent, and re-starting the fire, and cutting more firewood. So of course I had to get up too. I guess he couldn’t sleep, either. We cut a fair amount of more firewood, and sat at the fire for maybe 3 hours, before I finally went back to bed.

Our small tents did collect a huge amount of condensation, and the inside walls were dripping wet, and if one touched the walls, it dropped the water on everything on the tent, and eventually stuff started getting more and more wet. We did stay warm and dry inside the sleeping bags, though.

As soon as it got light, we got up, cut more wood, and got the fire going. We took down the tents, and packed everything up, and took the tarps off the shelter structure, and loaded all the gear back in the truck. We headed out, and stopped at Charburger in Cascade Locks for a hearty breakfast.

It really was a fun and educating experience. It really was “roughing it”.